Friday, August 15, 2008

The UCLA Experiment

At UCLA Pulmonary Laboratory, my staff and I filmed two patients in slow motion moving exactly like a salamander (in a birth reliving that was spontaneous and unexpected) for over an hour and a half each. They were reliving anoxia at birth due to the heavy anesthesia given to the mother which affected their respiratory system. Drugs given to a 130-pound mother enters a system of a six-pound neonate and shuts down many systems. They were reliving this anoxia with the most primitive nervous system, hence the salamander-like movements. It was evident that no person, not even themselves at a later point, could duplicate their movements nor their deep breathing voluntarily, and certainly not for half an hour. They would have been exhausted. These patients were not exhausted. In some of these relivings, which were filmed, the body temperature dropped to 94.8 degrees in a matter of minutes. The patient was neither cold nor suffering from it. He is reliving an event where the body temperature was exactly 94.8 degrees. And each time the patient relives this kind of event, the fall, or rise, will be the same. The individual, therefore, in his reliving does not lie; it duplicates history exactly; the history that each of us carries around every minute our lives. It is that history that often requires quelling or suppressing with tranquilizers and painkillers, particularly when there was no love or touch very early in life. When patients relive enough of their painful history, they no longer need alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and painkillers.
The research in blood gases with these patients was carried out in association with UCLA director Dr. Donald Tashkin and his associates, pulmonary scientists Dr. Eric Kleerup and M. B. Dauphinee. They were wired for, among other things, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. They were then taken through a simulated Primal, or reliving, of an early trauma. During the simulation, both patients became dizzy and had "clawed hands," within three minutes, typical of hyperventilation syndrome. This research has great significance for understanding the human psyche, for understanding access to deep brain levels and for how psychotherapy must be practiced.
We took frequent blood samples with an in-dwelling catheter during the subjects' reliving episodes (every two to three minutes for one and a half hours) and during voluntary hyperventilation. We measured blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, as well as core body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. The simulation and the reliving were quite similar in terms of strenuous physical activity and deep, rapid breathing.
During the simulation, the blood carbon dioxide and oxygen levels were what one might expect. There were clear signs of the hyperventilation syndrome after a little over two to three minutes of deep breathing, including dizziness, tingling hands, rigidity of the extremities, bluish lips, loss of energy such that the subject could barely exert himself, and great fatigue.
In the reliving of oxygen deprivation at birth, however, there was no hyperventilation syndrome. Despite 20-30 minutes of deep, rapid, locomotive breathing (it is raspy and sounds like a locomotive), there was no dizziness, puckered lips, or tingly hands. The UCLA researchers found that lactic acid in their blood compensated for the low carbonic acid level caused by their locomotive breathing, preventing the hyperventilation syndrome. In other words, their muscular exertions during the reliving were so great that their oxygen requirement exceeded the supply. Their muscles were forced into anaerobic respiration, like a sprinter in a 100-yard dash: glucose is broken down to lactic acid in the absence of oxygen. No amount of voluntary exertion during a simulated primal could equal that effort. The factor that makes the difference is imprinted memory. The musculature under the control of the imprinted brain memory is working as hard in the session as in the original trauma to try to survive. In the reliving, the brain was signaling its history; a lack of oxygen and the necessity to breathe deeply.
In the UCLA study, we had accessed, almost directly, brainstem structures, something unheard of in the psychological literature, and witnessed their awesome power. It is perhaps the Holy Grail of psychological science. The import for psychotherapy is that only total reliving and frontal cortex connection makes profound change, for it is only in a reliving that vital signs change radically.


  1. Hello, Dr. Janov, and thank you for this interesting blog!

    (Sorry, a little bit off-topic, but this is a good place to put this to.)

    I've been enthusiastically following your work for some time now, and to me your theory seems perfectly logical and your philosophy has become one of my major defenses in life, as I'm unable to get to the real Primal Therapy because of some practical (including financial) reasons.

    Yet, there are some points which I, as a skeptical person, have come to find a little bit obscure though. For example, this UCLA experiment and such: Whenever I try to discuss Primal Therapy with people (who even claim it doesn't matter that they've not been loved!) I am demanded to give some scientific evidence to support Primal Theory and Therapy, of course. And then, as I can't give them any proper references - except your books, which people regard as nonsense - they end up concluding this whole Primal-thing is a fake. And I wouldn't like to flatter anyone (not even you), since flattering people is one of my mechanisms driven by my imprints, and that's why I have to ask you why it's so difficult to find your objective research results, measurements or statistics instead of only conclusions and theories?

    Another point: Are you going to write an autobiography some day? It would be nice, since I find it a bit confusing to read controversial facts about you here and there from your books. It doesn't quite give me the "big picture." I wouldn't want to think you as the "next Harlow," if you know what I mean.

    All in all, I would like to have more precise information about you and your research to be able to draw my own conclusions of at what measure your personal views may have interacted with the theory. My intention is not to be rude or provocative but only questioning.

    With best regards, E. Kr.

  2. E.Kr Hello thanks for the comments. I discuss our research in Primal Healing. One or two brain studies were in referred journals, noted in my book. Also, many of the double-blind studies done on our patient were done by outsiders who were supposed to publish. Dr. Rose presented his findings to I think was a Yugoslav psychiatric society. The UCLA study was done by the Pulmonary Lab people who never understood what was going on. They were mystified.The UCLA brainwave study was published in the Brain Research Bulletin. They too had no idea what primal was about. We chose them because they didn't. We wanted objective studies. Each of our studies cost over $300.000.00/ We can no longer afford a massive studies and we cannot get the government interested. My biography is being written by a very fine writer. My throat is not so hot so the going is slow. art janov

  3. Dr. Janov. I was a bit drunk at a party and asked a girl to dance. Earlier she had asked me to dance but I said I wasn't ready. When I was ready to dance with her, she gave me a look as if to say "you mean nothing to me" and she continued talking to someone else.
    At that point I felt a huge feeling of devastation wash over me and I knew I wasn't going to be able to handle it so I ran out of the house (to avoid making a fool of myself).

    As I was running down the road I completely lost it and let out a huge cry and then collapsed onto my hands and knees. I started breathing very fast and deep (I mean really really fast and deep....I wasn't shallow breathing). I didn't know why I was breathing like that. When I tried to slow my breathing down, my body just took over and I started breathing hard again. I kept breathing like this for about 15 minutes without letting up, until someone came over and calmed me down. I did not hyperventilate. I was actually amazed at how I could breath like that for so long.

    I was not reliving my birth (no salamander baby noises). I remained on my hands and knees. My body was not tense, I felt weak. My mother says she did not take drugs during my birth, and I don't know if I experienced oxygen deprivation.

    Maybe the alcohol was preventing hyperventilation, but I wasn't very drunk. My experience suggests that your UCLA study is not conclusive. But then....I'm no scientist.

  4. Thanks for your reply.

    I perfectly understand your point. It's not an easy task to introduce revolutionary ideas to the scientific community which hasn't seemed to get it. The government of the USA instead does everything just to keep their social establishment and to make profit. They can't see the importance or instant profit (if there even is any) of Primal-related research, and thus not afford it. It is fascinating, but still very sad, to realize how many scientists have their defenses limiting what kind of theory they can accept. They don't do that with particle physics which is abstract and doesn't relate to themselves. But when it's about their own psyche, it suddenly "just can't be."

    Primal, its mechanisms and effects are something you just can't make people believe in if their defenses are strong enough. To them, it just resembles psychosis in which you get nuts, which is to be avoided, and that's it. Sometime ago, I and my friend were eager to discuss the Primal theory with our fellow beings. It was either a disaster or somewhat productive. In other words: either a total denial, or it gave them a new way of introspection. In the both cases the subject caused anxiety. For myself, delving into that anxiety and letting my defenses go little by little, has been very productive. I call that process "opposite to life," since without any effort the repressive way is automatically chosen by the neurotic brain. That's the way the evolution works.

    Looking forward to the new publications!
    E. Kr.

  5. I think the reason why the government isn't interested in primal therapy (as a research topic) might be because they're more interested in how people act than how they actually feel, or whether or not they even enjoy life at all.

    I remember years ago reading an introductory psychology book designed for students. I noticed how there was a constant reference between psychological disorders and an individual's ability "to be productive". It indirectly suggested that the latter is what it's all about, at the end of day. Psychology for human resources? Not for me!

  6. E. Kr. You sound a lot like me (but you have a nicer writing style).

    My brother and I and a friend all had a keen attitude towards Primal Therapy, because if it is true (I would be very surprised if Janov is barking up the wrong tree), then it means there is hope.

    My brother and I still share that hope, but our friend, who visited the Primal Center and spoke to a receptionist and Dr. Janov, lost his desire to get therapy after just a few short conversations.

    You say that Janov's philosophy has become a major defense in your life. For my friend it was a defence too, but defensive thoughts can be pretty shallow. I think my friend was hoping for an office full of loving angels, and instead he met real human beings who didn't turn out to be as perfect as he had hoped.

    For me personally, I want to just try it and see. If it works for me, then good. I try not to expect too much from Art or the rest of the crew. After all, I've never met them in person and I don't think I've ever experienced a Primal. Only abreactions I think.

    I don't like all the critics' comments about how questionable Janov's Primal Therapy is. Ofcourse it is questionable. Every therapy is questionable. Is electroconvulsive therapy not questionable? And where is the evidence to prove the success of Cognitive Therapy (I tried it for a year here in New Zealand, mostly out of curiosity.....I could tell it was going nowhere, but I enjoyed the conversations.)

    I'm not sure if you are saying you have already experienced Primals for yourself, when you say "delving into your anxiety and letting go little by little". Would you like to comment?

  7. Hello, Richard!
    There have been a couple of times I have experienced such deep feelings (accompanied by physical reactions) that have at least been abreaction, nearly primal. After those occasions I was really convinced that this is the way to go. I think I am a very lucky person in the sense that I have been able to develop a safe affection bond early to my mother and I've always been allowed to show her my feelings whatever they were (Nearly always, at least in the childhood). What I'm seeing around me instead, is that this is definitely not the case with most of us.

    I think, as a result of that, I have the skill of self-provocation to some point, as I have sort of relatively "solid ground" on which to stand. I try to explain how I got into those "primals." First, there was a social situation when I got nervous (I don't get upset very easily) because it hit the cortical end of my chain of pain, and the limbic structures began to signal hopelessness, respectively. The usual way I unconsciously react to that, is by stirring up anger and control-freaky ("dictator") mood to feel stronger and to cover the hopelessness and recover the defenses. But this time, I sensed it was a good chance to get deeper, and so I tried not to repress the context of the situation (which I had always done before that). I sort of "gave in" for the hopelessness by not concentrating on actively recovering the violent defense system. Subsequently, there was about half an hour of "crying about" and maybe a little bit of even deeper business also. I let the hopelessness fill me up and relatively many emotional components of my memories were brought up on the surface, which I couldn't have believed to happen. Some kind of connection happened. The next day I noticed and enjoyed the relief of my chronic stomach tension (the relief lasted for many weeks) and some schemas related to my relationships were permanently changed; even those which weren't directly linked to the experience. But maybe that shows how some things are processed in the same areas of the brain. There just wasn't so much endorphins to block the passage anymore. Unfortunately after those few occasions that I've gotten into my feelings so deeply, my resistance has increased too. And now I feel like I was standing in front of a great wall which I can't get through by myself. But I have hope, as I always notice something new about my system and how to fool its defense.

    Cognitive therapy, it must be interesting. Sometimes talking about the problems is the only way people can handle them. Yet talking is an infinite resource, as some patients get even fed up with talking about the same things over and over again. :) The society can't support Janov's method because people think it somehow violates the human mind by leaving it defenseless and so on. It is true though that some people don't have the (cortical) tools to integrate their experiences and thus they would need some humane support during therapy. They can't be left on their own. Maybe the phrase is partly true: "The people who least need psychotherapy, are the ones who most benefit it."

    I would like to know more about Your experinces; those which you recognize as abreaction?

  8. E. Kr.
    All I know is that when I'm getting closer to my pain, nothing positive comes from it, so all I am doing is taxing my heart. I am physically fit so I don't think I will drop dead tomorrow.

    I am not trying to delve into my pain like you are. I am trying to keep away from it!!

    Here's another one of Richard's bedtime stories (you might want to get some hot chocolate and a blanket):
    Some years ago I went through a period of night-terrors (or whatever you want to call it) which always involved a deep probing feeling in the right side of my groin, and I was paralysed and lying on my back. I would try as hard as I could to scream, but I couldn't. These episodes lasted about 10 minutes per night, for about 4 nights, and it happened one more night a few years later.
    When I was a kid I actually had an operation on my right testicle (yeah I know...public forum....) The operation involved a procedure where the surgeon made an incision in the right side of my lower abdomen, and put his fingers in to push the testicle down into the scrotum. Maybe the night-terrors (which always happened when I was half awake/half asleep in bed) were real feelings relating to the operation, or maybe I was inventing the feeling to distract myself from a worse feeling that was coming close to consciousness. My knowledge of the operation could have sparked a fake feeling. When I would finally wake up properly, the grotesque deep squishy probing feeling would be gone, but the right side of my groin would ache for a few minutes.
    The worst part of this recurring night-terror was the feeling of being paralysed and at the mercy of the 'fingers'. The squishy sensation did not come with a lot of pain.

    I still have night-terrors occasionally. They always involve paralysis and terror, but those are the only other pain or sensations. I think I have probably become more distant from the pain, and therefore the night-terrors are less intense. It would be easy to percieve this as healing, but I think it is probably the opposite. I think I am just better at defending myself when I am in the night-terror. It's not a new thing anymore. The familiarity makes it easier. It has become almost routine.

    By the way, I am not depressed. I still have fun and enjoy being with certain people. Just gotta get my ass into the Primal Center.

    - Richard

  9. You know that without professional help it is almost impossible to feel fully on the lower brain levels. Night terrors means first line stuff is coming near to conscious/awareness. You are close. Are you coming to see us? dr. janov

  10. Yes, Dr. Janov. My brother and I have made a concrete deal. He will give me a loan and some ongoing financial assistance. In return, I will be making efforts to find work in LA and help to fund his therapy at a later date. He is happy with this deal, as he wants to see how it all goes for me first. Naturally, he is flexible with the payback deadline, but we know each other very well and have always co-operated like this. I'm hoping to be there within 6 months.

  11. Richard, that is good news and a good decision. Good luck with it. Dr. Janov


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.