Sunday, June 16, 2013
More on Telomeres
I have written about telomeres before, and it is something we plan to study with our patients. But it is worth another look as it pretty much determines how long we live, but more importantly whether we fall ill prematurely. The research on it is largely about outside stress, never on internal forces. So it is a matter of war, poverty, strikes and parental fights. Yet the key chronic stressor is the imprint that carries forth those parental fights as a fixed memory that follows us for the rest of our lives. And they say that we have to eliminate stress in order to live longer. So how do we do that? We can move to a new city or country but the imprint follows us assiduously and never lets up. We can go to cognitive therapy and talk our feelings to death, or we can attack the imprint at its origin, relive the trauma and finally be rid of it. I know of no other way to do it. The imprint is tenacious and it must be because it is there to guide our lives and control our reactions. It was lifesaving originally and the system remembers and carries it on.
It is clear that stress and its handmaiden, cortisol, the stress hormone does shorten telomeres. Or beginning patients were high in cortisol until one year of therapy; then it reduced significantly. We assume that since cortisol and telomeres work in see-saw fashion: cortisol high, telomeres short; cortisol low, telomeres longer. That is why we will do this research because I am convinced that since we lower cortisol we may also lengthen telomeres. Or at least keep them from shortening. When telomeres get too short so do our lives. There is an article by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Apel about all this in Nature (11 Oct. 2012) (See a short preview:http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038/490169a ). Worth a read. They report on a number of studies of telomeres: in 2004 that compared white blood cells of mothers with chronically ill children with those mothers with healthy children. Clearly, mothers of ill children had shorter telomeres. Again, stress is a factor. And that means increased cortisol levels. And that means shorter telomeres. It is not short term stress that is the culprit but enduring stress; and what could be more enduring than the imprint? If only that could be accepted by the scientific
What cortisol may do, inter alia, is increase the action of telomerase which affects the function of telomeres. To be clear: what that enzyme may do is get busy fighting deterioration taking place with the input of primal pain. This, it seems, is happening to prevent further neuro-biologic damage to the system. A research team led by Owen Wolkowitz of the University of California, San Francisco, has been studying telomeres and depression. (May 23, 2013, “Depression linked to telomere enzyme”) (See for example http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130523004558.htm). What telomerase does ordinarily is help maintain the length of the telomeres, even lengthen them. They are protective. And they go up when depressives take antidepressants; they also go up in animals where it is associated with increased nerve cells in the hippocampus. It appears that the hippocampus deals with the facts of feeling and the memory of it. It is seriously affected by depression. The longer the depression the shorter the telomeres, and it becomes a life-or-death matter. They have found, for example, the very serious pancreatic cancer, is associated with shorter telomeres in blood cells. These people were also studied before the onset of cancer so we cannot say that telomeres shortened because of shorter telomeres. Telomeres maintain the stability of genes; my view is unstable individuals, unstable telomeres. There are other cancers associated with shorter telomeres. We do indeed plan to study them in our therapy. The point is made, but not by the researchers: imprinted pain has a lot to do with depression and with later serious illness. We need to study this among our patient population.
Much of the research on telomeres seems to confirm our hypothesis, that it is the very early experience that stamps in the most forceful and enduring imprints. The work quoted above found that stress in infancy “and even before” erodes telomeres. Children who spent a lengthy time in orphanages had shorter telomeres.
Telomeres are shorter in chronic depressives, and that fact is crucial. Why? We have to assume that there is an imprint of early trauma to set up the depression, in the first place. That means pain. There is a great amount of imprinted pain in depressives, something we have seen over and over again in our patients. And we see depression lift as patients relive very early pain. This seems to be also true with immune disorders, as depression affects the immune system adversely. Chronic depressives have shorter telomeres. That can mean premature serious illness and early death. I believe that our therapy is life-saving, and we are beginning to see why. One problem we have is that when patients get to earlier imprints the pain is painful; but if they stay with it, it does not last, and makes for great changes throughout the system. It is indeed tempting to want to quit when pain arrives but for every pain experienced there is that much less to feel.
And when cortisol is chronically high and telomeres short, there is a much greater chance of suffering from certain cancers, including the deadly pancreatic cancer. What causes this cancer? Early trauma that is imprinted and endures. Another effect is the appearance of dementia in those with shorter telomeres. Again, we need to look at very early trauma, even in gestation, to find the answer to the question, what causes cancer? What causes dementia?
Doesn’t this make sense? When you have a constant pressure and tension on the organs due to the imprint it makes sense that they will give in and break down, The organs are saying, I can’t hold on any more. It is more than I can handle, all too much. It is surprising to me that they do continue to hold their integrity as long as they do.
There is an article in July issue of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass., 2012 that underlines the importance of anxiety to damaging the telomeres.(See http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0040516). It is an important study in which they took blood samples from 5200 women ages 42-69. It is known as the Woman’s Health Study. They analyzed telomere length among them. Those who reported frequent anxiety attacks (phobias) had significantly shorter telomeres. They implied that it would deduct six years from their lives. They conclude that chronic anxiety in childhood leads to premature aging and, of course, a shorter life. Anxiety will kill us; which is why it is so important not to leave the imprint untouched in psychotherapy. Telomeres will soon be the key marker for not only how how long we live but how many years a key psychotherapy can add to our lives. If we leave it untouched and unchanged the therapy is a failure.
Stress erodes telomeres very early on, according to late research. So children who spent time in orphanages from birth on had shorter telomeres. I think the evidence is there in so many dimensions; early trauma damages the system in every way possible. We need to pay attention when we carry a baby in the womb and we need to pay real attention to our birth practices which are deleterious too often.
The research emphasizes that the early stress carries on into adulthood. Those women in a study in England who had early abuse also had shorter telomeres We can run but cannot hide from our imprint. It follows us everywhere and anywhere until we acknowledge it and relive the damage. Here is supporting evidence for the imprint even if not stated. Why else does it endure and shorten telomeres? Why cannot they make the equation that early trauma stays fixed in the system and drives behavior while shortening our lives? I believe that the earlier the stress, the carrying mother smoking early in pregnancy, the more harmful it will be later on. Let’s teach about pregnancy in school so that adolescents understand what pregnancy means for a human life.
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.