Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Mitochondrial Health

The Energetic Basis of Psychobiology and Health


This talk by Martin Picard was delivered to the Quantitative Methods Network (QMNET) at the University of Melbourne on September 17th, 2021. Additional information is below:

The Energetic Basis of Psychobiology and Health

Energy flow is the core feature that distinguishes life from death. The energy that powers cellular functions in the human body and other living organisms is primarily derived from mitochondria, small subcellular organelles with their own genome. Inside living cells, mitochondria exhibit social behavior. They sense and respond to stress signals, shaping organismal adaptation. Understanding the energetic basis of life and other principles that sustain human health (rather than disease) is paramount for medicine. This includes the key evolutionary process of endosymbiosis that enabled the evolution of complex multicellular life and the human mind. This QMNet presentation will cover evidence of a mind-mitochondria connection from human and animal studies, and some simple concepts of mitochondrial psychobiology.

Martin Picard, PhD received his BSc Honours in neuroimmunology, and PhD in mitochondrial biology of aging at McGill University. He then moved to the University of Pennsylvania for a postdoctoral fellowship in the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine with Doug Wallace. There, he worked on mitochondria-mitochondria interactions, mitochondrial reprogramming of the nuclear (epi)genome, and mitochondrial stress pathophysiology along with Bruce McEwen at the Rockefeller University. He joined the faculty of Columbia University in 2015. Dr. Picard’s Mitochondrial PsychoBiology Laboratory investigates mechanisms of brain-body communication with a focus on mitochondria. Investigators and trainees in Dr. Picard’s translational research program combine clinical, cellular, and computational approaches to examine how psychosocial exposures impact mitochondrial structure and functions, and in turn, how energetic perturbations within mitochondria influence key brain-body processes involved in cognition, stress resilience, and aging. Together with their collaborators, they work on projects ranging from organelle to organism to elucidate energetic principles that shape human health across the lifespan. Dr. Picard’s team has developed a mitochondrial health index (MHI) to study the mind-mitochondria connection, identified novel membrane structures for mitochondrial communication in humans, showed that cell-free mitochondrial DNA (cf-mtDNA) is a psychological stress-inducible molecule, developed a cellular lifespan model that recapitulates molecular longitudinal trajectories of human aging in vitro, and found that human hair greying is reversible and linked to life stress.


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