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Why microbes, not microbiomes, are better causal explanations in gut-brain research

  • Kate E. Lynch (a1)


Much microbiota-gut-brain research focuses on the causal role of microbiomes as a whole, rather than their component parts: microbes. Hooks et al. find these whole-community explanations inadequate; however, they do not provide suggestions for better explanations. By appealing to proportionality – a criterion that can be used to develop more appropriate causal explanations – more accurate causal claims can be made.



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Arnold, J. W., Roach, J. & Azcarate-Peril, M. A. (2016) Emerging technologies for gut microbiome research. Trends in Microbiology 24(11):887901.
Griffiths, P.E. & Stotz, K. (2013) Genetics and philosophy: An introduction. Cambridge University Press.
Kristensen, N. B., Bryrup, T., Allin, K. H., Nielsen, T., Hansen, T. H. & Pedersen, O. (2016) Alterations in fecal microbiota composition by probiotic supplementation in healthy adults: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Genome Medicine 8(1):52. Available at:
Woodward, J. (2010) Causation in biology: stability, specificity, and the choice of levels of explanation. Biology & Philosophy 25(3):287318.
Yablo, S. (1992) Mental causation. Philosophical Review 101(2):245–80.


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