Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Real Role of the Neocortex

So what do you think it is?  I submit that its primary is to keep us from feeling.  And that allows us to slay our enemies with impunity.  If this were not the case, ordinary Germans would not have stood by and watched them shoot Jews in the back, or gas them in caves.  If this were not true then it would have been impossible for Whites to stand around and watch Southerners lynch Blacks as if going to some kind of celebration..  In other words, the neocortex’ job is shut down feelings and allow us to be swallowed up by ideas and propaganda and beliefs that paints others as killable.  Now we know one key function of ideational therapy; like the Germans, fill their heads full of so many ideas, the more convoluted the better, that feelings no longer have any place.

So tell me.  Why are we doing psychotherapy that lives in our heads, that confines ideas to the intellectual and that suppresses feelings?  Since it is clear that neurosis is a disease of feeling how can we ever get well while neglecting and repressing them?  Well, you say, I practice meditation and that relaxes me.  I think you believe it relaxes you.  Not quite the same thing.  I mean how can you neglect feelings and be relaxed when it is imprinted pain and tension that prevents relaxation?  Otherwise, how could it be that my patients drop many signs of pain permanently after months of feeling pain?  Lower cortisol, lower blood pressure and heart rate, etc.    And the one thing that cannot be faked, radical changes in the amplitude and frequency of brain waves.  

Here is the problem.  If we agree about imprints, that bad memories are stored deep in the brain and agitate us all of the time, then how can we really relax in a “head” therapy…a therapy that rides above the imprint?  And all new neurobiologic information confirms for all time the veracity and the impact of the imprint which now inhabits the primitive genes and cells.  How can we relax when we enter a therapy whose ancient, prehistoric role is to push back feelings?  If you don’t believe it look again at the Nazis who were ordinary Germans, after all.  Marlene Dietrich never spoke to her sister again after she learned that she lived across the way from a death camp.  How could she? She could because many of the Germans’ minds had been filled for years about the inferiority of Jews, and those ideas occupied most of their neo-cortex, which allowed them to watch and tolerate killing without any feeling.  So now we know that dental scientists can drill on your teeth with no pain so long as they explain to you that their hypnosis (ideas) will take care of the hurt.  And mostly it works.  Excuse the expression but it is all a “mind-fuck”.  It is cognitive manipulation, which shows how susceptible it all is.  And  of course when you fill a child’s head with ideas early on they tend to stick.  Those first impressions are powerful and they endure.

Hitler could feel for his dog because his head left a little space for other beings but not much space.  So again, how can any therapy that specializes in ideas and insights get you well when the real problem resides far deeper in the brain.  So any therapy that includes beginning with ideas,beliefs and notions does not penetrate to where it has to go.  Think of it this way:  any therapy where the therapist directs you, even “do this and then do that,” is most often a detour.  Therapy has to be inner prompted.  If it comes from some else it is her ideas not yours.  We have all enough manipulation in our lives but the problem is that we get used to being manipulated and told how to think so we just slip into being directed.  Ayayay.

I have had patients, many, who after months of Primal suddenly are aware of the egregious mistakes they made with their kids.  This, after we liberated the pain and feelings.  As a result of feelings they were now aware, not like before, aware in their heads but consciously aware due to feeling feelings. Yes feelings provide real conscious awareness, not cognitive awareness which rides about them.  Suddenly one sees that he ignored the child’s drawings leaving his son feeling a it less capable.  Or spanking his daughter cause he learned about “tough love. “  Never once imagining the consequences of their actions.  But feelings make you conscious and aware and finally about to see, really see.

Historically then, shutting down served many functions, not letting feelings interfere with what had to be done.  And above all, permitting us actions of which we could not feel.  Thus the origin of the neo-cortex, very important for connection to lower level  feelings but remaining able to shut them out when they become dangerous (my mother does not love me.  I cannot live without love.).  So if we ignore the pain it will always be there and we cannot ever really relax.  How could it be otherwise, unless we live in a world of denial where we never acknowledge it?  We cannot have it both ways;  we cannot be feeling humans and ignore feelings.  We cannot relax without brain surgery to cut out memory.  We can never relax as long as ideas and beliefs occupy feeling space?  And so, following evolution, as I have noted a myriad of times, ideas and insights must come to us in evolutionary sequence: after feelings, as they did for millions of years.


  1. it is through the neocortex that sickness of the rest of us is most dangerously amplified.
    it is a part of us that can help plan and execute, organize on strategic level
    such destruction in such proportions so that it seems that it is his fault. neurosis is
    lot about the misuse of human system. neocortex is not an exception. with the imprint its function
    gets different priorities too.
    could also be the reason why somewhere inside hides the possibility for primal. holds this safety function that other mammals don't seem to have. maybe humans have it precisely because of human's big dangerous potential and big life support potential. true insight is a part of that wonderful potential. without insight the job is not done. without some ability for insight maybe it can't commence neither?
    regarding therapies: don't we have or can't we invent therapies that don't involve the cortex?
    would this approach per se make them less fake?
    i don't think we should regret we have neocortex; just need to learn how to use it properly, the way it is natural to do. but from inside out, connected. well informed.

    1. i would like to add a few thoughts:
      maybe the cortex should be seen as a part of WHOLE HUMAN SYSTEM that is busy dealing with all those inputs from outside an from imprints...
      system will use the repressive capacity of neocortex because it is in need for repression.
      if the system is healthy i don't see the NC as a burden for survival... healthy system could have a freedom to disengage NC for a few seconds/minutes/hours because it is often appropriate and necessary. i don't think that Paul or me would be afraid or provoke fear if the adult cortex is a part of healthy (non repressive orientated) system. and it doesn't seem to me that in this situation there is a conflict inside the system.
      from this point of view it is not likely that neo cortex or for that matter any part of us evolved just from the need for repression, for disconnected living. it is a position we are forced into. the neocortex will eventually understand it very well the necessity of repression and the mistakes... if it is informed from below. it is made to do it. it is a partner in feeling and a potentially good servant in a mission to support life. connected life.
      you maybe should compare in more detail the role of neocortex before and after the therapy.
      this new part of the system deserves it. ))
      but you did it !! in fifth paragraph, did you Art?
      their ideas, plans, projects... changed. right?
      i think neo cortex just adores to produce those insights.

  2. Art, i am curious about Drs. France opinion about real role of neocortex. if it differs from yours.

  3. Art, your second sentence is silly, the rest is good. The primary role of the neocortex is to provide logical understanding with or without feelings. Logic is a very powerful tool for survival especially when your feelings are blocked by part of the hippocampus. You don't need real feelings to build a good house and garden but in the aftermath of a traumatic event it is important to have some neurotic optimism and motivation while you are building your house. Such is the power of the neocortex; it helped you to find warmth and food when your girlfriend was killed by hyenas.

    1. Richard: What would I do without you? Art

    2. In children you can observe the neocortex developing such as playing in sand and you can see the pleasure they get from this. I guess the same neocortex is on guard for the abusive father. It seems to be able to be used either way. One guy builds a house without feeling and another builds with joy.

    3. Richard !

      It is logical to hate... drinking... take medeciner against depression... eat until we burst... lie... desire for sex without consequence... far from what sex has to do with children .. . etc... etc!

      Whatever we do... is based on how the neocortex respond logically as a defense against suffering... but can... more unfortunate... be constructive on many levels... even construct weapons in sense to exterminate all life on this earth !

      Richard we are logical based on how we need to repress what the limbic system include... we build good houses to protect us from discovery!

      Your Frank.

  4. An email comment:
    Dreams, third line (prefrontal cortex) and feelings.

    A brilliant author, Malcolm Gladwell, has in his book, “Outliers”, written about entrepreneurs / inventors, musicians and other implementers of complex specialities. He describes how they by a mix of skill, chance and historical favourable circumstances have been given the opportunity to practice their speciality during a very large number of hours before their breakthrough. He shows convincingly that 10.000 hours of practice is a critical limit for those who have had the capacity and luck to combine their talents with offered opportunities. His examples include some of the great classical composers Mozart and Beethoven, Beatles, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Tiger Woods etc..

    Inspired by Gladwell’s 10.000-hour theory, I made a simple estimate of my own life in the realm between the the third line / cortex and my feelings during my trip to demystify my epilepsy and my neuroses. Even if I make a significant assessment of how I spent the treatment time of my epileptic journey, I’m, with ease, achieving 10.000 hours since I, actively, begun my epileptic journey at the Primal Institute, March 1978. Hours, which I have dedicated to emotions, pain (mental and physical), fits, hallucinations, primals and thoughts.

    First my experiences - due to the link between emotion and neocortex - were very fragmented, confusing and uncertain. My, over many years, constantly repeated re-living of my birth trauma has, gradually, become so automated and natural that they have made a deep impression on my dreams, my subconscious, my intuition and my neocortex. Nowadays, it happens, not infrequently, that I, during sleep / dream, bring up a feeling I had, in some connection, the day before.

    A symbolic situation unfolds and brings up a feeling, for example, of fear, which I quickly decide to experience (in the dream). I feel a stab of anxiety that, often, ends in a fit / birth primal in the dream, and when I wake up, I know what it was, during the day, that triggered my repressed emotions. My epileptic stigma / birth trauma influenced so much of my life that I, in order to survive, developed, often skilfully, a variety of neuroses that grew into my life pattern. The neuroses (non-real needs) that are left can still influence my actions, alerting communication between my third line, my prefrontal cortex and my emotions. If I neglect them during the day, the dream and the emotions take care of them at night and my prefrontal cortex helps me to translate (put words on). The translation in my dreams and in my waking state express themselves in an increasingly similar way.

    I have on various occasions expressed my disappointment that I met compact indifference and incomprehension, even from my closest circles, because of my therapeutic involvement and because of the cure of my pain and my new vitality. This I have felt as a sorrow and disappointment equal to the loneliness I had to live with as a child. However, during my journey, I have not been completely lonely. My guide, Art Janov, I met occasionally at retreats around Europe, or I could always rely on getting a letter or email from him, by return mail, when I approached him. The world’s disinterest and lack of understanding may even have been an advantage and a prerequisite for my dedication...

    Art Janov, my neocortex and my feelings have not let me down, and I have trusted them!

  5. Hi,

    It seems to me that the thinking part is not entirely the same as the problem solving part. Problem solving was going on a lot earlier in primitive brains than thinking. And that problem solving was largely an instinctual body / sense development. . .

    I reason that the 'thinking' part adds an abstract which you could call 'TOOLS'.

    Thus I also propose all thinking (neurotic and otherwise) is the organisms attempt to extrapolate and abstract a tool to enhance the solving of a problem (such as a lever).

    Neurotic thinking is either the misapplication of a tool or the poor design of a tool to solve a problem. Thus Primal Theory is a tool for solving neurosis.

    If there were not methylated imprints then problem solving would extend no further than the collective survival of the species and 'thinking' would not extrapolate 'add - ventures' onto that collective survival.

    What a world that would be eh ?

    Paul G.

  6. Hi Jan,

    -"I have on various occasions expressed my disappointment that I met compact indifference and incomprehension, even from my closest circles, because of my therapeutic involvement and because of the cure of my pain and my new vitality. This I have felt as a sorrow and disappointment equal to the loneliness I had to live with as a child"-.

    How very familiar that sounds to me. . . this has pretty much become my dismal lot too.

    There are a few rays of sunshine in my life. One, my daughter aged 10. Two, my grandson aged 3 and a handful of their friends, all children. Most of their parents sneer at me or hide their respect for fear of showing 'allegiance' to an outcast. . . one in particular, the mother of my daughters best friend, an architect 20 years junior to her stuffy husband gives me very warm kisses on the cheek when we meet but only when certain other people aren't present. This always gives my heart a giant convulsion and feeling faint.

    All the adults I know scare me and presumably I scare most of them. At work I am lucky to have 1 colleague who 'stimulates' my thirst for life because he gives me interesting carpentry contracts. But his working methods are always challenging and 'charming'. Never a dull moment there. . .

    I'm looking out the 11th floor window now, across the city bathed in warm spring afternoon sunshine. I'm wondering what will become of us all. . .

    Paul G.

  7. Art ,
    You are so right :"it`s primary role is to keep us from feeling"-in this case it was the one of my
    deceased friend(electric plant..)
    Yesterday i visited his 87 years old mother ,who decades ago found relief (only the LORD knows
    why) in the dogmas reincarnation/karma firstly inseminated into her neo-cortex by Mr Maharishi and consorts..
    And after dropping that entered the ECKANKAR movement (still more simplistic in using eastern
    Philosphy/religion for their making a buck..
    And well ,in the course of the conversation(?) I got the usual cynical, and "better-knowing " remarks about me and my life-situation 8downplayin HER!! role therin!1

    And all this "topping" by an accompagnying "augur-insider" grinning asking "who knows what she ... was spared in the future"...
    by her ...a little girl of sweet 6 !!! years who drowned some days ago in the RHINE.

    She is absolutely unable to even for a second to feel the HORROR of this accident and ineffable
    Pain to her mother and others having loved this sunshine of their life.

    I felt devasteted and unable to relply( some brain neurons should rather commit suicide than
    to transport this scum ideologies`"thoughts"!!!!

    Yours emanuel

  8. "I grew up in a cold family, inside a cold American society during the cold war".
    Bobby Fischer

    some say his character traits were inherited.... i have read a bit more about it and it is not nice. how much of his past he did not know, just like most of us.

  9. I am not sure I understand this one Art. Is the Neocortex effected by trauma both before and after birth? Alice Miller wrote a great deal about the reasons for the German people's easy acceptance of the Scapegoating of the Jews. If a child is treated with empathy then they have empathy for others.

    Thus the reason why many Germans stood by and did nothing about the slaughter of the Jews was because they had no empathy for themselves let alone anyone else. Therefore if we are loved then why would we need a Neocortex?

    Much research was done after the Second World war about how different people reacted to the trauma's. People who helped Jews escape from the horrors tended to have been loved and treated with respect by their parents.

    If the vast majority of the human race has been tramatised during childhood and cannot feel their own pain then how do we know what a proper neocortex does or is.

    I gather that Hitler could be heard manically counting in his Bunker as the Allies approached Berlin. If Germany was his helpless Mother (he could only have sexual relations with women the same age distance as his Mother was from him!) and the Allies his Father (His father was part Jewish and the US was seen as a Zionist state by the Nazi's) then he was re-enacting the beatings his Father gave him which he counted at the time as the final great beating approached. Animals show no malice unless treated badly as I am sure you must know with your own attachment to Dogs from childhood.

    Science Daily says the neocortex is involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, and in humans, language.

    If this is the case then I would have thought that massive trauma and pain would damage the neocortex seeing it is all about concious thought etc etc. A tramatised person lacks true access to sense's etc. If traumatised people cannot think conciously is this not down to a damaged neocortex so are you perhaps seeing the symptoms rather than the cause and blaming the neocortex for it's own damage.

    Many men have a less developed junction between the left and right Brain so have difficulty with feelings and how much of this is a long term societal construct rather than a biological imperative?

    1. Planespotter: Many questions, but the neocortex absorbs the pain, danger lurking and does its gyrations to contain it. art

    2. Hi,
      gyrations indeed. . .

      -And though learning how to be a mental gymnast can help it can also hinder. . .

      A real tightrope. . . Cliff-hanger even. . .

      Paul G.

    3. Hi Art

      I suppose I have taken up the role of enlightened skeptic. In 2005 I spent 3 weeks curled up under my desk at work. It took about a year to get back into work. I decided to try and understand myself and work out why I felt so frightened, confused and angry. My slow recovery started after I typed Fear into a search engine.

      I think that questions are important for challenging the received wisdom of the Mental Health establishment. Such an approach is a difficult balancing act between questioning an authority figure and accepting what they offer. A bit like your approach to Naturpaths in your latest post.


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.