Fingerprinting the Phenotypes of ME/CFS Along the Gut-Immune-Brain Axis
Associate Professor Mady Hornig
Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Mady Hornig, MA, MD did her undergraduate studies as a College Scholar at Cornell, received an MA in Psychology from The New School for Social Research and an MD from The Medical College of Pennsylvania and completed her residency in psychiatry at The Medical Center Hospital of Vermont and an NIMH/NRSA Neuropsychopharmacology Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research leverages large epidemiologic cohorts, novel bench science and animal model studies to determine how microbial, immune and toxic exposures impact upon the brain across the life course, resulting in disorders such as autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infection (PANDAS), mood disorders, schizophrenia, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) and age-related cognitive deficits.

Dr. Hornig is internationally known for her work in the growing research arena exploring the mechanisms of gut-immune-brain axis functioning, seeking clues to both the understanding of the roots of dysfunction as well as uncovering pathways that strengthen individual resiliency. She has a keen interest in how diet, exercise and environmental factors affect each individual’s intestinal bacteria – the so-called gut microbiome – which then influences brain function through alterations in blood-borne molecules.

She has identified naturally-occurring substances that appear to strengthen resistance to certain disease states affecting the brain, and is pursuing these as candidates for prevention and intervention in ME/CFS and autism. She uses immune profiling, metabolomic, proteomic, epigenetic and microbiome approaches to identify prenatal and birth biomarkers for brain disorders in large prospective studies in Scandinavia as well as the US. She is also applying these approaches to uncover markers of disturbed immunity and metabolism correlating with the severe clinical deficits that underlie ME/CFS, work launched with support from the Hutchins Family Foundation/Chronic Fatigue Initiative, the National Institutes of Health and the crowd-funding initiative, The Microbe Discovery Project. Perhaps most exciting is that new ME/CFS subsets that appear to have different triggers and may respond differentially to treatment are now being identified through her work.

Dr. Hornig’s approach is enriched by her unusual combination of decades of experience as a clinical researcher, her acumen in defining novel neuropharmacological and nutritional approaches for brain disorders and her ability to carefully tease out factors that enhance resiliency to disease.

In 2004, Dr. Hornig presented to the Institute of Medicine Immunization Safety Review Committee and testified twice before congressional subcommittees regarding the role of infections and toxins in autism pathogenesis and has lectured on ME/CFS throughout the world. She has over 120 peer-reviewed publications, has edited several books, and has received many academic awards. Her work has been featured by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Discover Magazine, Nature Medicine, Science, Wired, the Huffington Post, O Magazine, CBS News, and This Week in Virology.