Professor Felice Jacka

Professor Felice Jacka is a Principal Research Fellow at Deakin University. She is recognised as a leading expert regarding the association between diet quality and the common mental disorders, depression and anxiety. She is president of both the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR) and the Australian Alliance for the Prevention of Mental Disorders (APMD).

PRESENTATION: The Role and Therapeutic Potential of Diet and the Gut Microbiota in Brain and Behaviour

With mental disorders a leading source of disability globally, the identification of new targets for prevention and management is imperative. A rapidly emerging field of research suggests that the microbiome-brain axis is of substantial relevance to mood, behaviour and brain health. Similarly, unhealthy diet has recently emerged as a significant correlate of and risk factor for depression. This presentation addresses evidence for the gut microbiota as a key factor mediating the link between diet and depressive illness and focuses on the mediating biological pathways and the potential of gut-focused interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental disorders.

The development of new technologies is affording a better understanding of how diet influences gut microbiota composition and activity and how this may, in turn, influence mental illness and the brain. New evidence is also pointing to the possible utility of pre and probiotic formulations and fermented food in influencing mental health.

Although in its early stages, the emerging field of research focused on the human microbiome suggests an important role for the gut microbiota in influencing brain development, behaviour and mood in humans. The recognition that the gut microbiota interacts bi-directionally with other environmental risk factors, such as diet and stress, suggests promise in the development of interventions targeting the gut microbiota for the prevention and treatment of common mental health disorders. Outstanding questions in this important yet nascent field will be identified for discussion.


  • This presentation will afford insights into the rapidly emerging evidence for gut microbiota as a key variable influencing mood, behaviour and brain health.
  • It will cover the current state of the literature in Nutritional Psychiatry and how it relates to gut microbiota.
  • The public health implications and the potential of targeting the gut for prevention and treatment in psychiatry will be addressed.
  • Outstanding questions will be presented for discussion.