The Bugs and Brains Study is made up of four phases; an online screening questionnaire, an interview, collection of biological samples, and further online questionnaires. These phases are briefly described below. You may be asked to participate in all, or only some, of these phases. If participating in the questionnaire-only sub study, you will only be asked to complete Phases 1 and 4.
Phase 1 - Online Screening Questionnaire
We will send you a link to an online screening questionnaire. The questionnaire will ask about your demographic details, medication use, substance use, medical health, mental health, and gut health. You can complete this questionnaire online at a location of your choosing. It will take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
Phase 2 - Interview with a Researcher
In this phase, we will invite you to complete an interview at the University of Melbourne, asking detailed questions about your mental health, mood, and behaviours. This interview can take up to 2 – 3 hours, however will be less than 2 hours for most people. You can complete the interview via video call (Skype or Facetime) or telephone if you are unable to attend in person.
Phase 3 - Collection of Biological Samples
Phase 3 involves collection of biological samples over a 48-hour period. If you are invited to participate in this phase you will be sent faecal, urine, and saliva collection kits. Detailed collection and storage instructions will be provided by a researcher to make it as clean and easy as possible.
The faecal, urine and saliva samples will all be collected by you in private at your home, and stored in your freezer. We will provide materials to make this sterile and safe.
We will visit you at home to pick up the biological samples. During this home visit, we will also ask to collect a small sample of your hair. The hair will be cut close to the scalp (an area about the size of 10 cent piece), and come from the back of your head (so that your hair covers the small patch left). We will show you before and after pictures of others who have had the collection done, to help you decide if you wish to provide this sample. If you have short hair (less than 3cm long), we will advise you against providing this sample, as it may leave a visible gap in your hair. Finally, during this home visit, we will ask to take a measurement of your height, weight, and waist circumference. To do this, we will ask you to remove your shoes, hat, jumpers, items in your pockets, etc. Measurement of your waist circumference is ideally measured against the skin, and requires a researcher to identify the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hip bone. However, if you are not comfortable with this, the measurement can be conducted over a layer of light clothing. All the measurements will be taken by a female researcher.
Phase 4 - Online Questionnaires
Phase 4 is completed in conjunction with Phase 3. At the same time as you are sent the biological sample collection kits, you will also be sent a link to a set of online questionnaires. The questionnaires will consist of further demographic questions and ask you about your mood, stressful life events, coping strategies, quality of life, oral and physical health, and your diet. You can complete these questionnaires online at a location of your choosing. The questionnaires will take approximately 60 minutes to complete.
Contact the Bugs and Brains Study by clicking here.
If you have concerns about your physical or mental health, please contact your GP, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14. General health information can be found at www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au. General mental health information can be found at www.beyondblue.org.au. In case of emergency, please call 000 immediately.
Funding for this study was received through the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences.