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After completing her PhD in clinical psychology at Ryerson University in 2014, Dr. Matilda Nowakowski began to work as a post-doctoral fellow at the Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. She was awarded the TD Grant in Medical Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Professional Advisory Council Health Professional Research Award to examine the role of the gut microbiome in irritable bowel syndrome and mental health.

Dr. Nowakowski has recently published a review paper funded by these grants that translates research conducted on gut bacteria by microbiologists and immunologists to a mental health audience. The paper was published in Canadian Psychology and may lead to innovative, new treatments for mental health conditions.

“There is increasing research evidence in microbiology and immunology that the gut microbiome can influence behaviour and brain functioning. This is an area that is not often focused on by mental health professionals,” explains Dr. Nowakowski. “This review paper helps to explain how these complex, scientific concepts are relevant to the study and treatment of mental illness.”

The paper notes that while plenty of animal studies have confirmed the effects of the gut microbiome on the brain, more clinical studies are needed in order to better understand how this research can be applied to patients and can potentially be use in the treatment of mental disorders.

By successfully translating this knowledge from one area of expertise to another, Dr. Nowakowski’s research helps to eliminate silos in the complex environment of health research. Fostering an environment of collaboration across disciplines helps researchers and other medical professionals to draw upon each other’s work to advance patient care.

Dr. Nowakowski now works as a clinical psychologist at the Pain Clinic (King Campus) and the Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic (West 5th Campus) at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and holds an appointment as an Assistant Clinical Professor (Part-Time) with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University. 

She hopes to continue her research focused on the integration of psychological treatments into medical settings by evaluating the effectiveness and mechanisms of psychological approaches to the management of chronic pain.

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