TCU researcher receives grant to continue probiotic research

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A TCU researcher is trying to find the link between yogurt and the brain.

Micah Eimerbrink, who is studying the effects of probiotics and gut microbiota on the brain, is the recipient of the Dannon Company’s Fourth-Annual Yogurt and Probiotics Fellowship Grant.

“I am ecstatic about this award and what we will be able to learn as a result,” Eimerbrink said. “I am so thankful for the support of everyone in my life that enabled me to apply.”

Eimberbrink’s unique area of research made his application for the grant stand out, said Dr. Miguel Freitas, vice president of health affairs at Dannon. The fellowship includes a $25,000 grant.

“This is really an emerging area of research,” Freitas said. “Usually, when you hear about probiotics, you hear about immune function or digestive health. You don’t really hear about the impact on psychological function.”

Freitas said Eimerbrink, whose selection was unanimous, is the only applicant in four years to study this area.

Eimerbrink said he is intrigued and excited by the complexity of the research.

“I am fascinated by the idea that our behavior and perception of the world can be influenced by the bacteria we have in our gut,” said Eimerbrink, who has a background in psychology.

“I have gained a humbling understanding of [the] complexity involved in attempting to untangle gut-brain interactions,” he said.

Micah Eimerbrink, 34, said he chose to attend TCU because of the interesting research opportunities that are available.
Micah Eimerbrink, 34, said he chose to attend TCU because of the interesting research opportunities that are available.

Frietas said the grant will allow Eimerbrink to continue and expand his research.

“We think that by installing this program, we really promote the passions of young researchers,” Freitas said.

Eimerbrink said he wants to do more study of the biological samples from previous research.

“We also want to attempt a human study that will look for evidence that we can find similar changes in anxiety and fear in humans,” he said.

Eimerbrink thanked the TCU professors and undergraduate students who have helped with the research. He said he is also grateful for his wife’s support.

Although he is not sure of his plans after he earns his doctorate in experimental psychology at TCU, Eimerbrink said he hopes to pursue challenging research.

“We live in a fascinating world,” he said. “The best way, in my opinion, to attempt to understand it is through careful scientific research that can identify the all the subtleties and connections nature tries to hide.”