Parent-infant bonding near birth impacts potential for a virtuous life, with effects extending to future generations. Conversely, early life stress jeopardizes social bonding and confers increased risk of substance abuse, alcoholism, and aggressive behaviors later in life. Our goal is to establish a generational paradigm of increased human virtue, based upon our own novel findings involving probiotic bacteria and the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin in mouse models. This concept of ‘future wellness’ is within the scope of the Templeton philanthropic vision.
Early life events and brain hormone oxytocin are clearly central in human pair bonding; however, supplemental oxytocin is challenging to administer. To overcome this limitation, we propose a microbial restoration strategy to stimulate natural oxytocin secretion, based on a phenomenon discovered in mouse models by Project Leader Dr. Susan Erdman at MIT.
Creative collaborations between MIT and Harvard-MGH will use probiotics originating from healthy human breast milk, namely Lactobacillus reuteri 6475, to stimulate oxytocin and beneficial parent-infant bonds. We hypothesize that oral supplements with L reuteri will boost oxytocin levels and favorable behaviors including empathy, altruism, and spirituality, in mothers and their infants. Actionable outputs will inspire public health change, with vast potential to improve human existence.