Emily G. Severance, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Dr. Severance’s research program centers on the major gateway of the immune system, the gastrointestinal mucosa, where a dysregulated microbiome can adversely impact brain function. Her studies aim to explore how abnormalities of the gut-brain axis may be particularly compounded in people with psychiatric disorders and how gene-environmental interactions during neurodevelopmentally-sensitive perinatal time periods are consistent with gut-based hypotheses. Implicated mechanisms include the transport of toxic intestinal products to the brain through compromised endothelial barriers, direct binding of microbial- and food-derived peptides to faulty neuronal and glial circuitry, and the indirect modulation of genetically polymorphic, synapse-active immune pathways, such as complement. A recent focus of Dr. Severance’s research is to understand the non-bacterial component of the human microbiome and how fungal exposures might result in cognitive deficits and worsening of psychiatric symptoms. Identifying individuals who can be treated with dietary, immune or other interventions that help to harmonize the microbiome is the ultimate goal of this line of research.