London Science Museum Showcases Tjaden’s image

What does a gut brain look like? This is a gut brain of a developing mouse. Growing nerves are shown in yellow. The large nerve above the stomach connects to the mouse’s brain through the vagus nerve. This connection allows the gut brain and head brain to communicate.

If you’re in London this year, make time to visit the London Science Museum. In February 2015, the museum opened a year-long exhibit titled “Cravings: Can your food control you?” in which former Trainor Lab MD-PhD student Naomi Tjaden’s image is prominently featured. The exhibit explores the questions of what drives our appetite and cravings for certain foods and how those foods affect the body and brain.

Tjaden’s scientific image results from her research of neural crest cell migration into the embryonic gut, and is a beautiful depiction of the enteric nervous system of a mouse, aptly called the “gut brain.” In this stunning image, the nerves of the gut brain are stained yellow-orange.

Beyond the top of the stomach, the gut brain connects directly to the brain in the mouse’s head via a single nerve called the vagus nerve. Thus, the brain has a direct effect on the stomach and vice versa.