Thursday, October 17, 2013
The Role of the Placenta in Neurosis and Normality
I have been writing about gestational life for decades but I have never discussed the baby’s home, the placenta, in detail. We never seem to consider the placenta an organ but this is what it is, secreting hormones and other chemicals just like other key organs. It is affected by trauma and reacts to it in its own peculiar way. Its home is against the wall of the uterus. It merges with the mother yet remains apart. It therefore seems foreign to the mother and yet is not rejected by her. The placenta is a kind of monitoring device mediating the all communications between fetus and mother. There is a constant “conversation” taking place between those two, mostly by chemical means. The first order of business for the placental is defense; keeping out all sorts of pathogens and harmful chemicals. Thus it is both a communicator and a barrier preventing and allowing cells to migrate between one another. And indeed, fetal cells have been found in the mother for a long time after birth.
The placenta manufactures products that help keep the pregnancy ongoing and normal. Although it would be logical to expect a 50-50 split between the contributions of each parent to the placenta, such is not the case. Rather there seems to be a battle for whose contribution will dominate. So it is the father’s genes that help provide the growth of the placenta even while it is the mother’s genes that help impede its growth. When her genes do not do their job there will be runaway growth and serious disease. Runaway growth is often associated with cancer. But with no paternal genes here isn’t any growth at all. (Please see. Life’s Vital Link. By Y.W Loke, for a through discussion of this subject.).
While being carried about sixty percent of all nutrients are dedicated to the growth of the fetal brain; that is why slight changes in oxygen during fetal development can affect the evolution of the fetal brain., not the case with other mammals. The first step towards the formation of the placenta is “Taken soon after the egg is fertilized by the sperm.” (Loke). The placenta is a living organ that can go on living even if the embryo dies. It has a primitive nervous system that can sense danger and mount defenses including such neuro-chemicals as serotonin to fight invasion. It is from the embryo that one can harvest stem cells. And those cells are capable of healing diseases and extending life. But think of these implications for the placenta: it is the paternal genes that promote growth, and the maternal ones that impede it. If there is a faulty pregnancy those tendencies get disrupted, and we can get a too large placenta or a too small one. And changes in the biochemistry can alter how the genes will or will not be expressed. If there is a trauma to the mother it is possible that part of the methyl group will be recruited to alter gene expression in the baby. The methyl can attach itself to the outside of the gene to either switch on or off the gene— epigenetics.
I have discussed the critical period in terms of when the baby must be hugged and loved; this is also the case for implantation. There is a period of receptivity for the implantation which is about one week after fertilization. That critical period is crucial if we want to make sure that the baby is properly attached to the mother. So the notion of critical period must apply to the placenta as well because it is, as I have stated, a living independent organ. The embryo must behave and abide by the rules of the critical period. It is no different from other aspects of evolution. Trying to be loved at the age of six years is a bit later for it to matter greatly. Luckily, outside the critical window implantation will not happen. Meanwhile, events in the womb are crucial for the later development of the baby. The placenta lives in an environment and that environment must be salubrious for the child’s health. So we must not just focus on the placenta/uterus after so many weeks of gestation; rather, we need to be aware of it from the very start.
At birth something lives and something dies; the placenta is gone and the baby is alive in this world where the blood is then diverted from the placenta to the lungs, and a viable life begins. The baby has left its home, so to speak, and strikes out alone, on its own without help from the mother to live. The conversation between fetus and mother has ended, and takes on a new role. There are now words and above all, emotions; the need to be hugged and caressed. And the relationship goes on from there.
And then serious evolution begins; the immune system and its natural killer cells proliferate and help keep cancer away. And those cells reflect how placental life has gone, as well. Has it prepared us properly for the menace and dangers in life? NK cells which protect us again serious disease are quite primitive and exist before many of the other cells have developed in the immune system. When those are inadequate at the start then we are not well prepared for the onslaught of trauma later on. We need to ask a new question: not only how has gestation gone? But also how has implantation and life at the beginning of placental life gone? This is even before we can see a viable being.
Natural Killer cells are found in all mammals. And we do enhance those cells after one year of therapy. It may be because we go back with the patient into the beginnings of life. If those cells are deficient at the start of therapy they are not deficient after a year of therapy. We need to refine our research to make note of first line primals in those patients who greatly increased their NK cells. There seems to be enhanced NK development around the time of the critical period of the placental receptivity. The uterus has the greatest stockpile of NK cells, and it may be that early trauma impedes its proliferation making us more susceptible to disease later on.
The placenta is a powerhouse of chemistry, and adds to the hormones normally produced elsewhere such as the pituitary, and this includes the stress hormone., cortisol. Our “home” environment is not what we are used to thinking about when it comes to womb-life. But a bad home life creates serious problems later on; and this home is far more important than later home life in childhood in terms of what diseases will befall us. Serious traumas, a mother depressed or anxious at the start can change the stress hormone output in the placenta and eventually that may translate to such diseases as Alzheimer's, decades later. We have to wonder why there is such a great amount of cortisol produced, and the key reason I think is to combat the intrusion of trauma.
In some ways the placenta acts like the relationship between the thalamus and the cortex, allowing certain input and rejecting others. The placenta is pretty much like a switchboard careful to monitor the amount and quality of nutrients and rejecting certain pathogens. It tries to keep a healthy environment for the fetus at all times. It keeps out infections in the mother and most often it blocks cancer developing cells. It is strange that each of them, mother and child exchange cells so the part of each is part of the other.
Finally, what is exciting about the placental cells is that they are also life-saving stem cells. They are saying, “I will become anything you want so long as you love me and take care of me. If you keep me healthy you will be rewarded with cells that can help give life and attack disease. And how does one do that? No smoking while pregnant. Live in a non-polluted milieu. And eat properly for both of you.
Every minute 20% of mother’s blood supply flows through the placenta (see Y.W. Loke). Here the oxygen exchange is enhanced, but if something goes on badly very early in pregnancy it can lead to many afflictions, immediate (pre-eclampsia, miscarriage), and later, perhaps cancer. These are the deeply hidden sources of disease, and until we understand that we can never fully resolve pain and neurosis. If we only deal with the obvious we can never understand the non-obvious. And it is the unobvious that produces so much damage; that is why it is not obvious. The shattering pain pushes the gating system into action. Those gates remain closed for a lifetime. And with the closed gates goes the memory which makes it all a mystery and very, very non-obvious. But pre-eclampsia is often considered a placental disease. It is a precursor of high blood pressure afflictions. Now imagine specialists treating this disease without any reference to early life; that is why one has to take blood pressure medication for life. The causes are not known.
If there is an immune system incompatibility between parents there can be the beginnings of a miscarriage, or later on, immune problems and allergies. The placenta tells us by its symptoms that something went terribly wrong in placental life. It shouts out its life and its trauma, a mother drinking or smoking. These symptoms are the autobiography of our beginnings, and they foretell of diseases to come. Let us never neglect them. Psychotherapy must learn to address this mysterious world if we are to find answers to so many problems.
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.