Our (Mother's) Mitochondria and Our Mind

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2018 Jan;13(1):88-100. doi: 10.1177/1745691617718356. Epub 2017 Sep 22.


Most of the energy we get to spend is furnished by mitochondria, minuscule living structures sitting inside our cells or dispatched back and forth within them to where they are needed. Mitochondria produce energy by burning down what remains of our meal after we have digested it, but at the cost of constantly corroding themselves and us. Here we review how our mitochondria evolved from invading bacteria and have retained a small amount of independence from us; how we inherit them only from our mother; and how they are heavily implicated in learning, memory, cognition, and virtually every mental or neurological affliction. We discuss why counteracting mitochondrial corrosion with antioxidant supplements is often unwise, and why our mitochondria, and therefore we ourselves, benefit instead from exercise, meditation, sleep, sunshine, and particular eating habits. Finally, we describe how malfunctioning mitochondria force rats to become socially subordinate to others, how such disparity can be evened off by a vitamin, and why these findings are relevant to us.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; aging; depression; free radicals; ketogenic diet; mitochondria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / physiology*