Volume 20 - Issue 3

Review Article Biomedical Science and Research Biomedical Science and Research CC by Creative Commons, CC-BY

The Embodied Microbiome

*Corresponding author: Rodney R Dietert, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY USA.

Received: October 12, 2023; Published: October 20, 2023

DOI: 10.34297/AJBSR.2023.20.002708


Microbes are the most prevalent and widely distributed life form on planet Earth. They are also cognitive organisms with memory and superior problem-solving skills that use quantum phase transitions during their remarkably effective gathering and dissemination of information. This narrative review explores the biological ramifications of human holobionts physically embodying the human microbiome and connecting to the Internet of Microbes (IOM) beyond our body. Within the narrative review, we consider:

1) the ways in which our microbial co-partners exerted control over our ancestors and continue to influence our current human generation.

2) how they mold virtually every key aspect of our life and even remain with our body in death

3) how inward-looking contemplative tools such as meditation and embodied cognition provide an ideal opportunity to connect to the vast microbial network and tap the full range of human holobiont capabilities.

Keywords: Microbiome; Cognitive Bacteria; Embodied Cognition; Behavior; Holobiont; Meditation; Internet of Microbes (IOM); Developmental Programming; Quantum States; Hologenome

Abbreviations: IOM: Internet of Microbes; HC: Heart Centered; FMT: Fecal Microbiota Transplantation


“for men and germs are not widely different from each other.”

Mark Twain, from Which Was the Dream “Three Thousand Years Among the Microbes.” p. 437 [1].

A decade-plus ago we published a paper in the MDPI journal Entropy Dietert and Dietert [2] answering a semiotics question with what became known as:” The Completed Self Hypothesis.” The paper argued that the newborn baby had to fully self-complete with mom’s microbiota to be ready to face the world, and that this was the single best, predictive measure one could make as per health across that baby’s life course. Of course, now we know that self-completion via natural childbirth (followed by breastfeeding) results in the baby becoming the majority microbial as a human superorganism. Now in this narrative review we explore the importance of The Embodied Microbiome. Of course, the human superorganism remains the majority microbial, but what does that really mean? Are our microbial collaborators silent partners or possibly puppet masters? Since the Completed Self paper, there has been progress in four major research areas, and those findings provide likely explanations for what our ninety-nine-plus percent microbial genes have been doing as part of to our body.

The first push on the microbiome research front demonstrated that the human microbiome exerts a massive influence over human systems biology. The status and function of virtually all tissues and organs are affected by the status of the human microbiome. A second push in the microbial arena showed that bacteria are sentient beings who use cognition and exquisite sensing technologies of their surroundings to gain an adaptive advantage. They do these things by holding quantum vibrational states and using quantum entanglement. With this in mind, later we will explore the question of who’s really in charge when it comes to our body. A third research area extended the concepts of whole body (embodied) cognition as well as the importance of teaching embodied cognition to science and other students in higher education. Embodied cognition is a subject we have previously researched, written about [3,4], and taught to Cornell University students (via Biomedical Sciences (BIOMS) course 4400 and The Cornell PREPARE Program). Finally, recent research into both organ and microbiota transplantation in humans and animal models has shown that personality and behavior can be transferred and driven by the donor transplanted organ or microbiota rather than by the recipient’s brain.

In the following sections we discuss:

a) Why our merged mammalian and microbial genetics, the hologenome, is important.

b) How our microbes prepare the next generation and how they manage that generation throughout the lifespan.

c) Why the microbial cognitive mind operating via quantum states and entanglements is critical to our relationship with and potentially derived from our microbes.

d) Why embodied cognition can be a useful, contemplative problem- solving tool and not simply a point of scholarly debate.

e) Why it is more important than ever to put microbiome approaches first for our self-empowerment. The impact can extend well beyond health.

The Ancestral Hologenome

As described in the Cognitive Information Processing model of William B. Miller Jr. and colleagues [5], self-referential, observing cells may use environmental cues and stressors to form partnerships. In essence, this is the way in which holobionts are thought to have come into being resulting in a hologenome. But once formed, individual and collective information processing and cellular responses continue across evolution. The host microbiota is interested in flourishing both as a microbial consortium and as partners with the host. The immune cells are responding to environmental cues and stressors and have prime directives in self-integrity and self-defense. For this reason, critical body sites in holobionts are often where co-partner microbes meet the immune system (e.g., across the gut barrier). We have termed these systems biology units, the microimmunosome [6]. In the case of humans, gut microbiota is separated from the majority of human immune cells by only a single cell-thick columnar layer of epithelial cells. One of the hallmark features of the immune system is memory. The immune system remembers when it has seen a pathogen before and responds differently the second time. Recently, microbes (forming another part of the microimmunosome) were shown to exhibit memory as well [7,8]. When a significant incompatibility occurs between the microbiome and immune system in a new generation, this immune-microbe incompatibility can cause immune-inflicted inflammatory damage within the holobiont.

Not all chimeric combinations of microbiome and immune system exist in harmony. One of the more surprising research findings during the past decade is what has been termed phylosymbiosis where relationships among the microbial community recapitulate host phylogeny [9]. In fact, significant compatibility between the microbiome and the host immune system is required for survival and/or reproduction [9-11]. Significant incompatibility within the microimmunosome results in microbe-assisted, immune facilitated lethality of hybrids effectively resulting in speciation [9]. Interactions within the microimmunosome have ramifications for therapeutic microbial engraftment. Long [12] discusses the home field advantage of the host where Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) and even probiotic administration may have to pass a host specificity test to engraft. This may explain why not all FMTs are equally successful. At least part of this issue may involve host immune acceptability.

Lesser forms of incompatibilities within the microimmunosome are a probable cause for many chronic diseases as we have previously discussed [13]. The take home lesson from this corresponds with what has been reported in microbiome research. Dysbiosis occurring in a formerly balanced microbiome increases the risk of both chronic diseases and infectious disease (via loss of colonization resistance) [13].

While this holobiont hallmark explains the importance of reproductively successful ancestry, it is also a sobering reminder that the human superorganism is only as resilient as its various body site-specific microbiomes. Conditions that are unsafe for the human microbiome are likely to be unsafe for the human superorganism. The beneficial side of this equation is that environmental cues and stressors that are beneficial for addressing microbiome consortia weaknesses are likely to be health-promoting for the host. As we will discuss in a later section of this paper, this is a probable basis for the benefits of many alternative health modalities but also the danger from many “unsuspecting” microbial hazards.

Crafting and Managing the Next Generation

One of the more intriguing questions to emerge from recent microbiome research concerns the extent to which microbes may craft their future human as a copartner and/ or vessel for their future generations of microbes. Research areas of developmental programming and epigenetics only elevate the possibility of microbes as potential designers of future humans. Recent observations concerning the microbiome is that it is not only concerned with the present human co-partner, but it also plays a significant role in preparing the next generation of humans in their role of majority-microbial holobionts. This transgenerational preparation process occurs via the maternal microbes and results in microbes guiding human fetal development and also imprinting/programming on the offspring.

Studies of these microbial actions fall within the larger field of study called developmental basis of Adult Health and Disease (DoHAD). DoHAD emerged following the work of Dr. David Barker, M.D. concerning the fetal determination of cardiovascular disease [14,15]. This expanded to an examination of critical windows of development [16] and eventually Neo-Lamarckian, epigenetic-based, transgenerational programming and inheritance beginning in the womb [17,18].

The maternal microbiome has multiple roles affecting the offspring through its metabolome such as signaling and metabolic actions. Microbes are known to produce epigenetically active metabolites [19]. The maternal gut microbiome and its epigenetically active metabolites can produce epigenetic alterations (sometimes termed epigenetic marks) in the offspring [20]. Most of the studies have focused on problematic programming from dysbiotic microbiomes programming for offspring disease rather than balanced maternal microbiomes with favorable environmental exposure facilitating a next generation of healthy children and adults.

Banerjee, et al.[21] recently reviewed the significance of the maternal microbiome in the disposition and resulting fetal programming following exposure to a variety of environmental factors. Cadmium and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were used as examples for biotransformations that had implications for both the pregnancy and the offspring. Driesbach, et al. [22] using retrospective, cross-sectional metagenomic analysis found that maternal microbiome composition in the late second trimester was an effective predictor of birth weight. Maternal microbiome composition at 36 weeks of pregnancy was also shown to be a good predictor of immune cell composition in the newborn at birth. Some of the associations were still present in the infant at 12months of age [23]. Several additional studies focused on the maternal microbiome and the offspring’s immune system with a focus on allergic and/or autoimmune diseases [24,25].

Another focus of maternal microbiome research and programmed offspring systems biology has been the neurological system. Gesu et al. [26] reviewed the spectrum of pregnancy metabolites produced from a dysbiotic gut microbiome that result in neurodevelopmental problems and elevated risk of offspring mental health challenges. Meckel and Kiraly [27] examined microbiota metabolites that affect fetal brain wiring during the pregnancy. Voung [28] also reviewed microbiota effects on neurodevelopment both prenatally and postnatally. Relative to epigenetic alterations, Nohesara et al. [19] recently reviewed the spectrum of specific epigenetic marks (epigenetic modifications) attributable to dysbiotic microbiome metabolites that are also connected with psychiatric diseases.

Finally Hsu et al. [29] identified maternal fructose intake and resulting gut microbiome dysbiosis as an important pathway leading to problematic offspring programming of adult disease. While these studies focus on the adverse programming resulting from aberrant microbiota compositions, the findings support the role of the maternal microbiome in both initiating systems biology development in the offspring as well as programming transgenerationally via microbiome-induced, epigenetic modification. The take home message is that balanced microbiota through healthy living of the human holobiont is reflected across subsequent generations providing ideal human descendants (healthy, reproducing, and longlived) to copartner with subsequent generations of microbes. In many ways, this could be viewed as strategic planning by our microbes.

Microbes as Puppet Masters?

Humans are known as naturally social animals. But the fact that humans in microbial dysbiosis are often anti-social suggests that it is the hologenome that can direct the extent to which human interactions come naturally. In past years, the idea that our microbes were significant players in human superorganism action, function, and capabilities may have been thought a stretch. But one thing is shifting. The prior predominate view of microbes as inconsequential “sidekicks” within the human holobiont is shifting toward a view where microbes are dominant, senior partners in the collaboration. The growing field of psychobiotics is a major reason for this shift. Dinan and colleagues [30] first coined the term psychobiotics a decade ago in referring to living organisms (such as probiotic bacteria) that alter human neurobehavior. Because the flood of neuroactive chemicals either directly produced by gut microbes or regulated by the same can overwhelm brain chemistry, gut microbes have been termed the brain’s “puppeteers” [31]. Not everyone embraces the puppet master idea. Some researchers have argued against a puppet master model suggesting that the appearance of mind control by microbes is more likely to be a happenstance connected to microbe-positive local effects [32]. However, it is important to keep in mind that our gut microbiome controls fear extinction and a healthy gut microbiome is a critical factor in helping us to maintain appropriate balance during times of excessive fear [33].

In this exploration of our microbiota and control of human-human interactions, we are focusing on the balance of two factors: oxytocin-oxytocin receptor signaling contrasted production of Trimethylamine N-Oxide (TMAO). Oxytocin is a pleiotropic, hypothalmus- produced neuropeptide/hormone that supports a variety of pro-social functions including reward and motivation feedback for things like pair-bonding, social interactions, meals, and sexual contact [reviewed in 34,35]. Critical for human reproduction, oxytocin drives parturition and parental attachment including establishment and maintenance of mother-child bonding in response to social cues [34-36]. It also plays a role in sensory network plasticity [37]. Oxytocin signals through G-protein-coupled receptors as the mechanism for enhancing connectivity of the social brain across vertebrate species. Deficits in oxytocin-receptor driven signaling can produce isolation-promoting social deficits [38-41]. In effect, oxytocin appears to be a pivotal factor for humans being drawn to pro-social behavior.

The gut microbiome has the capacity to regulate oxytocin-signaled pro-social behavior [42]. This puppeteer-like control of human sociability includes the capacity of certain gut microbiota to directly produce oxytocin [43]. Hence, we function as social animals primarily in the context of being a holobiont with specific microbiota urging us on to meet-greet, pair romatically, reproduce, and produce and nurture our babies. In fact, the case could be made that Earth’s microbes have a vested interest in seeing humans survive and thrive.

This information concerning microbiome function is pertinent to two questions. These are:

a) What is our true fundamental nature?

b) Is there an instruction manual? One could argue that ancestral microbial partners in prior generations helped to prepare the way for our own appearance. If there is an instruction manual, it probably starts in our gut (rather than our brain) and is focused on our fully conscious, microbial co-partners. We are only beginning to fully appreciate the insights of Hippocrates [44].

For example, specific gut bacteria are able to influence the levels of oxytocin [45]. With oxytocin being critical for childbirth and infant nurturing, pair bonding, certain aspects of reproduction, and human social connectivity, then is the absence of oxytocin signaling the only thing driving anti-social behavior? The answer appears to be no. A good candidate for an anti-social molecule is Trimethylamine N-Oxide (TMAO), a metabolic product of the gut microbiome [46,47]. While many other bioactive compounds contribute to behavior, oxytocin and TMAO drive starkly opposite behaviors and interactions. One of the apparent actions of higher levels of TMAO is rapid aging of mid-brain regions connected to TMAO-stimulated inflammatory cytokine production [48].

Several other microbiota-regulated neurological factors affect behavior beyond oxytocin and TMAO. For example, serotonin and dopamine levels and/or signaling are controlled by specific gut bacteria [49-51]. In addition, the important role of a balanced gut microbiome in fear extinction helps to protect against anxiety, depression, and mental illness [33] Table 1 illustrates the areas where our body’s microbiota intercedes to affect our life and even our body’s immediate afterlife [22,29,33,42,52-80] (Table 1).

Biomedical Science &, Research

Table 1: Microbes Have Key Roles Across the Entire Lifespan.

Conscious, Problem-Solving, Quatum-Operating Bacteria

This section illustrates a progression of observations, experiments, and thinking concerning the nature of microbes in general and of microbes that form holobionts including the human superorganism. While thoughts about microbes or at least their actions date back centuries, we focus on the early 20th century and ideas about probiotic foods and the origins of chloroplasts to robust, vetted concepts of 2023 concerning microbes as fully cognitive beings that are supreme information gatherers making full use of quantum- based tools as they navigate the extremes of Earth and as well as our own body.

Several decades ago Lynn Margulis presented evidence supporting an endosymbiotic theory that virtually every cell in the human body was powered in large part by remnants of ancient archaea (protomitochondria) [81]. If ancient prokaryotes were the source for fundamental components of human and other eukaryotic cells, then the question is what else did they source to us and continue to provide directly via the human microbiome? Is our fundamental nature completely intertwined with the history of Earth’s microbes?

The keys to rethinking our fundamental nature as well as that of microbes means inverting a dogmatic life-control pyramid. In the past, genomes were purported to drive everything that follows within an organism. But in the microbiome era, genomes can be as fluid as your next meal of fermented foods. Now sentient cells use consciousness and cognition to sense information fields, perform creative problem solving and use the genome primarily as a toolbox and genes as cellular tools for this task [82-83]. If the ideas of Lynn Margulis were central to the idea of single cell cognition among bacteria and scaling to eukaryotic cell chimeras, then it was the 2016 seminal concept paper of William B. Miller Jr. [82] that provided the roadmap of how microbial-human holobionts operate via information fields and entanglement.

Table 2 illustrates a timeline of evolving concepts regarding microbes as a standard bearer that brings cognition, consciousness, intelligence, memory, associative learning, creative problem solving, energy-to-information phase transitions, and quantum entanglements to the holobiont and its external environment [81,84- 109].

Biomedical Science &, Research

Table 2: Microbes Have Key Roles Across the Entire Lifespan.

The evolution of research on microbes and the development of new dogmas surrounding their quantum-based capacities and operating modes should prompt us to rethink our own human superorganism capacities as well. In the following sections, we consider how new views of the human microbiome and environmental microbes can influence our understanding concerning embodied cognition as well as recent obervations regarding organ and microbial transplantation.

Embodied Cognition and Meditation in the Holobiont

previously mentioned, embodied cognition in its various forms has been a major component of our prior research, writing, higher education instruction, and scientific workshops [3,4]. Embodied cognition can be described as whole body cognition [110], which in our holobiont understanding of whole body would include the microbiome. Embodied cognition encompasses any manner in which information can be accessed by utilizing any part of the body as the source and/or conduit. It also facilitates different perceptional vantage points (e.g., viewing something from the heart space vs. the brain). There are many different tools that can be used to access embodied information and several of these will be described. Meditation itself has been considered as one form of embodied cognition [111], because most meditation is directed inward into the body (as at least an initial step) rather than outward. For this reason, it will be included here. Importantly, embodied cognition has grown in recognition as a useful skill set in science education [4,112,113].

In the Cornell course BioMS 4400 a Heart Centered (HC) meditation served as the observational platform for much of the embodiment instruction. In its most basic form a 30-second, eyes-open HC meditation was used to compare first noticed observations of a complex Salvidore Dali painting (Cygnus). The differences in view ing the painting from a normal perceptive state vs. a HC state was stunning and a core part of course instruction over the years. With this exercise, students would essentially double the total information that they gleaned from the painting as if looking at the painting using two completely different sets of eyes. In this course, the HC meditation was also paired with physical body work (The Lego/ Building Blocks Exercise) or movement-connectivity (The Wall of Information Exercise). Additional embodied cognition instruction involved a movement exercise (The Walk-Around Exercise), a body orientation/navigation exercise related to size and time embodiment, and The Body as a Weathervane Exercise related to sensory information and embodied emotions. The curriculum included two Role Playing Exercises and use of language (metaphors and mixed metaphors) as a reset when stuck on a problem [3,4].

Music and dance are also whole body contemplative tools used to increase understanding. One example was a recent holistic learning Dance Our Microbiome Event held at the Buffalo Museum of Science as described by Buono and Burindge [114]. Music also has special role in embodied cognition [115]. Meditation is not just a powerful contemplative tool. It is also a way to establish a bidirectional connection with our microbiome. The next section will examine routes through which the microbiome may inform us via meditation. But the communication link appears to be bidirectional. Table 3 [116-120] illustrates research into the ability of meditation not only to improve well-being but also to alter microbiome composition. At a minimum, this suggests that some health benefits accrued from meditation may be linked with meditation-driven host microbiome modification (Table 3).

Biomedical Science &, Research

Table 3: Examples of Reported Effects of Meditation Upon the Human Microbiome.

A final BIOMS 4400 course exercise for discussion (The Wall of Information Exercise) is a combination of meditation and embodied cognition. The exercise is discussed in the peer-reviewed Journal of Biomedical Education [4]. The students move to a wall of their choice, survey the wall with their hand to notice a distinction connected to a self-identified spot on the wall, enter the heartcentered meditative state, and ask an open-ended question “What if there were infomation here for me?” Students often received imagery, language or other cues. The instructors always shared what they received and that encouraged students to share their impressions. What is particularly interesting about the exercise is that the impressions received are often precognitive. An example of this from the 2014 fall class session (RRD) is illustrated in Figure 1. The class instructions are in the left panel and the impression received in the right. Because we have a background of extensive published scholarly research on antique silver and goldsmiths in the UK (Scotland), the imagery of a table harp (the silver quality hallmark for Dublin, Ireland for centuries) from the Wall was unmistakable to RRD. The problem was that as RRD explained to the students at the completion of the Wall of Information Exercise, he had no real direct connection to Dublin, Ireland and no prior professional or leisure activity in Ireland. In the moment, the table harp imagery and representation (to RRD) of Dublin was a mystery. But that would change later that week (between the weekly meetings of the class). An invitation to lecture on the microbiome at an OB/GYN continuing education course in Dublin, Ireland was about to happen. Figure placement (Figure 1). Figure 1 Legend This instructional exercise became a core tool across several years of the Cornell course.

Biomedical Science &, Research

Figure 1: Illustrates the student instructions for the exercise in October 2014 and the result (RRD) obtained, publically announced, and personally interpreted for the class at the end of that in-class exercise.

Connecting to the IOM via Meditation, Embodied Cognition and Other Contemplative Practices

The human body has a massive consortium of microbiota that has two remarkable features. It shares microbes that are found in the harshest places in, on, and above planet Earth. In many cases, these microbiota are not only ancient but bring to the human body highly specialized functions (e.g., specialized magnetic sensing properties). But it is a mistake to view the human microbiome as rigid and separated from the environment. Instead, it is fluid and exchanges microbiota with all surrounding environmental sources and other holobionts. Walking your dog in a park is much more than just a walk. Under some circumstances it can become a microbiome makeover both for you and your dog.

One of the intriguing aspects of inward-looking meditation is that we automatically connect to our body’s various microbiomes (e.g., gut, skin, airways, mouth, urogenital tract) and also gain access to their sources of information. Our microbiome is open to the external environment and, beyond the soft-boundary confines of our body, to Earth’s environmental microbes. As was shown in prior sections, these microbes are not only Earth’s predominant life form and are distributed across the planet, they are premier information gatherers and disseminators. Microbes are using quantum-based antennae and other structural features to collect and phase shift energy to information and communicate over a distance. They are, also, using their cognitive abilities throughout the network. This interactive, informational network has been termed the ”Internet of Microbes” by Slijepcevic and Wickramasinghe [121] and was recently discussed by us [122]. Here, we consider the familiar relations of microbes that exist within our own microbiome but also in all corners of Earth.

Table 4 [123-142] illustrates two fundamental principles about our connection to microbes: 1) We are intimately connected to Earth’s microbes, 2) Even if much of our microbiome has some stability, we are constantly exchanging microbes, microbial genes, physiologically-modifying chemicals, and gathering information from and sharing information with the microbes beyond our body. The human body is open to the environment. Being an open system means we are informationally tapped into the IOM and that matrix of consciousness that physically continues beyond our skin. It is quite plausible that meditation, embodied cognition and other contemplative tools may be informed and supported by the IOM. Given the established connections that are already known, the IOM might be the grandest search engine on Earth (Table 4).

Biomedical Science &, Research

Table 4: Examples of Human-Related Microbiota Found in Extreme and Other Environments.

An examination of ancient archaea and extremeophile bacteria reflected in Table 4 shows that we embody not only our ancestral history but also that of life on Earth. In the Table’s first example, an archaean representative of Methanomassiliicoccales (designated as strain U3.2.1) was isolated via an enrichment culture from a Northern Germany peat soil and was shown to have a sequence identity with the 16S rRNA gene of human gut-isolated Methanomassiliicoccus luminyensis 10B of 88.6% [123]. Methanogenesis is an important process of life on Earth and can be significant in specialized ecological niches within our body.

Umbach et al. [126] recently reported salt-loving Haliobacteriota on human skin. Related Halobacterium have been isolated from a bore core of a Permium-era alpine salt deposit [143]. As the table shows, this is only one of many extreme and distant locations where these bacteria can be found on Earth. These bacteria are remarkably resistant to conditions that would easily kill most other life and are good candidates for life on other planets (e.g., Mars) [144]. Other examples in the Table show that our specific microbial relations extend to deep-sea vents, mining areas and even Yellowstone National Park.

Magnetotactic Bacteria (MTB) are globally distributed. They are found in a diverse ecological setting including as symbiotes for deep sea marine bivalves and also detected in bats, whales, and birds [132]. In a recent survey of 53,775 metagenomic samples, analyses showed that 55.3% were positive for MTB. This included positive detection of MTB in samples from the human gut, oral cavity, skin, and vagina. A study by Simon et al. [135] found an association between gut MTBs and volume of magnetite-rich brain regions involving navigation and orientation.

One of the important considerations of extremophiles is their massive spectrum of bioenergetic functions. Many of these archaea and bacteria have brought these capacities to our human gut. Using freely available data sets, researchers found a sequence of gut bacteria in children and adults that produce their energy from methanogenesis, iron oxidation, iron reduction, sulfate and arsenate reduction, and even anoxygenic photosynthesis [145]. This observation warrants further investigation.

Extremophiles in the microbiome are not just niche novelties. Krawczyk et al. [128] showed that the halophilic archaea Halorhabdus rudnickae and Natrinema salaciae (which are related to those found in our own microbiome) are able to work through dendritic cells to provide immunoregulation of T cell responses producing a balanced cytokine profile. These findings suggest that similar halophilic archaea may provide a useful function in the human gut. Another example in Table 4 is a well-known group of bacteria that are mild-moderate extremophiles in the acid loving category. Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) are critical to our food and our body’s ecological maintenance.

The final entry in Table 4 addresses “wilding” studies and provides evidence for our extensive microbial sharing. Such findings provide a take-home message that we can choose our surroundings for better conscious awareness and health.

Embodied Personality and Behavior

Transplant biology and medicine has a long history of effort with successful kidney [146] and heart [147] transplantation dating back more than a half century. One of the surprising and largely unanticipated findings over the decades of successful organ transplantation is that the transfer of heart and possibly other organs from donor to recipient can also transfer donor personality and behavioral characteristics in some cases [148-150]. Case histories suggest that donor memories may also be transferred in some instances [150-152].

These findings over several decades by several clinical research groups are supportive of the significance of the embodied mind and embodied cognition. There are several different hypotheses for how fundamental donor characteristics are embedded in the donor heart and possibly other organs, but it is clear that the storage and transfer of donor information is not reliant on the donor brain.

Many of the personality and behavioral transplantation studies were conducted prior to or apart from consideration of the human microbiome. But as was discussed earlier in this paper, the microbiome and in particular the gut microbiome is a major driver of human neurochemical and endocrine balance, personality features, behavior, and even food choices. If the human microbiome can epigenetically influence human behavior, then does the donor microbiome play a role in donor organ coding? That question will likely require future research. However, it is already clear that Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) between human-human, human- rodent, and rodent-rodent all indicate that the microbiota can transfer personality and behavior characteristics.

Table 5 illustrates examples where Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) has been shown to change behavior [153-170]. Most of the examples in the literature pertain to neurological disorders, neurochemical and/or hormonal mood imbalances, aggressive behavior, and addictive behavior (Table 5).

The examples in Table 5 illustrate the major control that gut microbes are capable of exerting over human and animal behavior. Another frontier to explore regarding commensal microbes is the extent to which microbes experiencing events within the holobiont can carry the memories of those events to other locations/hosts.

Biomedical Science &, Research

Table 5: Examples of Microbe–Shifted Behavior Following FMT.


Commensal microbes helped craft us in the womb, drive much of our systems biology development, protect us against pathogens via colonization resistance, and can keep chronic diseases at bay and inflammation under control when given proper food and attention. They should be a first priority when it comes to medicine, safety, and public health [13,171].

This narrative review examined the potential for embodied microbes to facilitate human superorgansim capabities. Our commensal microbes along with the environmental microbes are cognitive, conscious beings with a long ancestry on Earth, memory, exquisite sensory mechanisms and a full range of quantum-based capabilities. They are connected to their own IOM and can exchange information gathered with us as well as with other microbes. They can also affect not just our physiology but also our behavior.

Finally, in this review we examined the use of contemplative tools to draw upon information within and beyond our physical bodies. Meditation and embodied cognition represent two illustrated examples. While there is much remaining to be learned about our microbial co-partners, there is much to be gained by looking inward within the holobiont to explore the full range of our capabilities.

Author Contributions

Research and notes for Sections 1 and 4 were contributed by J.M.D. who also edited the manuscript. Additional research for other sections and the first draft was prepared by R.R.D. Both authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.


The authors express appreciation to Dr. Richard Bartlett for the many helpful discussions.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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