Monday, April 29, 2013
The Mind and the Brain
So where is the mind? Is it identical with the brain? There are some writers in neuroscience who inadvertently believe they are identical……the brain secretes the mind. Others think the mind is separate and acts on the brain. This debate has gone on for the millennia. It is rather important since there is new research that claims that the reason there is depression or anxiety is because of changes in dopamine or serotonin. In short, it is all in the brain. And these afflictions result from alterations in chemical production in the brain. That is why they will never find the answer because it is not in the brain; it is in the mind. It is how the mind affects the brain where the answer lies.
There is a book on the subject that seems to go off into mysticism but is worth reading. (Brain Wars, by M. Beauregard. Harper One Press). He believes that the mind affects the brain and that they are not identical, yet, unless I missed something, there is not a good definition of what the mind is. I think he equates it with the neo-cortical mind. So for him the mind is thoughts and beliefs. For me it is much more than that; there are several minds, each interacting with the others. And consciousness means that all levels work fluidly with each other. You need the contribution of each level to make consciousness.
The distinctions about brain and mind are important; when neglected they lead to some strange conclusions in psychology. If we think there is no mind then all we have to do is study neurology to find answers to many neuroses. No unconscious running things. All we see is behavior and if we change how we act and think (our attitudes) then we can get well. Neurosis here is all a matter of “unhealthy attitudes.” Change the attitude and, voila, we get better.
This problem lies under the rubric of reductionism. Everything is reduced to the basic brain function. There are no different levels of reality; only one, the apparent, observable one. So they keep it simple, too simple. Yet it is often equated with true science—putting the facts together. No leap beyond the facts, no imagination, no thoughts of what could be. Science for them is confined of what is observed. Since there is no mind in their scheme there can be no interaction between mind and brain. And when I use the term “mind” I mean all levels of consciousness.
So either we are strictly neurologic machines or there is something else going on that helps us understand who we are and why we act the way we do. I opt for something else going on. You see when science is so strictly confined to facts we can only produce correlations—things goes up when that goes up therefore……….There is not a lot of room for a deeper analysis, a flight of imagination, soaring into what could be. It becomes statistics-bound. It can be counted while feelings often cannot. This close adherence to facts has in some ways bound psychology and constricted what it could discover. It could not find the truth beyond facts. Scientific reductionism is the bête noir of psychology.
So we have mind which is produced by the brain but seems to have its own existence that can affect that brain; the interaction between the two.
Is the appreciation of beauty, the smell of the rose identical with the brain? Is the judgment of someone who is interesting identical with the brain? Or does the ensemble of brain function give rise to all this? And once it gives rise can it affect the brain that gave life to it? If you take hypnosis it is clear that thoughts introduced to lower brain levels can affect the brain so that a hand put in cold water seems hot. Or that a coin put on the hand and told it is very hot can leave burn marks.
Another bit of evidence: the placebo effect, giving neutral, benign pills to those who are told in their minds that it will kill pain and it does. And the thoughts use the same pathways in the brain that the pills would use. Thoughts affect brain function. If we think something might help, even God, then it can help. The mind can be deceived. Can the brain be deceived? What happens is that what is in the mind can activate the brain to produce natural painkillers. It can think it is in pain and change brain function to deal with that imagination. And there may not be any pain at all except what the mind has been convinced exists. Also, a dentist may drill teeth because the person has been suggested that she will feel no pain…..and she does not. So where is the reality? In the drill? In the mind? Does it hurt if the person cannot feel it? No. The mind takes precedence as it does in so many situations where people believe what they are told rather than what they see before them. At a burial one can see the body float to heaven even after watching it go into the ground. Does reality take precedence? I think not. Is the mind deceived or is it the brain?
It is the mind that believes something so strongly that the brain registers the belief rather than the reality. PET scans show that infusing a belief into someone that their pain is being reduced will show increased activity in regions known to block pain. The mind here controls the brain. Can the brain control the mind? Yes. Those with sham knee surgery could walk more easily later on even though they had incisions but no surgery. Their minds controlled it all. The evidence is overwhelming. It is also true that the brain controls the mind. If we are low in dopamine we will have certain personality traits controlled by brain function. But the mind can cause an increase in dopamine output if it is convinced to do it. Thus, they are mutually interacting entities.
The brain can interact with the mind, just as the mind can interact with the brain. Expectations of the mind can activate nerve networks to enhance dopamine production.
How could we ignore the mind and explain the human condition?
One of the interesting findings reported in the book is that attention deficit children have a high amount of theta waves in the frontal lobe. Why is that? My guess is that there is first line intrusion, long slow theta waves from the brainstem are suddenly found in the frontal area. And that it is this intrusion that distracts and keeps the child from concentrating. There is an input from imprints going back very far into the remote reaches of the brain that surge into present-day life. The problem here is that it can lead to, change the mind you can change the brain, philosophy which then slops over into cognitive therapy. So what mind are we dealing with? It is clear to me that it is the lower levels of consciousness that directly affect the brain. We see this in therapy when patients get down into first line their ideas change radically; they are trying to strangle me. Deep hypnosis that allows a body to go rigid and not feel the pain of surgery must affect the brainstem. I have seen hypnosis where the body is so rigid it can be placed like a pipe between two chairs and kept there with no fatigue.
What Beauregard points out is that in a quantum universe there is no mind-body split. It is one. The mental and physical world merge but that, how and where we observe, can change the object we are observing. He points out that in neurofeedback one can control seizures by mimicking certain brainwave patterns.
We have to believe that mental activity is not identical to brain activity. There is a mind that seems to rise above brain function to interact with it. I do not think that we can equate mind with awareness because mind is so all encompassing and in all its complexity affects the brain. That is why deep childhood and womb-life pain can, in my opinion, affect brain function decades later producing Alzheimers disease. We will never see that in studying the brain alone, but we will see it when we study the humans that carry that brain.
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.