It has become clear that the link between the brain and body plays a vital role for both physical and mental health. In a healthy organism processes such as energy consumption and expenditure, sleep and circadian regulation are kept in check by fine-tuned molecular processes. Our brain needs to constantly counteract destabilizing effects from external factors (variations in energy intake, infections, sleep disturbances, etc.) and predict environmental changes (24h variations in light intensity and food availability). This requires efficient homeostatic mechanisms at both integrative and cellular levels. Interactions between the brain and the gut, cardiorespiratory, and endocrine systems, both on a daily and long-term basis, further play vital roles in maintaining health. Disturbed brain states, maladaptive interoception, and changes in brain-body interactions at multiple timescales are seen in association with a range of disorders including neurodegenerative disorders, psychiatric diseases, sleep- and circadian disorders, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Research within this column is integrative, embracing different approaches, and bringing in curious minds from many fields. Brain state regulation such as the molecular and cellular regulation of sleep and circadian rhythms are examples of topics covered. Interoception and the interactions of the nervous system with the endocrine system, metabolism, the gut, and the immune system are also included. These are all growing fields with many unknown mechanisms waiting to be explored.
Research within this diverse field brings together neuroscientists, psychologists, and clinicians. It includes, but is not limited to, the use of cell or animal models in combination with molecular and pharmacological tools, animal or human neuroimaging, computational and physiological modelling, and clinical neurological and psychiatric research.