62968-Needham, Brittany

Brittany D. Needham, PhD

Assistant Professor of Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology

NB 300B
320 West 15th Street

Indianapolis, IN 46202
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Brittany Needham, PhD, joined Stark Neurosciences Research Institute and the Department of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Physiology at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2022. Prior to this, she studied as a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech. She graduated from BYU with a B.S. in Molecular Biology, followed by a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology, with a focus on Microbiology and Biochemistry, at UT Austin. 

Manipulating microbial communities and their byproducts is a rich and tractable opportunity for therapeutics. Dr. Needham first became interested in bacterial-host interactions as a graduate researcher studying the evolutionary strategies employed by bacterial pathogens to subvert mammalian immune detection. This work led her to appreciate the extreme range of potential host outcomes upon subtle structural variation of bacterial small molecules. As a postdoctoral researcher, Dr. Needham shifted her study of bacterial byproducts into commensal gut microbial molecules that influence neurodevelopment. The laboratory gained insight on the complexities of the molecular signatures that an altered gut microbiota imparts on its host. Her current work focuses on moving beyond associations of phenotypes in the gut and brain and into concrete causal effects that can be leveraged to understand host phenotypes.

Learn more about active research in the Needham Lab

Key Publications

Boktor J, Adame MD, Rose DR, Schumann CM, Murray KD, Bauman MD, Careaga M, Mazmanian SK, Ashwood P, Needham BD. Global Metabolic Profiles in a Non-human Primate model of Maternal Immune Activation: implications for neurodevelopmental disorders. Molecular Psychiatry. (In press 2022).

Needham BD, Funabashi M, Adame MD, Wang Z, Boktor JC, Haney J, Wu WL, Ladinsky MS, Rabut C, Hwang S, Guo Y, Zhu Q, Griffiths JA, Knight R, Shapiro MG, Bjorkman PJ, Geschwind DH, Holschneider DP, Fischbach MA, Mazmanian SK. A gut bacterial metabolite modulates brain activity and anxiety-like behavior in mice. Nature. (2022).

Needham BD, Adame MD, Serena G, Rose DR, Preston GM, Conrad MC, Campbell AS, Donabedian DH, Fasano A, Ashwood P, Mazmanian SK. Plasma and Fecal Metabolites in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Bio. Psychiatry. (2020).

Campbell AS*, Needham BD*, Meyer CR*, Tan J, Conrad M, Preston GM, Donabadian DH, Bolognani F, Rao S, Heussler H, Griffith R, Guastella A, Mazmanian SK. Open-label clinical trial targeting gut-derived metabolites shows safety and improved behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Nat. Medicine. (2022). *co-first authors.

Titles & Appointments

  • Assistant Professor of Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology
  • Investigator, Stark Neurosciences Research Institute
  • Education
    2014 PhD University of Texas at Austin
    2008 BS Brigham Young University
  • Research

    The gut microbiome harbors astonishing genetic diversity, with over 22 million genes sequenced from human gut microbial populations, and an immense pool of unique enzymes capable of producing and modifying a wide array of chemical structural groups. Influence of this dense community, with its dynamic metabolic activity and bidirectional flux of molecules between microbe and host, extends beyond the gut into the entire body, including the brain. In fact, integration of molecular inputs from within the gut can shape animal health and behavior, with recent examples showing that an altered gut microbiota is sufficient to affect neurological and psychological symptoms in many mouse models, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, the mechanisms mediating gut-brain interactions remain poorly defined. Deeper understanding of the molecular communication between gut microbes and the central nervous system will uncover critical features of behavioral, psychiatric, and neurodegenerative diseases. Decoding the chemical messages between gut microbes and the host is the foundation of our research program.

Research Labs

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