Maureen O'Malley Lecture
9 May 2019
- Murdoch Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, UWA
- General Public, Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni
Artwork created by Zosia Rostomian, Berkeley Lab Creative Services, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Exascale Computing Project). Originally published in https://jgi.doe.gov/unveiled-earth-viral-diversity/
Microbes, Minds and Selves: exploring microbiome-gut-brain connections
A public lecture by Maureen O’Malley, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney and 2019 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow.
Microbes in the gut (‘microbiomes’) are thought to play a major role in producing disorders such as autism, anxiety and depression. Gut microbiomes even appear to have effects on general cognition and memory. Some strong interpretations have been made of these findings, including claims that microbes control our minds. Other researchers have argued that microbiome contributions mean we need a new concept of self: the ‘microbial self’. This talk will examine such statements in light of several broad problems in microbiome research, to do with causality, ‘dysbiosis’ (sick microbiomes), and probiotic treatments. After a discussion of whether humans and their gut microbes work together to produce optimal health for humans, the talk will conclude with reflections on whether insights into microbiomes change our views of who we are as humans.
Maureen O’Malley is a philosopher of biology, and particularly of microbiology. She works with scientists on key issues in their fields, and what those topics mean more broadly (for example, what microbiome research has actually discovered and whether it is truly ‘revolutionary’). Her book, Philosophy of Microbiology, sums up why microbes and microbiology are so philosophically important. Her current base is the University of Sydney; she has also worked in France, the UK and Canada.