Skip to main content


The microbiome as an important factor in digestion and psychological well-being

(Vienna, 1 June 2016) Around ten times more microorganisms live in and on the human body than we have cells. Together, these make up the microbiome. There are around one hundred billion bacteria living in the gut alone. Many of these cells are useful to us and help with digestion, for example, but others are pathogenic and are involved in the development of depression, diabetes and metabolic diseases. "The microbiome has a much greater influence than we previously thought. The gut-brain axis plays an important role," explains Petra Munda, gastroenterology expert in MedUni Vienna's Department of Internal Medicine III, speaking in connection with the Sounds and Science event entitled "Music and the Gut" taking place in Vienna Concert Hall on 18 June (18:00 hours).

The programme features the three great composers Ludwig van Beethoven, Modest Mussorgsky and Igor Stravinsky, who all suffered from chronic bowel and liver diseases. Interesting talks on this subject will be given by MedUni Vienna researchers and by Herbert Tilg from the Medical University of Innsbruck, who is delivering the keynote lecture about the microbiome ("The wonderful world of the microbiome").

The gut as the origin of depression

The gastro-intestinal tract communicates with the brain via several information channels: by means of hormones, immune messengers substances, sensory neurons, and also signals from the gut microbiota. The signals transmitted via these pathways affect our mood, our emotions, our appetite and even our cognitive processes. Petra Munda: "Canadian researchers have conducted a very interesting experiment: Gut flora were transferred from brave mice into timid mice, whereupon the timid mice immediately became braver. Depression may equally well be rooted in the gut."

Stress can also have a negative impact upon the microbiome, as has been found in a recent study by Canadian researchers. However, under normal circumstances, music is not stressful. The MedUni Vienna researchers are therefore in agreement: "Even though we do not yet have a study to prove it, as music lovers, we are convinced that music has a calming effect upon the stomach and gut."

The idea behind Sounds and Science
The idea for this unusual series of concerts was conceived by one musician, two doctors and one doctor/musician from MedUni Vienna: member of the philharmonic orchestra Thilo Fechner, the two MedUni Vienna doctors/scientists Marcus D. Säemann and Gere Sunder-Plassmann and doctor and musician Manfred Hecking, all from the University Department of Internal Medicine III. They are interested in the conditions suffered by world famous composers and, more than that, they want science "to be heard". It is immaterial whether the composers' works had anything to do with their medical histories or not but what is important is that people re-experience and understand the latest knowledge about diseases and the current status of research within the context of music.


Event: Sounds and Science – Music and the Gut on 18 June 2016
Vienna Concert Hall, 18 June 2016, 18:00 hours, in the Mozart Hall. Works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Modest Mussorgsky and Igor Stravinsky will be played.  For details and programme, go to: