Humans as Superorganisms

  title={Humans as Superorganisms},
  author={Peter Kramer and Paola Bressan},
  journal={Perspectives on Psychological Science},
  pages={464 - 481}
Psychologists and psychiatrists tend to be little aware that (a) microbes in our brains and guts are capable of altering our behavior; (b) viral DNA that was incorporated into our DNA millions of years ago is implicated in mental disorders; (c) many of us carry the cells of another human in our brains; and (d) under the regulation of viruslike elements, the paternally inherited and maternally inherited copies of some genes compete for domination in the offspring, on whom they have opposite… 

Figures and Tables from this paper

Microbes and the Mind: How Bacteria Shape Affect, Neurological Processes, Cognition, Social Relationships, Development, and Pathology

  • Leigh K. SmithE. Wissel
  • Psychology, Biology
    Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science
  • 2019
The ways in which bacteria shape affect, neurological processes, cognition, social relationships, development, and psychological pathology are reviewed to contribute to the now widespread, interdisciplinary effort to understand the relationship between microbes and the mind.

The Microbiome in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

Our (Mother’s) Mitochondria and Our Mind

  • Peter KramerP. Bressan
  • Biology
    Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science
  • 2018
How malfunctioning mitochondria force rats to become socially subordinate to others is described, how such disparity can be evened off by a vitamin, and why these findings are relevant to us.

Infection threat shapes our social instincts

The paper shows how the danger of contagion is detected and posted to the brain; how it affects individuals’ mate choice and sex life; why it strengthens ties within groups but severs those between them, leading to hostility toward anyone who looks, smells, or behaves unusually.

The human-microbiome superorganism and its modulation to restore health

  • E. Salvucci
  • Biology, Medicine
    International journal of food sciences and nutrition
  • 2019
Modulation of microbiome by administering prebiotics, like arabinoxylans, and synbiotics is a plausible treatment for dysbiosis, the regulation of neurotransmitters and alleviation of neurological manifestations.

The Oral Microbiome: Health Benefits, Disease, and Neurodegeneration

This review article explores the large database of research that supports the complex relationship humans have with the bacteria inside them and suggests that the relationship between microbiome and host is constantly changing to meet the ever-changing conditions pertaining to human life.

The Disappearing Microbiota: Diseases of the Western Civilization

  • E. Salvucci
  • Biology
    How Fermented Foods Feed a Healthy Gut Microbiota
  • 2019
Maternal diet, lifestyle, mode of delivery, administration of antibiotics to the mother during pregnancy, early nutrition and treatment with antibiotics in newborns are crucial factors that affect microbiota structure and Microbiota and epigenome are involved in the reduced or increased risk to develop different microbiome-associated diseases in adult life.

Mitochondria-Microbiota Interaction in Neurodegeneration

  • P. Kramer
  • Biology
    Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience
  • 2021
Although it gets most of the attention, local amyloid aggregation in the brain merely points to a bigger problem: the systemic breakdown of the entire human superorganism, exemplified by an interaction turning bad between mitochondria and microbiota.

Gut–Brain Axis: A New Revolution to Understand the Pathogenesis of Autism and Other Severe Neurological Diseases

The gut microbiota can modulate brain function, forming a crucial link in the bidirectional interactions between the intestine and the nervous system.

Rhamnolipids, Microbial Virulence Factors, in Alzheimer's Disease.

Results provide conclusive evidence for the newly-reported implication of RLs in AD, adding it to the list of bacterial components, opening new avenues for AD investigation and strengthen and vindicate the divergence of research toward the exploration of bacterial involvement in AD generation and progression.



An epigenetic hypothesis for human brain laterality, handedness, and psychosis development.

  • A. Klar
  • Biology
    Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology
  • 2004
Mendelian genetics deals with heredity of variationthrough generations, and it does not directly concern it-self with cellular differentiation required for developmentin higher multicellular

The imprinted brain: how genes set the balance between autism and psychosis.

The imprinted brain theory proposes that autism spectrum disorder represents a paternal bias in the expression of imprinted genes, and suggests that normality represents balanced cognition, and that genius is an extraordinary extension of cognitive configuration in both mentalistic and mechanistic directions.

The role of imprinted genes in mediating susceptibility to neuropsychiatric disorders

Can we understand modern humans without considering pathogens?

The various phenotypic traits that have been proposed to be affected by the highly parasitic human environment, including fertility, birth weight, fluctuating asymmetry, body odours, food recipes, sexual behaviour, pregnancy sickness, language, religion and intellectual quotient are reviewed.

Latent Toxoplasmosis gondii: emerging evidence for influences on neuropsychiatric disorders.

  • R. HurleyK. Taber
  • Biology
    The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences
  • 2012
Chronic latent T. gondii infection resides in intact neurons; and there is considerable variation in findings of structures affected, although there does appear to be a predilection for dopaminergic neurons.

How and why Toxoplasma makes us crazy.

  • J. Flegr
  • Biology
    Trends in parasitology
  • 2013

Importance of the matriline for genomic imprinting, brain development and behaviour

  • E. Keverne
  • Biology, Psychology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2013
The action and interaction of two genomes in one individual, the mother, has provided a template for co-adaptive functions across generations that are important for maternal care and resource transfer, while co- adaptively shaping the mothering capabilities of each subsequent generation.

The Neurotropic Parasite Toxoplasma Gondii Increases Dopamine Metabolism

Infestation of mammalian dopaminergic cells with T. gondii enhanced the levels of K+-induced release of dopamine several-fold, with a direct correlation between the number of infected cells and the quantity of dopamine released, and orchestrates a significant increase in dopamine metabolism in neural cells.

Molecular characteristics of Human Endogenous Retrovirus type-W in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

The seroprevalence for Toxoplasma gondii yielded low but significant association with HERV-W transcriptional level in a subgroup of BD and SZ, suggesting a potential role in particular patients.

Temporal lobe asymmetries as the key to the etiology of schizophrenia.

  • T. Crow
  • Psychology, Medicine
    Schizophrenia bulletin
  • 1990
A candidate locus for an asymmetry determinant and the psychosis gene within the exchange region of the sex chromosomes is proposed and some sex differences in schizophrenia may relate to subtle differences in the rate of asymmetry development in the two sexes.