Pooping for science at Lowlands

Is there a link between someone’s personality and the kind of bacteria they have in their intestines? UMCG researchers hope to answer this question by studying poop at Lowlands.

Intestinal bacteria don’t just digest food; they also impact brain health, says PhD researcher Toon Scheurink. He’s part of an intestinal study led by UCMG professor Iris Sommer. ‘An American study on mice with a type of Parkinson’s showed that the disease was much less severe in mice that didn’t have any intestinal bacteria.’

The group has been studying the link between conditions such as Parkinson’s and schizophrenia and the bacterial make-up of the intestines. Now, they’re adding a study on healthy subjects: Scheurink and his colleagues will be studying the faeces from Lowlands visitors. This music festival runs from August 18-20. 

After submitting a pitch, the festival organisation picked them to participate in Lowlands Science, where scientists present unique studies from all over the country.

Collecting faeces

The most important part of this study will take place on the toilet. While going to the bathroom, visitors will have to collect their own faeces. ‘We’re using a paper receptacle with a sticky edge’, says Scheurink. ‘People can stick it to the bowl so it can catch a bit of stool. The participants then use a little scoop and gloves to remove some of the poop from the receptacle and put it in a little tube. We’ll examine the bacterial make-up of the poop in the lab.’ 

The researchers are also bringing a special golden toilet, a replica of the toilet someone once gave to former US president Donald Trump. ‘People can take a picture of themselves Trump Tower in the background.’ 

Questionnaire

They’re hoping for approximately three hundred participants, says Scheurink. ‘We hope this will help us with our further research into how diseases develop.’     

Visitors will also fill out a questionnaire about their personality and regular activities, which takes approximately ten minutes. ‘They’re normally a lot longer, but we don’t want to keep people from missing their favourite bands.’ 

Other scientists will also be doing research at the festival. The Radboud UMC is working to find out why some people get bitten by mosquitoes and others aren’t, and the VU Amsterdam will have festivalgoers rock out to music composed by plants. Nobel Prize winner and UG chemist Ben Feringa will be explaining his complicated research in simple terms to the audience

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