Food for Thought: The Relationship Between Food, Gut, and Brain

Explore the latest thinking on how good nutrition influences healthy neurology and discover that what we eat affects how we think.

Food for Thought: The Relationship Between Food, Gut, and Brain

  • Duration 5 weeks
  • Weekly study 4 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $59 Find out more

Discover the fascinating world of the microbiome and how it relates to the brain

In recent years, we’ve found that the brain and the gut are intimately related. The make-up of our ‘microbiome’ – the bacteria that inhabit our gut – can have a profound effect on our mental state.

On this course, you’ll learn exactly what the microbiome is, exploring cutting-edge research into how the mind is influenced by diet and nutrition – and how healthy eating can positively affect mental wellbeing.

You’ll learn from top nutritional experts about exciting new topics such as the gut-brain axis, the microbiome, and the relationship between food and reproductive health.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second[music] Do you know how food affects our body and mind? And how our emotions, and thoughts, affect the way we eat? In Food for Thought, we will touch both psychological topics, such as emotional eating, And biological ones, such as the relationship between our brain and the microbiome In the course you will find videos, videos, articles and quizzes That will help you understand the relationships between areas that could seem unconnected So, how does the food affect our mind, brain and body? Join us, and we will discover it together! [music]


  • Week 1

    From 2 Mar 2020


    • Welcome to the course

      Introduction to the course, its structure and its content.

    • Introduction to the brain and cognition

      In this activity we will discuss basic information about the brain and its energy metabolism. We will also introduce some psychological topics, most notably what is meant by cognitions.

  • Week 2

    From 9 Mar 2020

    Responses to feeding, reward systems and food addiction

    • The reward system and response to feeding

      In this week we will discuss what is a reward and what is the reward system in the brain, as well as what happens when we eat food and how this activates the reward circuits.

    • Food addiction

      What is food addiction? Does it really exist? This activity continues the topic of this week, discussing the idea of food addiction from a biological point of view and featuring the point of view of a clinical psychologist.

  • Week 3

    From 16 Mar 2020

    Cognitive and emotional influences on food behaviors

    • Emotions and food intake

      In this activity we'll seek the answer to two questions: can emotions change our eating behaviour, and can what we eat change our emotions? We will also discuss the topic of emotional eating, and how it can apply to us.

    • Cognition and food intake

      How do our thoughts and experiences affect our eating style? What is restrained eating and what are its consequences?

  • Week 4

    From 23 Mar 2020

    Brain, mind and our diet

    • Food and our brain: the good...

      In this activity we'll discuss the positive effects of some foods and molecules, such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, on our brain.

    • ... and the bad

      In this activity we will continue discussing the effects of the food we eat on our brain and on our body. However, we will focus on the negative aspects, including the effects of nutritional deficiencies and diets rich in sugar.

  • Week 5

    From 30 Mar 2020

    Gut-brain axis and the microbiome

    • Microbiome and the gut-brain axis

      In this activity we will start describing the gut-brain axis and the role that the microbiome plays in it

    • Microbiome and the brain

      In the last activity of the week we will discuss the relationship between our brain and our gut, including the role of gut microbiome in the gut-brain axis.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Explain the role of our diet on brain function
  • Reflect on the role of psychological and neurobiological factors in our food choices
  • Reflect on the possible causes (biological, social, psychological) of unhealthy and pathological eating behaviours
  • Describe the connection between the brain and our digestive system (gut)
  • Discuss the topics of the course and their relationship with daily life

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in learning about the link between neurology and nutrition. It would be of particular interest to psychologists or professionals working in health and wellbeing, or people wanting to start a career in these fields.

The educators won’t be able to join the discussions themselves or respond to individual comments, but the course encourages a strong learning community, focused around debate and discussion.

Who will you learn with?

Alessandro Cicerale

Alessandro Cicerale

I am a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Torino, Italy. My research activities include neuroimaging of eating disorders and neurostimulation with therapeutic and rehabilitative goals.

Monika M. Kaczmarek

Monika M. Kaczmarek

I am a professor at the Institute of Animal Reproduction & Food Research Polish Academy of Sciences in Poland. I am interested in molecular aspects of reproduction, including diet-mediated programming

Nanette Stroebele-Benschop

Nanette Stroebele-Benschop

I am a professor and lecturer for nutritional psychology at the University of Hohenheim in Germany. I am interested in the psychological aspects of our eating and consumer behavior.

Who developed the course?

EIT Food

EIT Food is Europe’s leading food innovation initiative, with the aim to create a sustainable and future-proof food sector.

University of Turin

The University of Turin is one of the largest and most prestigious Italian universities, with about 70,000 students, 4,000 employees, and 1,800 research fellows, encompassing all academic sectors.

European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

This activity has received funding from EIT Food, the innovation community on Food of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the EU, under the Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.


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