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Exploring the Strange and Ancient Biology of the Brain Hidden in Our Guts

March 28, 2024

Presented by Subhash Kulkarni, Scientist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School.

The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is the second largest collection of neurons and glial cells outside of the brain. It is estimated to contain half a billion neurons and a couple of billion glial cells, which makes it a larger nervous system than the spinal cord. Located entirely within the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, it regulates not only important gut functions – including digestion, absorption, motility of the gut, immunity of the gut, but it also plays a central role in regulation of higher order functions such as satiety and behavior. Given the pivotal nature of the functions it regulates, the ENS in some or the other form has existed in animals long before the need to have a central nervous system, which would regulate higher executive functions, evolved. However, despite playing such a key role in an animal’s ability to survive, we know little about how it develops, how it matures, how it maintains itself in a constantly moving organ full of acids, bases, toxins, and bacteria, and how it is impacted with age. Our work in the last several years has used new and old methods alike to gain better answers to these important questions – not only to satiate our curiosity about this old and relatively unknown nervous system, but also to understand how it is impacted negatively to lead to well-known and little-known diseases.

This program is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and co-sponsored by the Wellness Center, the College Farm and the Food Studies Program. This program was initiated by the Clarke Forum’s student project managers.

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Further information

  • Location: Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium
  • Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Calendar Icon
  • Cost: $0.00