Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why We Remember for Such a Long Time

You know the brain is one of the rare places in the human system where there is a very small turnover of cells. The blood, bone and muscle cells turn over fairly rapidly so we get new cells every few weeks or months. No so with the brain whose cells last us a lifetime, which is why what happened to us during gestation and infancy has such a long lifespan. Yes, there are a few places, such as the hippocampus, where we get new cells perhaps for a lifetime but that is the exception.

So trauma while we are being carried is imprinted into the very rapidly developing neurons and does its damage forevermore. Those long-lasting imprints are designed for survival; to warn us over and again about how to react in the case of similar adversity or threats later on. Those traumas stimulate the production of stress hormones affecting the nerve cells and change memory and learning. They form the “epigenetic mass” which changes how the genes are expressed. We learn how to react from all that. It is adaptive, not an aberration. That is, deviation, neurosis, in my terms, help survival. The early traumas enhance some parts of memory and help them endure; that is one function of the stress hormones. They change the structure and function of some nerve cells. Think of this as a lesson in evolution and how and why it takes place: Experience produces the kinds of cells that are needed to react to that experience. Experience changes us neuro-biologially. Our whole system changes in order to adapt to life. And when that life is traumatic and loveless we change accordingly; we become neurotic (what I call that change). We deviate physically and emotionally in order to adapt and survive. Neurosis is adaptive, which is why we should not mess with it, our compulsions and obsessions until we understand the basis of it all. It is the feeling centers, such as the hippocampus that seals in those critical early memories and makes them last. One role of the stress hormones is to produce a kind of consolidation of key memories so that they remain in place to guide us and help us adapt, even in neurotic ways. We may do it to feel loved and to survive. This enhanced memory also takes place in the key feeling structure, now well explored, called the amygdala, which seems to swell a bit under the load of feeling.

We may have become intellectual to please parents who needed smart kids so that they would look good. And the kid’s physique suffers and changes in deference to the parents needs. The feeling centers diminish and there is less emotion to call on. The kid now lives in his head. Smart but emotionless. Not good.


  1. Aida said something funny ... "We got the thinking brain to be able to tie our shoes ... we have not seen a crow with shoes.
    Furthermore... said her daughter "it's almost no one who can use his two brain halves and those who can do strange things. Of course... it is of despair she says so.


  2. A facebook question:
    "So is it better to open up to your feelings and be overwhelmed by them?"

  3. And my answer: We make sure that you open up slowly and methodically so that you are never overwhelmed. art janov

  4. A facebook comment: "Dear Dr JAnov, I was breastfeeding my daughter untill she was 4 years old and ubtil she wanted to breastfeed...Even now she is 7 if she want to touch my breasts
    and play with them or even pretend to breastfeed I let her, I think that is normal and natural thing to do ...people say that is not appropriate but I listen to my daughter not other people..what do you think ???"

  5. And my answer: I think you're right. AJ

  6. Art, I'm sure you are aware that a decade ago scientists in the UK and Japan had received significant funding to develop artificial external wombs (ectogenesis). they were excited about the possibility of reducing the huge number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome, and they were keen to give gay couples a chance to grow a "baby in a box" and mothers with defective wombs could grow perfect babies. the two popular styles were the acrylic womb (favoured for it's inert qualities) and the organic womb which consisted of human cells grown on a womb-shaped scaffold. human embryos eagerly attached themselves to the artificial organic womb but didn't grow normal blood vessels. these experiments seem to have been abandoned. in recent years scientists have discovered a complex biological conversation between mother and fetus which seems to be impossible to replicate artificially.

    now apparently we have evidence of extensive human-animal hybridisation which has been going on for many years, and it has already gone way beyond the boundaries of society's common sense of ethics. we all know about the humanised mice:

    the humanised mouse experiments are unlocking many mysteries relating to human diseases. this is valuable science. but according to Alex Jones and his whistle-blower friends, we have humanzees in captivity:

    many scientists believe the existence of a chuman or humanzee is not only possible, but probable because of it's scientific importance. chimps and humans are as closely related as horses and donkeys (which are bred to create mules).

    so what does all of this mean? well, regardless of whether it is fact or hype, one thing is for is POPULAR SCIENCE. it is dark and ugly and freakish. scientists love that stuff. scientists are inhumane children. they don't want to help the human race for humane reasons. that's boring to them. they want to have FUN. Primal Theory could be dark and ugly and freakish and FUN if it is promoted very carefully. we must study the minds of relevant scientists and discover why they are NEVER attracted to Primal Theory.

  7. Art, do you think the shrunken parts of my brain can be restored? or is it more grim than that? the longer i wait, the more irreversible damage will be done?

  8. Hi Art the last days I wonder why on eart
    my ...brain does remember me.. of so v e r y
    many events ,people`s "word" towards me ,even
    anything unimportant like driving in my car
    decades ago the landscape comes in it`s
    precise details into my mind ...
    Sometimes i.e often I feel quite tired of
    it`s "remembering capcities" !
    To what end am I bombarded by these "trite2
    remembrances...-this is not to say ,that it spares tme the big events!!
    Yours emanuel

  9. Richard: Why shrunken? From what? art

  10. well certainly not because i have been cross-bred with a chimpanzee. i mean if our feeling centres have not been very active for many years, they will diminish. as you say, we will have less emotion to call on. i hope this is not a permanent reduction in emotional capacity.

  11. A facebook comment: "right-brainers have more connections to feelings but the connections are mixed up (neurotic) so the feelings never become a fully conscious experience."

  12. Another facebook comment:
    "what about people who are basically right-brainers? often they're really creative but suffer from all kinds of emotional disturbance. they seem to be more connected to their limbic system. but why do they sometimes get worse after they get older? if you're right-brainer shouldn't you be more able to clear out the deep stuff?"


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.