Thursday, November 8, 2012
What Do Psychedelics Do Actually?
What they do is explain to us how psychosis happens. New research informs us about the brain structures involved, but what it does is simply pin down in the brain something we have seen for years clinically; both help to clarify psychedelic effects. It is not that brain research is more scientific; rather, it offers the cerebral corollary for what happens clinically.
The research is by Drs. Carhart-Harris and David Nutt, using MRI’s to pinpoint what goes on after a subject is given a small dose of psilocybin. (See http://www.beckleyfoundation.org or/and http://www.huffingtonpost.com) There was reduction in those areas of the brain that, inter alia, control feelings and their rise into the top level cognitive cortex. It also seems to unhinge parts of the limbic system, including the anterior cingulate cortex. Basically it allows lower level imprints to rise unabated into the thinking area; and from there, because as someone said, it is like trying to drink from a fire hose, there is an inundation and flooding. The brain regions dealing with constricting conscious/awareness give way and we get exactly, not approximately, what happens in psychosis. The difference is that in psychosis there is a slow accretion of imprinted pain that finally damages the gating system and feelings rise and flood the thinking cortex; exactly what happens much quicker with psychedelics. The gates are open in either case; the pain is the same. Nothing changes except the time to takes to damage the gates and allowing flooding.
And what happens when there is flooding? The cortex is exigently pressed into service to cover over the rising feelings with whatever ideas and imagination the person/brain can concoct. They have a bizarre quality to them because they arise not out of specific feelings but from an amalgam of them. The “fire hose” is spritzing everywhere. And the brain is forced to use its latest developing structure, the neo-cortex, to join the fray. I repeat: this is no different from lifelong lack of love and trauma that puts cracks in the defense system (including lowering serotonin supplies), which then ultimately gives way. When it (defense) does not give way but only weakens we get ADD attention deficits where the gates are leaky and cannot properly contain the upsurge. The feelings rise and are scattered but do not produce full-blown psychosis. But they prevent careful and sedulous attention to each task; there are too many tasks, too much input that breaks up focus and concentration. The brain is forced to pay attention to multiple inputs (leaky gates), and cannot do it. In this way we could say that ADD is the forerunner, the harbinger, of a psychosis to come. This only means that the gates are leaky and will not withstand further trauma input. The beginning signs of a collapsing defense system can be delusions; this happens often with lifelong use of marijuana which gnaws away at defenses. All this means according the study cited above is that the areas of the brain that control memory retrieval are faulty and do not function well. What some drugs including psychedelics do is facilitate the retrieval of memory; the problem is with these drugs, there is too much retrieval all at once and the top level cannot integrate it. And when there are leaky gates brought on by drugs you get continued and long lasting sleep problems as rising feelings agitate without cease. The feelings rise to just-below-cortical levels so that the top level is constantly stimulated, and falling into sleep becomes impossible. Sometimes a lone feeling may come up such as feeling unsafe throughout childhood. Occasionally the person can focus on one thing to alleviate the agitation……"if I try the door knob twenty times a day I will feel safe". Often there is no awareness of the role of the obsession; the person simply feels better if she can try the door knobs. The ritual alleviates latent anxiety.
This is the difference between what seems like pure statistical science and clinical science. Clinically, we see the relationship among disparate phenomena; we understand why this happens and that does not. We are not bound exclusively by the "facts". That is, we have a frame of reference in which to place the facts. This frame of reference is truth beyond facts; it gives meaning to the facts and broadens our understand of what it all means. This does not mean that we do not use brain science to further our understanding, but that seeing all this in action explains so much and takes us beyond pure statistics. As I said many times; we are after biologic truths, not simply statistical data. It is data with imagination that we need.
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.