Saturday, March 27, 2010
On Emotional Resonance
In my forthcoming book, Life Before Birth, I write about resonance; that is, how current events and feelings resonate with earlier imprinted memories to merge and consolidate, giving the memory an inordinate force. This drives behavior, often out of our control, and produces symptoms that seem intransigent. I have surmised that the connection of present and past is arranged through similar or same frequencies or oscillations. It is that which bundles feelings into a single category.
Now there is more evidence for resonance. (“How Brain Gives Special Resonance to Emotional Memories.” Florin Dolcos, Kevin LaBar, Roberto Cabeza. Neuron. June 10, 2004) “The study provides clear evidence from humans that the brain's emotional center, called the amygdala, interacts with memory-related brain regions during the formation of emotional memories, perhaps to give such memories their indelible emotional resonance.”
In their experiments the researchers were seeking evidence for the "modulation hypothesis," which holds that the brain's emotional and memory centers interact during the formation of emotional memories.” (Also see Science Daily, April, 2009)
"The basic idea was simple: to find evidence supporting the notion that the brain's emotional region modulates activity in the memory regions to form an emotional memory,"
My point is: an event is registered at the highest level of brain function possible. So at four months of gestation, trauma will be registered at the brainstem level. There will be a neural highway of this event with various detours sending this information upward and forward informing higher levels about what is happening lower down; each level making a contribution in its own idiosyncratic language to the entire feeling. So here we have resonance; information traveling upward and forward, and later information traveling downward to resonate with the original event.
A short technical note: According to a study by C.L. Lowery, et al., sensory fibers proliferate at 20 weeks of gestation. Thalamo-cortical projections mature at about 29 weeks, although the thalamus seems to be operational at around 20 weeks. The thalamus is the switchboard that relays information to the inchoate neocortex which is just getting organized and also delivers information down to the feeling centers such as the amygdala. Lowery and his team point out that “Evidence for the subconscious incorporation of pain into neurological development and plasticity is incontrovertible.”  That important statement supports a position I have held for many decades; the unconscious is not a dark, evil place but rather, something that is inhabited by imprinted events very early in our lives that endure. We never really knew how early.
I am positing the assumption that low level imprints have a distinct signature in terms of frequency. It may be that each level recognizes a relationship with one another in terms of a similar frequency. So that something we endured doing womb-life, a mother heavily depressed and perhaps taking antidepressants, sends up through her nerve tracks nonverbal memories which then merge into what we undergo currently. That combined force then makes any reaction inappropriate. The problem thus far is that we have neglected deep brain imprints, focusing on knowable events and believing that the current situation is the one to concentrate on, when in reality it is but a fraction of the problem. I emphasize that my assumption is not fact. However, Mirecea Steriade has been researching this point for years. I would like to quote Steriade extensively but the work and explanation are so complicated that it would be meaningless to the lay reader, and often to me, as a matter of fact. He was from Bucharest and died in 2006. But he wrote about reciprocal connections between separate brain sites that seem to oscillate in terms of the same rhythms. Specifically, he traced the thalamus and the neocortex, and found “excitability changes consisting of depolarizing responses and decreased inhibitory responses.” One can read many of his articles on oscillations. The point is that many brain structures are linked by reciprocal connections. And it may be that frequency oscillations is one aspect. What I believe may happen is that through this there is a consolidation of the various brain sites. And in terms of resonance it would be mean that later feelings are automatically joined with earlier but similar feelings. They are, in short, “consolidated.”
 “Neuro-developmental Changes of Fetal Pain.” Semin. Perinatol. Oct. 31, 2007, Pgs. 275-82.
 “Coherent oscillations and short-term plasticity in corticothalamic networks.” Research News. Vol. 22 No, 8. 1999 page 337.
Review of "Beyond Belief"
This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer
Quotes for "Life Before Birth"
“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine
Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University
Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University
In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System
A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University
"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH
His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.