Published December 23, 2015
Jeffrey M. Lackner, PsyD, is leading a pilot study to determine whether behavioral self-management of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may lead to fundamental changes in the digestive system’s bacterial ecosystem.
“We believe that this research may lead to more focused and effective treatments for IBS and other medical disorders for which there is no satisfactory medical cure,” says Lackner, a professor of medicine and director of its Behavioral Medicine Clinic.
“This is a unique opportunity to identify the physical basis for why behavioral treatments for IBS work.”
“It can really help us unravel some of the mystery underlying brain-gut interactions as they relate to a major health problem like IBS,” he explains.
Lackner is a faculty member in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
Lackner’s pilot study will see if behavioral strategies that IBS patients use to reduce their gastrointestinal symptoms also lead to changes in the gut’s microbial composition.
“We know that the gut microbiome can influence neural development, brain chemistry, mood, pain perception and how the stress system responds,” says Lackner.
Research has shown that manipulation of the gut microbiota with probiotics can change the way the brain responds to the environment.
Lackner and his colleagues believe that because the brain-gut-microbiota connection is a “two-way street,” brain-directed treatments like cognitive behavior therapy may reduce GI symptoms by altering the gut microbiota.
Study participants will collect stool samples at home, before and after treatment, and track their GI symptoms and well-being.
Lackner’s two-year pilot study is funded by UB’s Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development.
Collaborators include researchers at UCLA’s Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress.
Lackner is conducting the study with 30 Western New York patients enrolled in the IBS Outcome Study, a multicenter, National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial that he’s also leading.