Following the 2016 Gut Microbiota for Health World Summit, The Dannon Company, Inc. announced Micah Eimerbrink, a doctoral candidate at Texas Christian University, as the winner of the 2015-2016 Dannon Yogurt and Probiotics Fellowship. Chosen from an impressive pool of applicants, Eimerbrink is focusing on a unique and emerging area of research – the impact of probiotics and the gut microbiota on the brain and psychological function.

As the leading maker of yogurt in the U.S. and an innovator in the probiotics space, Dannon strongly supports young scientists who are researching the benefits of eating yogurt and/or the role of probiotics in health. The company is committed to further advancing emerging areas of nutritional scientific exploration.

“We are proud to offer the Fellowship grant, now in its fourth consecutive year, to such a deserving candidate,” said Miguel Freitas, Ph.D., Vice President of Health Affairs at Dannon. “We have long discussed the benefits of probiotics on digestive and immune functions, meanwhile, research surrounding its role in psychological functions is still in the early stages. We were immediately excited by Micah’s research and look forward to seeing his results regarding probiotics’ potential impact on the mind-gut connection.“

Since 2013, Eimerbrink’s doctoral studies have focused on understanding factors that influence behavior and the physiological influences that motivate these changes. To date, his research, which has focused on animal models, has indicated that ingestion of probiotics is linked to certain psychological functions. Eimerbrink has also participated in several lectures and poster sessions, and his research has been published in various scientific journals.

“As a doctoral candidate, my original research provided further support for the idea that there is a significant relationship between the gut and its influence on environmental perceptions of it as it relates to anxiety and fear,” said Eimerbrink. “With this grant, I will hopefully be able to further understand the relationship between the mind and the gut in a human population, and explore the role of probiotics in this complex connection. The potential impact of a human-based study is extremely motivating for me.”

Eimerbrink was chosen by a panel of judges that includes: Mary Ellen Sanders, Ph.D., Dairy and Food Culture Technologies consultant, and Executive Science Officer of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP); Daniel Merenstein, M.D., Associate Professor and Director of Research Programs at the Departments of Family Medicine at the Georgetown University Medical Center; Muriel Derrien, Senior Scientist - Gut Microbiota, Danone Nutricia Research; and Miguel Freitas, Ph.D., Vice President of Health Affairs, The Dannon Company, Inc.

“I am pleased to be involved in a program that rewards excellence in educational achievement among young scientists and will encourage this next generation of scholars to focus their talents on the health properties of yogurt,” said Mary Ellen Sanders Ph.D., Dairy and Food Culture Technologies consultant, and Executive Science Officer of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP).

As part of the Fellowship, Eimerbrink will receive $25,000, payable to Texas Christian University, to support his research during the 2015-2016 academic year.