Dr Caitlin Cowan

Dr Caitlin Cowan

Scientia Fellow (Level C)

Ph.D. (Behavioural Neuroscience) & M.Psych (Clinical), UNSW

School of Psychology

Dr Caitlin Cowan is an NHMRC Investigator fellow and a Scientia Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology. She is interested in the developing gut microbiome and how it contributes to mental health risk and resilience via the gut-brain axis. Her expertise in both behavioural neuroscience and as a trained psychologist informs her translational approach to research.

Dr Cowan completed her PhD and Masters of Clinical Psychology at UNSW. She then undertook a prestigious Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship at the APC Microbiome Ireland (University College Cork). 



+61 2 9348 0495
School of Psychology Room 1309 Mathews Building
  • Books | 2021
    Cowan C; Leonard BE, 2021, Preface, http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000511097
    Books | 2021
    Cowan CSM; Leonard BE, 2021, Introduction, http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000510413
    Books | 2021
    2021, Microbes and the Mind, Cowan CSM; Leonard BE, (ed.), S. Karger AG, http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/isbn.978-3-318-06856-6
  • Book Chapters | 2021
    Cowan CSM; Cryan JF, 2021, 'The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis in Neurocognitive Development and Decline', in , pp. 12 - 25, http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000510414
    Book Chapters | 2021
    Cowan CSM; Leonard BE, 2021, 'Introduction', in Modern Trends in Psychiatry, S. Karger AG, pp. 1 - 11, http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000510413
  • Journal articles | 2024
    McGuinness AJ; Stinson LF; Snelson M; Loughman A; Stringer A; Hannan AJ; Cowan CSM; Jama HA; Caparros-Martin JA; West ML; Wardill HR, 2024, 'From hype to hope: Considerations in conducting robust microbiome science', Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 115, pp. 120 - 130, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2023.09.022
    Journal articles | 2024
    Ritz NL; Bastiaanssen TFS; Cowan CSM; Smith L; Theune N; Brocka M; Myers EM; Moloney RD; Moloney GM; Shkoporov AN; Draper LA; Hill C; Dinan TG; Slattery DA; Cryan JF, 2024, 'Social fear extinction susceptibility is associated with Microbiota-Gut-Brain axis alterations', Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 120, pp. 315 - 326, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2024.06.009
    Journal articles | 2024
    Ritz NL; Brocka M; Butler MI; Cowan CSM; Barrera-Bugueño C; Turkington CJR; Draper LA; Bastiaanssen TFS; Turpin V; Morales L; Campos D; Gheorghe CE; Ratsika A; Sharma V; Golubeva AV; Aburto MR; Shkoporov AN; Moloney GM; Hill C; Clarke G; Slattery DA; Dinan TG; Cryan JF, 2024, 'Social anxiety disorder-associated gut microbiota increases social fear', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 121, http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2308706120
    Journal articles | 2023
    Lynch CMK; Cowan CSM; Bastiaanssen TFS; Moloney GM; Theune N; van de Wouw M; Florensa Zanuy E; Ventura-Silva AP; Codagnone MG; Villalobos-Manríquez F; Segalla M; Koc F; Stanton C; Ross P; Dinan TG; Clarke G; Cryan JF, 2023, 'Critical windows of early-life microbiota disruption on behaviour, neuroimmune function, and neurodevelopment', Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 108, pp. 309 - 327, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2022.12.008
    Journal articles | 2021
    Boehme M; Guzzetta KE; Bastiaanssen TFS; van de Wouw M; Moloney GM; Gual-Grau A; Spichak S; Olavarría-Ramírez L; Fitzgerald P; Morillas E; Ritz NL; Jaggar M; Cowan CSM; Crispie F; Donoso F; Halitzki E; Neto MC; Sichetti M; Golubeva AV; Fitzgerald RS; Claesson MJ; Cotter PD; O’Leary OF; Dinan TG; Cryan JF, 2021, 'Microbiota from young mice counteracts selective age-associated behavioral deficits', Nature Aging, 1, pp. 666 - 676, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s43587-021-00093-9
    Journal articles | 2021
    Chruścicka B; Cowan CSM; Wallace Fitzsimons SE; Borroto-Escuela DO; Druelle CM; Stamou P; Bergmann CA; Dinan TG; Slattery DA; Fuxe K; Cryan JF; Schellekens H, 2021, 'Molecular, biochemical and behavioural evidence for a novel oxytocin receptor and serotonin 2C receptor heterocomplex', Neuropharmacology, 183, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2020.108394
    Journal articles | 2021
    Secombe KR; Al-Qadami GH; Subramaniam CB; Bowen JM; Scott J; Van Sebille YZA; Snelson M; Cowan C; Clarke G; Gheorghe CE; Cryan JF; Wardill HR, 2021, 'Guidelines for reporting on animal fecal transplantation (GRAFT) studies: recommendations from a systematic review of murine transplantation protocols', Gut Microbes, 13, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19490976.2021.1979878
    Journal articles | 2021
    Simpson CA; Diaz-Arteche C; Eliby D; Schwartz OS; Simmons JG; Cowan CSM, 2021, 'The gut microbiota in anxiety and depression – A systematic review', Clinical Psychology Review, 83, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2020.101943
    Journal articles | 2020
    Cowan CSM; Dinan TG; Cryan JF, 2020, 'Annual Research Review: Critical windows – the microbiota–gut–brain axis in neurocognitive development', Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 61, pp. 353 - 371, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13156
    Journal articles | 2020
    Harmon-Jones SK; Cowan CSM; Shnier N; Richardson R, 2020, 'Is good memory always a good thing? An early offset of infantile amnesia predicts anxiety-like behavior throughout development in rats', Behaviour Research and Therapy, 135, pp. 103763, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2020.103763
    Journal articles | 2019
    Cowan CSM; Stylianakis AA; Richardson R, 2019, 'Early-life stress, microbiota, and brain development: probiotics reverse the effects of maternal separation on neural circuits underpinning fear expression and extinction in infant rats', Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 37, pp. 100627, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2019.100627
    Journal articles | 2019
    Cryan JF; O’riordan KJ; Cowan CSM; Sandhu KV; Bastiaanssen TFS; Boehme M; Codagnone MG; Cussotto S; Fulling C; Golubeva AV; Guzzetta KE; Jaggar M; Long-Smith CM; Lyte JM; Martin JA; Molinero-Perez A; Moloney G; Morelli E; Morillas E; O’connor R; Cruz-Pereira JS; Peterson VL; Rea K; Ritz NL; Sherwin E; Spichak S; Teichman EM; van de Wouw M; Ventura-Silva AP; Wallace-Fitzsimons SE; Hyland N; Clarke G; Dinan TG, 2019, 'The microbiota-gut-brain axis', Physiological Reviews, 99, pp. 1877 - 2013, http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00018.2018
    Journal articles | 2019
    Kan JM; Cowan CSM; Ooi CY; Kasparian NA, 2019, 'What can the gut microbiome teach us about the connections between child physical and mental health? A systematic review', Developmental Psychobiology, 61, pp. 700 - 713, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21819
    Journal articles | 2019
    King G; Baker KD; Bisby MA; Chan D; Cowan CSM; Stylianakis AA; Zimmermann KS; Richardson R, 2019, 'A precision medicine approach to pharmacological adjuncts to extinction: a call to broaden research', Psychopharmacology, 236, pp. 143 - 161, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-4999-0
    Journal articles | 2019
    Moloney GM; van Oeffelen WEPA; Ryan FJ; van de Wouw M; Cowan C; Claesson MJ; Schellekens H; Dinan TG; Cryan JF, 2019, 'Differential gene expression in the mesocorticolimbic system of innately high- and low-impulsive rats', Behavioural Brain Research, 364, pp. 193 - 204, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2019.01.022
    Journal articles | 2018
    Bastiaanssen TFS; Cowan CSM; Claesson MJ; Dinan TG; Cryan JF, 2018, 'Making Sense of ⋯ the Microbiome in Psychiatry', International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 22, pp. 37 - 52, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijnp/pyy067
    Journal articles | 2018
    Cowan CSM; Hoban AE; Ventura-Silva AP; Dinan TG; Clarke G; Cryan JF, 2018, 'Gutsy Moves: The Amygdala as a Critical Node in Microbiota to Brain Signaling', BioEssays, 40, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bies.201700172
    Journal articles | 2018
    Cowan CSM; Richardson R, 2018, 'A Brief Guide to Studying Fear in Developing Rodents: Important Considerations and Common Pitfalls.', Current Protocols in Neuroscience, 83, pp. 1 - 14, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cpns.44
    Journal articles | 2018
    Cowan CSM; Richardson R, 2018, 'Early-life stress leads to sex-dependent changes in pubertal timing in rats that are reversed by a probiotic formulation.', Developmental psychobiology, 61, pp. 679 - 687, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21765
    Journal articles | 2018
    Dinan TG; Stanton C; Long-Smith C; Kennedy P; Cryan JF; Cowan CSM; Cenit MC; van der Kamp J-W; Sanz Y, 2018, 'Feeding melancholic microbes: MyNewGut recommendations on diet and mood', Clinical Nutrition, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2018.11.010
    Journal articles | 2017
    Cowan CSM; Wong SF; Le L; Wong S, 2017, 'Rethinking the role of thought suppression in psychological models and treatment', Journal of Neuroscience, 37, pp. 11293 - 11295, http://dx.doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2511-17.2017
    Journal articles | 2016
    Callaghan BL; Cowan CSM; Richardson R, 2016, 'Treating Generational Stress: Effect of Paternal Stress on Development of Memory and Extinction in Offspring Is Reversed by Probiotic Treatment', Psychological Science, 27, pp. 1171 - 1180, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797616653103
    Journal articles | 2016
    Cowan CSM; Callaghan BL; Kan JM; Richardson R, 2016, 'The lasting impact of early-life adversity on individuals and their descendants: Potential mechanisms and hope for intervention', Genes, Brain and Behavior, 15, pp. 155 - 168, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gbb.12263
    Journal articles | 2016
    Cowan CSM; Callaghan BL; Richardson R, 2016, 'The effects of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. Helveticus) on developmental trajectories of emotional learning in stressed infant rats', Translational Psychiatry, 6, pp. e823 - e823, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/tp.2016.94
    Journal articles | 2016
    Richardson R; Cowan CSM; Callaghan BL; Kan JM, 2016, 'Effects of early-life stress on fear memory in the developing rat', Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 7, pp. 15 - 20, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2015.10.003
    Journal articles | 2013
    Cowan CSM; Callaghan BL; Richardson R, 2013, 'Acute early-life stress results in premature emergence of adult-like fear retention and extinction relapse in infant rats', Behavioral Neuroscience, 127, pp. 703 - 711, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034118

2021-2025 NHMRC Investigator Grant. The developing microbiome as a predictor and modulator of mental health risk & resilience: A translational gut-brain axis approach to improving childhood mental health.

2018-2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowship. GutMIND: Gut microbiota-Microglia Interactions in NeuroDevelopment.

  • 2023-24 Superstars of STEM (Science & Technology Australia)
  • 2022 Young Tall Poppy (Australian Institute of Policy and Science)
  • 2021 APS Rising Star (Association for Psychological Science)
  • 2021 Research Excellence and Impact Recognition Award (Brain & Mind Centre)
  • 2020 Education & Public Engagement Person of the Year (APC Microbiome Ireland)
  • 2020 Abstract Award (International Society for Developmental Psychobiology)
  • 2020 Top Cited Article (Developmental Psychobiology)
  • 2020 Top Downloaded Article (Developmental Psychobiology)
  • 2019 Travel Award (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics)
  • 2019 Editor's Choice Article (International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology)
  • 2019 Top Cited & Highly Downloaded Article (BioEssays)
  • 2018 ISDP Dissertation Award (International Society for Developmental Psychobiology)
  • 2018 Travel Award (International Society for Developmental Psychobiology)
  • 2017 Paxinos Neuroscience Prize (UNSW)
  • 2017 Award for Excellent PhD Thesis (Australian Psychological Society)
  • 2017 Highly Downloaded Article (Genes, Brain and Behavior)
  • 2016 Travel Award (International Society for Developmental Psychobiology)
  • 2014 Travel Award (International Society for Developmental Psychobiology)
  • 2014 Travel Award (New York Academy of Sciences)
  • 2012 University Medal in Psychology (UNSW)
  • 2012 Honours Prize (Australian Psychological Society)
  • 2012 Behavioural Neuroscience Honours Thesis Prize (UNSW