What is it about?

Our new study reveals that human milk provides a key micronutrient to support the wiring of the infant brain. This work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Our starting point was a lead provided by our partners at Mead Johnson Nutrition/Reckitt who performed a detailed analysis of milk samples donated by mothers at sites in Cincinnati, Mexico City, and Shanghai. Their analysis showed that the carbocyclic sugar myo-inositol is a prominent component during the early stages of lactation when neuronal connections form rapidly in the infant brain. We then determined across multiple experimental systems that myo-inositol promotes the abundance of these connections termed synapses, including in human neurons. This work was performed in close cooperation of our Yale laboratory and our Tufts/HNRCA group, and we would like to thank the mothers for donating samples throughout lactation. You can read this study at doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2221413120.

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Why is it important?

Our results highlight the profound effects of functionally active dietary compounds on neuronal connectivity and how mothers support infant brain development through breast milk. These results can guide dietary recommendations for pediatric nutrition.


The current study focuses on the production of connections in the brain, a hallmark of the first months after birth. After these connections are established, the brain then works to refine and optimize these connections. In future studies, we would like to explore how breast milk supports infants during this later stage of development.

Associate Professor of Neurology Thomas Biederer
Yale University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The human milk component myo -inositol promotes neuronal connectivity, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2221413120.
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