Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Chemistry of Depression (How Memory Is Inscribed)

The concept of the imprint is being confirmed by new research which demonstrates that extreme, early emotional trauma is inscribed in and locked into our system as a physiological event, with continuing later psycho-physiological effects. It is for this reason that preverbal trauma that occurs before the frontal, thinking area of the brain is mature is critical to our development, and continues to affect our personality, behavior, and health for a lifetime.

James McGaugh, of the University of California, Irvine, points out how under heavy emotion catecholamines (alerting chemicals--the neurojuices of vigilance) are secreted, which tend to seal-in the memory – in effect, inscribe it in the brain. It becomes, in my terms, the imprint. It means that extreme emotional trauma is locked-into our systems as a psycho-physiological event. It is not just psychological or physical, but rather both at once, and it can last a lifetime. So the feeling essence of a trauma, such as "no one wants me,” endures because it was too much to feel and integrate at the time of trauma; to do would have killed the living body. The imprint, then, changes our brain and drives our behavior. What Primal Therapy sets out to do is reestablish normal, healthy biologic set points and brain circuits. By experiencing fully the deviated circuits of the brain, we can now normalize neuronal networks.

Researchers have identified both the location of these traumatic imprints in the brain and the mechanisms by which they are stamped in permanently. Imprints during the critical period are engraved in the brain’s right hemisphere, particularly in the right limbic system, the “feeling” brain. The right brain develops earlier than the left. At birth, the right amygdala which is one of the key structures of the brain and which is responsible for appraising crude information, is active among the brain’s limbic structures, along with the brainstem, which goes on developing from early gestation until the first six months of life. The rest of the limbic system becomes active soon after and the right limbic system is in a period of accelerated growth until the baby’s second year. The hippocampus, another limbic structure, which registers what happens to us very early as fact, is mature by age two.

When there is traumatic experience during the critical early years, various brain structures that deal with vigilance such as the locus ceruleus of the brainstem help organize the chemical secretions for the imprinting. The hippocampus helps consolidate the imprinted memory, while the guts of the feeling are supplied by the amygdala. For example, it is the right amygdala and brainstem that will engrave whatever upset state the mother is in. (footnote: Incidentally, this idea of the "guts of the feeling" is my conclusion based on an ensemble of various research studies. It is inductive logic, not an established fact. ) The role of the amygdala may be simply a metaphor but there doesn’t seem to be any other structure that could fill the bill. Certainly, feelings are the property of the limbic area, and the amygdala becomes engorged when there is preverbal trauma. It bears the brunt of the trauma and seems to be bursting at the seams.

One also has to ask why the alerting neurochemicals aid in the imprint. Clearly, because great danger needs to be remembered as a guide to the future, of what must be avoided. And when we are in danger later on, the brain scans its history for the key early imprints to use as guideposts.

Jules used to intellectualize and beat around the subject endlessly never getting to any point. In our last group I said to Jules one sentence: “The bottom line, Jules.” He hesitated a split second, fell into my arms and shouted, “Help me – I hurt!” And so he took the first step toward health.


  1. It is physiologically to feel see and hear and it is psychological to interpret what we feel see and hear... illusion of what life in its physiological process "tells" us about... that is what we perceive as psychologically. That the question for science... is developed out of illutions is obvious.

    The psychological process takes its form in the part of the brain for its purpose to handle it ... interpretation of the physiological content to survive. Now we can ask our self’s... why the thinking brain evolved? Why are we a part of our brain that interprets what we feel? Well ... to survive... the pain is excruciating.

    T0 SURVIVE... has the evolutionary process "found" a way to build a defense against its physiological self ... because as fetuses and small children we could not handle the physiological load ... trauma as it had to endure to survive.

    There was thus "opportunities" through evolution and the genetic process to “create” a defense... a defense with results that the thinking brain evolved.

    Life is too short to be of benefit to science... we can and will never be able to exploit it. That we get food on the table... cars to driving around with it is absolutely no science that is favorable for us people as a whole.

    That science has become an question an issue... is because of the result... the thinking brain evolved for survival ... that part of the brain... does nothing alia than searching for the meaning of life in its process ... search after what there was that got lost... the truth... and the "truth" about our need is the energy to develop science... which in its turn created the need of science and that need do not find any limits of how it should be satisfied... as long as we do not find the source of "demand". The thinking brain can become a part for survival ... but then we must deal with what it conceals.


  2. Proust, Janov and Eva!

    Again, we have had a tragic example of, the thousands of years of repeated persecution of the Jews, this time in France. France is said to be the country in Europe with the largest Jewish population and a president, Nicolas Sarkozy, whose father was a Greek Jew. This was one of two impacts that occupied my mind when I went to bed last night. The second impression was the final sentence in Art’s Reflection: “Jules distressed to intellectualize and beat around the subject endlessly never getting to any point. In our last group, I said to Jules one sentence: “The bottom line, Jules.” He hesitated a split second, fell into my arms and shouted: “Help me - I hurt!” “.

    My dreams last night have been about Jews in my life and the literary world that I am interested in. Anne, the little girl from my early childhood, whose parents came from German death camps in Poland, Art Janov and The Primal Therapy that changed my life, Abbe Bonnier my employer who made my years with Janov in LA possible, Marcel Proust whose life and written production currently enrich me. Other Jewish representatives like Freud, Madhoff, etc. swept by. As it happens in my dreams, I tried to understand. Often it’s about my epilepsy, my neurotic (actions that do not correspond to real needs) and to understand how pain propels the neurotic actions.

    In the background it is always my personal life story. For decades I lived as a prisoner of my pain which produced neurotic deformations and painkillers, in order for me to survive. My life was not understandable until I was introduced and connected to Art’s principles of “Evolution in Reverse”. Through a combination of talented genius and favourable circumstances, Art turned his youth filled with pain and lack of love and recognition, into an opportunity for us to understand the consequences of unmet needs and loveless fetal toxicity in both the literal and the transmitted sense. He has led us to a new therapy paradigm.

    Marcel Proust takes presently very large space in my world of thoughts and then I’ve only just started reading him, and analysis on him. His short, brilliant literary life was to the brim full of symbols that represented his bottomless pain and unmet needs. I can best summarize the insights I have so far received by a quotation from Proust: “In reality, every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable him to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have experienced in himself. And the recognition by the reader in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its veracity.”

    The value of Art’s books and Reflections cannot be better expressed than by using Proust words. It is by reading about other people’s anxiety, pain and trauma that we can become aware of and feel our own anxiety and our unmet needs that goes back to our early childhood or even to our life before birth.

    Intellect, thoughts and words are often a major obstacle to accessing our feelings and nonverbal traumatic memories. However, with more than 70 years of my own memories of physical and mental anxiety and pain, coupled with 40 years of application of of Art’s principles and generous guidance on how emotions can be relived, Proust’s intellectual pain sublimations can be extremely rewarding. Add to that I’m having the opportunity to discuss my impressions with a woman, who for more than 50 years ago made an indelible impression upon my young mind. That makes at least part of life intelligible although last night’s dreams were partly initiated by a tragic event in France. The joy is represented by the fact that Jules took his first step toward health!

    Jan Johnsson

  3. Beautiful finish, goosebumps.
    This is becoming more of a science Art and hopefully in time will appeal to the 'powers that be'. Rest assured we will do our best to carry on your legacy.

    This morning I saw another Orthopaedic surgeon for opinion about my knee. Just another Ortho, another opinion. Yet, it opened memory of all the deep stress of when I was in crisis w/my knee, on crutches this time a year ago. I could feel the stress hormones surging forth, secreting oil, totally giving in to stuffing my face w/pastries and coffee to equalize..
    (postnote: I still can't use steps, run, dance but am coming to LA regardless. This is the year! See you September)

  4. Hi,
    -"Jules used to intellectualize and beat around the subject endlessly never getting to any point"-.

    I'm much the same. Mostly my big words are all just fancy defences. Sometimes the big words convey something of value but I know my 3rd line is a hall of mirrors in which I get lost. Before I understood 'evolution in reverse' I was spellbound by several of the distorted reflections I came across (recurrently) in my hall. When I pass them by now I still get distracted but I pass them by. Feelings outweigh thoughts and big words though, am I getting to the exit yet?

    I need the clinic to help with my 1st line traumas. That would be the exit from my hall of mirrors.

    Paul G.


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.