Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sculpting the Brain

How does a cross word by a father become a chemical in the child's brain? The angry words portend possible danger and rejection. There are clues in the tone of voice, the look, and the words themselves. What is going on inside the child is that the hypothalamic-frontal cortex axis is en­gaged to send messages to all other systems to be on the alert. This mes­sage is sent by chemical courier. It is the meaning implicit in the message that begins the chemical transformation in the child's brain. The hypo-thalamus then triggers the endocrine system to release catecholamines, making the heart speed up and the blood flow. Generally the process goes from the perceiving frontal cortex and other aspects of the cortex (hearing, sight, etc.) to the hypothalamus to the pituitary and then to sympathetic nervous system neurons which organize the flight or fight response to danger.

How does a loving look by the mother at her baby change the baby’s brain? It is responsible for the increased serotonin output that keeps him comfortable. When the traumas are severe and early enough the brain and particularly the brainstem, cannot manufacture enough. The setpoints may be altered. The child then overreacts because it cannot dilute or vitiate feelings. This child may become terrified of a slightly angry father, while another loved child would not. A deviated personality is on route.

Terror of the father now becomes permanent increases in stress hormone levels. The frontal area, now signaling extreme danger, interacts with the medulla in the brainstem to affect heart and lung function. In turn, the brainstem maintains the tone and vigor of the frontal cortex, constantly adjusting it to react to stimuli. When the brainstem is in a hyper state due to early trauma or lack of love, there is chronic, dramatic overreaction. "Hys­teria" is the label we attach to this. "What are you get­ting so excited about?" "Dunno." Now we know. The brainstem has been primed and too ready for action.

When warmth is expressed in the actions of a parent toward a baby, the baby's brain is suffused with opiates, resulting in a feeling of well-being in her. I have heard many of my patients cry out, "Show me that you want me, Mama!" In animal research, the loving handling of speci­mens just after birth increases the anti anxiety chemicals such as serotonin. This level endures so that later in life there is still an adequate mechanism to handle adversity or stress.

When a father never touches his infant, is impatient and angry, and demands obedience from a two-year-old, the frontal cortical neurons are going to be impaired, perhaps for a lifetime. Hugs and kisses during these critical periods make those neurons grow and connect properly with other neurons. You can kiss a brain into maturity.

A father who never shows happiness to see his baby, never responds with kindness to her cries is forming a new brain in her. Every action of the parent may exude unhappiness with the child who did nothing more than get born and interfere in his life. The stage is already set for later unhappiness and depression. She is now on a lifelong struggle to make the father happy to be with her—a fruitless effort. The baby can feel unwanted long before it understands the concept. And what can the baby do about it? Nothing. Her brain goes on the alert, and stays that way until later on she finds a downer or painkiller and suddenly finds what she needed all of her life — comfort and relaxation. Who can live with such a feeling when you are totally dependent on people who don't like you? And in the child’s brain that feeling remains intact and present. Drugs are calming the child, the child who feels unwanted and unliked. Drugs do exactly what would have happened if the child were adopted out to a loving, kind, warm family. Drugs become the family, and now if the adult is in a 12-step program he has another family of addicts beside him. That support bolsters the second-line limbic function and calms pain on that level. Thus the agglomeration of pain on all brain strata has been reduced on one of those levels making the search for drugs that much less importuning.


  1. Art,

    What is the difference between feeling chased in a jungle that hides lions ... to what a child feels when haunted by crazy parents? The difference is… the one who is hunted in the jungle at once can leave it… but a child cannot leave a crazy parent. The feeling becomes permanent while it goes on all too long… that is why we all feel hunted for the rest of our life… as parents never stops during the growth… it becomes our “nature”.
    To search for such an event in the djungle may belong to what we possible can feel. We may feel just dead if we don’t search for the feeling of being hunted… and when we feel dead we reminds of what happened… and that in other words is formed in to anxiety and depression which we do all we can to get away from… to feel hunted in the jungle is better than to feel haunted with no way out.


  2. Dr. Janov,

    Re-Sculpting the brain of the parents!

    Why do fathers react angry or with rejections? Why is a father incapable of loving its child? Why do fathers believe they love their children when they beat them.
    What can we expect from a father who never was hugged and kissed during his critical childhood period?
    What chemical transformation in the brain has taken place when the father was a child?

    Can anybody give what she/he never received?
    How many of these early emotion-deprived adults seek therapy/PT?

    Should adults have children who have such a disturbed biological and psychological system? Can we hinder the production of a new emotional/psychological disturbed generation?

    Maybe, the Berlin School of Mind and Brain should read your books and articles.
    Would you, Dr. Janov like to present a challenge to the faculty with the question why we have so many emotionally deprived/disturbed parents? Especially to the Research Group Cognitive Neuroscience (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

  3. Sieglinde: Sure why not? but are they open to hearing something new? AJ

  4. Dr. Janov,

    this was the reason why I used the term “challenge”.

    I do believe two of the leading Professor could be receptive to confirm or object to a theory.

    Professor Arno Villringer
    Mind and Brain Institute
    c/o Berlin School of Mind and Brain
    Humbold-Universitaet zu Berlin
    Luisenstrasse 56 Haus1
    10117 Berlin

    and Research Group Cognitive Neuroscience
    (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

    Professor Niko Busch
    Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
    Berlin School of Mind and Brain
    Luisenstraße 56
    10099 Berlin

    May I suggest sending both professor your latest book with a letter that introduces your experience and the scientific evidence.

    Another question. Have you received the attachment I sent you a few days ago?

  5. Art,

    We have tried to complete the application on several occasions but when we send it… what we filled in will be erased. We don’t know what is wrong? We cannot copy it in to Word eider ...the same thing happening there… what we filled in will be erased? I don’t know if the application has to be sent by normal mail or?
    Aida… me and her dotter… and some others… would be very happy to participate in your amazing offer “For all you who may want therapy but have no funds, please fill out your internet questionnaire and send it to us. I have some ideas.” Aida that I told you about… I am sure will do primal therapy easy… understand me right now.
    As you may know I was at the primal institute on Almonds drive during 1977-78. I left because of economic reasons… there was nothing I could do… I had to go. I wish it had been otherwise. So if I can participate in your offer now... would make me very happy… my struggle would be ending.
    Yours Frank

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Sieglinde: No I never received an attachment. I am not sure why I would write to the two professors. AJ

  8. Frank: Send it any way you can. Work at it. It is your life. AJ

  9. My mother was a very strong energetic person. She was also very much afraid of giving birth. This fear came in part from her education. I remember her repeating so many times, while talking about people having babies: « …and you shall give birth in pain… ». I was her second child. My older brother’s birth had been a long agonizing nightmare. My poor brother suffered so much that he wanted to die. My mother said many times that until he was 3 or 4 months old, feeding him was a constant struggle.
    From my mother’s point of view, my birth was «easy». I see it somewhat differently… From many birth primals I had, I know she was scared to death and driven with a raging determination that I would get the hell out of there! For all my life I was afraid of angriness and didn’t know why. For many years, I thought: “I must have been spanked very severely when I was a child”. I discovered that I had this « big » beating when I came to birth. I felt the rage, the fear, the tremendous force against which there was nothing I could do. At no point I felt any form of communication, a caring for what « I » was going thru. I was expelled from her body like a chunk of meat, like I was not supposed to be there, like I was not a human being… For all my life I had that deep fear of my mother (not very helpful for «attachment»). When she died, I felt that a big danger that has been looming over me was no longer there.

    And I should point out that my mother was a very good and loving person. She probably inherited this fear from her own mother. She was certainly very sad to see me, her own child, fleeing away from her instead of going to her for help and comfort. There are countless tragedies like this going on everywhere. Humanity is sick and, sad to say, will stay that way for ages giving that so few people are aware of this reality and even fewer working on healing with techniques like Primal Therapy.

  10. Sieglinde:

    We can all promote primal theory on Janov's behalf. In some ways I think it's better that it's promoted by outside enthusiasts too. It looks less like "marketing" as you are a functional 'seconder'.

    Art: I'm not applying for you offer just yet because I want my brother to get your therapy first (who I will help support) and I can't stand the idea of getting your therapy while he is. Any clue on what those ideas of yours are? It's just that I can't see how you can operate a large-scale charity!

  11. Dear Art,
    I do understand and appreciate what you have achieved - helped a great many people to feel and think and self-regulate far better than they would have done without you.

    However, I can't help (for reasons that I know, and that I know are not foreign to you) wondering about how (or approximately by what 'neuroelectrochemical' means and 'expressions of plasticity') that PT works to the significant extent and degree that it in some cases clearly can and does.

    Does it work by nudging and allowing the output of action potentials from (most basically CURSES-representing and permanently longterm potentiated excitatory neurons to be routed into a far more discretely flowing pattern (by engaging "specific type" sensory neurons whose effect is generally to spatially focus the flow of excitatory messages [gen. ref. A.R. Luria, The Working Brain] while the same excitatory signals generating neurons (at the core of CURSES) remains more or less chronically active?

    [IOW: Does a CURSES (a primal pain, or "Pain" - a label you used in the past) get thus modified by PT to become a more efficiently sequestered conditioned-in (originally by specific/synaptic hibernation imploring threat) state (of a thus afflicted brain or central nervous {actention selection serving} system)?]

    OR does PT work - conceivably IN COMBINATION with the above 'postulated possibility' - because it facilitates a realization of an existing (but often only latent) brain function that can cause the dynamic neural core of 'a CURSES' to become "extinguished" (i.e. quite plausibly as a direct function of "the endocannabinoid system")?

  12. Andrew: It is another way we plan to offer the therapy. Not sure yet. Still thinking. art janov

  13. Art

    I wish that one day we all… all of my family and those around us can be part of Primal Therapy. I would be very pleased if you can find a way to help us. I understand that there will be... and is an economic issue and I do everything I can to help… help you to introducing it in Sweden. I send all your comments to the government authorities here in Sweden ... I will not give up. I can’t see how they for long can escape being caught by their silent on science facts against self-perception.
    But it’s like you write ... it is terribly difficult to get a “professional” to change there focus and listen. It is also what you once said ... "how will anyone be able to feel/understand something when something is what he does to not feel and understand"

  14. Pbef, you are looking for a way to cheat a system which relies on billions of interconnected networks. If you try to cheat the system you will inevitably create a bug in the system. It is too complex. You are being too hard on yourself. I can hear all that blood swishing around inside your swollen left frontal cortex. Give it a rest.
    Do what Art does. Go with the flow.

  15. Art,

    Of topic again but...

    I was just thinking. I think one of the reasons why many people may not be interested in what you have to say is simply because of the level that you observe humanity: You go straight to what's *really* real.

    You look at people like a zoologist studies animals, but with a kind of clinical objectivity of who we are on a highly personal level.

    I don't think people like this. It spooks them? I remember talking to friends years ago about the theories of Transactional Analysis, and it was all good fun and interesting to them. When I started talking about Janov some were casually interested whereas others were really spooked by it--even though by comparison Primal theory makes remarkable sense.

    I suppose if you wanna be popular you have to be fit for the Oprah show(?).

  16. Dr. Janov,

    I have send the attachment again to: did you received it?
    I would appreciate your answer.

    Dr. Janov's work is for years on both of my websites (German and English).

  17. Is this information common knowledge?

    From a website of an amateur scientist:

    However, I can explain why this theory is not in the coverage of the media. Publications on scientific topics are not accepted if it is not ultimately be traced back to an academic researcher affiliated with an academic or research institute. And raising the threshold, I personally fully agree because without these restrictions any scientific journal (or site) will be filled with the most wonderful theories.

  18. Art,
    If you are in hospital, then first of all I sincerely hope that it is not serious. Secondly, I wish you a speedy recovery. I am sure that all of your bloggers feel that way.

    We don't want to see you getting ill now. You are too valuable to the world at large, although sadly your work may only be recognised fifty years from now, such is the sad state of humans on this planet.

  19. Paul: Yes I have references in my new book. AJ

  20. Well Art's books are publications, and they are written for a wider range of people.
    As for being inundated with "wonderful theories"...there aren't many wild and wonderful theories that are put into practice and actually get results. The media and institutes need to look a little further...after all, that's what science is all about.

  21. @Sieglinde - you wrote: ..."Should adults have children who have such a disturbed biological and psychological system?.."
    the answer you can find also here
    I agree with him

  22. Dear Arthur Janov: Loving fan of yours since the 70's. I really feel that the brain is sculpted biochemically via stimuli, etc. That the brain can "shut down", which also leads to emotional pathways being either completely shutdown or non-functioning. The effect of this biochemical-emotional pathway requires a thorough examination of the primal pain. Perhaps the root cause of the primal pain has existed through many lifetimes, generationally. It would be most interesting to see how this cause and effect is mapped. Chiccoreal


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.