For the first time in its six-year history, a TEDxMarshallU talk has been promoted to an official TED talk, reaching over a million total views in less than three weeks.

Kathleen McAuliffe, an award-winning science journalist and adjunct professor at the University of Miami, first presented her talk about the influences of a person’s gut bacteria on their minds and personality last February at TEDxMarshallU’s Complexities of Identity event. Her talk explained current research that suggests the gut biome may have significant impacts on depression, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological disorders.

On Jan. 22, after months of correspondence between TEDxMarshallU and the TED curation team—which included extensive additional fact-checking by TED curators—McAuliffe’s talk was republished on and the TED YouTube Channel as an official TED talk titled “Do gut microbes control your personality?” For a full week, McAuliffe’s video featured prominently on the front page of TED’s website.

Curators at TED hope that McAuliffe’s TED talk, which can be viewed at or on the front page of the TEDxMarshallU website, will help viewers “learn more about how this emerging science could change how we treat disease — and discover the impact of your internal microbial makeup on your mood, weight and more.”

“This is a huge deal for Marshall University and TEDxMarshallU,” said Brian Kinghorn, the founder, licensee and lead organizer of TEDxMarshallU and an associate professor in the college of education and professional development. “Getting a talk called up to the TED big leagues is the dream of every TEDx organizer, and it is even sweeter because TEDxMarshallU is mainly organized by undergraduate Honors students at Marshall.”

Only a small fraction of TEDx talks become official TED talks. There are over 200,000 videos posted on the official TEDx YouTube channel, compiled from over 3,000 independently organized TEDx events each year. In contrast, there are only around 4,500 videos currently posted on the official TED YouTube page, and most of those videos were filmed at official TED events, not TEDx events.

McAuliffe, who recognized the complexity of the developments in science she discussed in her talk, expressed gratitude to the faculty mentors and “professional crew of students at Marshall for all the support every step of the way in preparing my talk—and perhaps most importantly, preparing me—to present this material in the most engaging, easy-to-understand way.”

She noted that TED is the premier worldwide platform to spread inspiring and hopeful ideas like the ones she detailed in her talk. She added that she had not previously realized TEDx talks could become TED talks, so it was “thrilling to get called up to the big leagues without even realizing she was in the running.”

Bex Law, co-organizer and student executive producer of the 2023 event, said that she will talk about this accomplishment long into her future.

“To be noticed and upgraded to an official TED talk is incredible and highlights McAuliffe’s hard work and the effort the entire Marshall University community puts into creating work that is meaningful and high caliber,” Law said.

Kyleigh Hoey, another student organizer who pitched the idea of McAuliffe speaking in 2023, shared the credit with the rest of her team for producing McAuliffe’s talk. She also said she was not surprised that TED elevated the talk, and she hopes people who watch McAuliffe’s talk will learn how important gut health is to a person’s overall health.

Brian Hoey, dean of Marshall’s Honors College (which houses TEDxMarshallU as an experiential learning internship), attributes the success of McAuliffe’s talk not only to her insights but also to the hard work of both the TEDxMarshallU team and the Honors College.

“Kathleen McAuliffe’s discourse on the influence of gut bacteria on personality is not only intellectually stimulating but also a reflection of the interdisciplinary approaches we build in the Honors College,” Hoey said. “Her breathtaking insights into the link between the human microbiome and mental health reflect the spirit of discovery we help foster in our students.”

This year, TEDxMarshallU moves to Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards Playhouse on campus for its sixth annual event on Feb. 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. Focused on the theme Connecting Threads, four Marshall students will speak along with five other speakers—including local celebrity storytellers Adam Booth and Dr. Sydnee McElroy.

Tickets are $5 for current Marshall University or K-12 students and $20 for general admission. Children under 8 years old will not be permitted at the event. Visit to learn more about the event and to purchase tickets.

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