Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Role of the Placenta in Neurosis and Normality

I have been writing about gestational life for decades but I have never discussed the baby’s home, the placenta, in detail. We never seem to consider the placenta an organ but this is what it is,  secreting hormones and other chemicals just like other key organs. It is affected by trauma and reacts to it in its own peculiar way. Its home is against the wall of the uterus. It merges with the mother yet remains apart. It therefore seems foreign to the mother and yet is not rejected by her. The placenta is a kind of monitoring device mediating the all communications between fetus and mother. There is a constant “conversation” taking place between those two, mostly by chemical means. The first order of business for the placental is defense; keeping out all sorts of pathogens and harmful chemicals.  Thus it is both a communicator and a barrier preventing and allowing cells to migrate between one another. And indeed, fetal cells have been found in the mother for a long time after birth.

The placenta manufactures products that help keep the pregnancy ongoing and normal. Although it would be logical to expect a 50-50 split between the contributions of each parent to the placenta, such is not the case. Rather there seems to be a battle for whose contribution will dominate. So it is the father’s genes that help provide the growth of the placenta even while it is the mother’s genes that help impede its growth. When her genes do not do their job there will be runaway growth and serious disease. Runaway growth is often associated with cancer. But with no paternal genes here isn’t any growth at all. (Please see. Life’s Vital Link. By Y.W Loke, for a through discussion of this subject.).

While being carried about sixty percent of all nutrients are dedicated to the growth of the fetal brain; that is why slight changes in oxygen during fetal development can affect the evolution of the fetal brain.,  not the case with other mammals. The first step towards the formation of the placenta is “Taken soon after the egg is fertilized by the sperm.” (Loke). The placenta is a living organ that can go on living even if the embryo dies. It has a primitive nervous system that can sense danger and mount defenses including such neuro-chemicals as serotonin to fight invasion. It is from the embryo that one can harvest stem cells. And those cells are capable of healing diseases and extending life. But think of these implications for the placenta: it is the paternal genes that promote growth, and the maternal ones that impede it. If there is a faulty pregnancy those tendencies get disrupted, and we can get a too large placenta or a too small one. And changes in the biochemistry can alter how the genes will or will not be expressed.  If there is a trauma to the mother it is possible that part of the methyl group will be recruited to alter gene expression in the baby. The methyl can attach itself to the outside of the gene to either switch on or off the gene— epigenetics.

I have discussed the critical period in terms of when the baby must be hugged and loved; this is also the case for implantation. There is a period of receptivity for the implantation which is about one week after fertilization. That critical period is crucial if we want to make sure that the baby is properly attached to the mother. So the notion of critical period must apply to the placenta as well because it is, as I have stated, a living independent organ. The embryo must behave and abide by the rules of the critical period. It is no different from other aspects of evolution. Trying to be loved at the age of six years is a bit later for it to matter greatly.   Luckily, outside the critical window implantation will not happen.  Meanwhile, events in the womb are crucial for the later development of the baby. The placenta lives in an environment and that environment must be salubrious for the child’s health.  So we must not just focus on the placenta/uterus after so many weeks of gestation; rather, we need to be aware of it from the very start.

At birth something lives and something dies; the placenta is gone and the baby is alive in this world where the blood is then diverted from the placenta to the lungs, and a viable life begins.  The baby has left its home, so to speak, and strikes out alone, on its own without help from the mother to live. The conversation between fetus and mother has ended, and takes on a new role. There are now words and above all, emotions; the need to be hugged and caressed. And the relationship goes on from there.

And then serious evolution begins; the immune system and its natural killer cells proliferate and help keep cancer away. And those cells reflect how placental life has gone, as well. Has it prepared us properly for the menace and dangers in life? NK cells which protect us again serious disease are quite primitive and exist before many of the other cells have developed in the immune system. When those are inadequate at the start then we are not well prepared for the onslaught of trauma later on. We need to ask a new question: not only how has gestation gone? But also how has implantation and life at the beginning of placental life gone?  This is even before we can see a viable being.

Natural Killer cells are found in all mammals. And we do enhance those cells after one year of therapy. It may be because we go back with the patient into the beginnings of life. If those cells are deficient at the start of therapy they are not deficient after a year of therapy. We need to refine our research to make note of first line primals in those patients who greatly increased their NK cells. There seems to be enhanced NK development around the time of the critical period of the placental receptivity. The uterus has the greatest stockpile of NK cells, and it may be that early trauma impedes its proliferation making us more susceptible to disease later on.

The placenta is a powerhouse of chemistry, and adds to the hormones normally produced elsewhere such as the pituitary, and this includes the stress hormone., cortisol. Our “home” environment is not what we are used to thinking about when it comes to womb-life.  But a bad home life creates serious problems later on; and this home is far more important than later home life in childhood in terms of what diseases will befall us. Serious traumas, a mother depressed or anxious at the start can change the stress hormone output in the placenta and eventually that may translate to such diseases as Alzheimer's, decades later. We have to wonder why there is such a great amount of cortisol produced, and the key reason I think is to combat the intrusion of trauma.

In some ways the placenta acts like the relationship between the thalamus and the cortex, allowing certain input and rejecting others. The placenta is pretty much like a switchboard careful to monitor the amount and quality of nutrients and rejecting certain pathogens. It tries to keep a healthy environment for the fetus at all times. It keeps out infections in the mother and most often it blocks cancer developing cells. It is strange that each of them, mother and child exchange cells so the part of each is part of the other.

Finally, what is exciting about the placental cells is that they are also life-saving stem cells. They are saying, “I will become anything you want so long as you love me and take care of me. If you keep me healthy you will be rewarded with cells that can help give life and attack disease. And how does one do that? No smoking while pregnant. Live in a non-polluted milieu. And eat properly for both of you.

Every minute 20% of mother’s blood supply flows through the placenta (see Y.W. Loke). Here the oxygen exchange is enhanced, but if something goes on badly very early in pregnancy it can lead to many afflictions, immediate (pre-eclampsia, miscarriage), and later, perhaps cancer.  These are the deeply hidden sources of disease, and until we understand that we can never fully resolve pain and neurosis.  If we only deal with the obvious we can never understand the non-obvious. And it is the unobvious that produces so much damage; that is why it is not obvious.   The shattering pain pushes the gating system into action.  Those gates remain closed for a lifetime.   And with the closed gates goes the memory which makes it all a mystery and very, very non-obvious.  But pre-eclampsia is often considered a placental disease.  It is a precursor of high blood pressure afflictions.  Now imagine specialists treating this disease without any reference to early life; that is why one has to take blood pressure medication for life.  The causes are not known.

If there is an immune system incompatibility between parents there can be the beginnings of a miscarriage, or later on, immune problems and allergies.  The placenta tells us by its symptoms that something went terribly wrong in placental life. It shouts out its life and its trauma, a mother drinking or smoking.  These symptoms are the autobiography of our beginnings, and they foretell of diseases to come.  Let us never neglect them.  Psychotherapy must learn to address this mysterious world if we are to find answers to so many problems.


  1. Hi Art.

    "Natural Killer cells are found in all mammals. And we do enhance those cells after one year of therapy. It may be because we go back with the patient into the beginnings of life. If those cells are deficient at the start of therapy they are not deficient after a year of therapy."

    That is so awesome. Are you referring to old studies or have you done a recent one? Got any acceptable evidence?

    By the way, I am trying to get permanent residence in the U.S. Hopefully won't be too much longer.... otherwise I will just have to do the therapy in 3 month periods. Please try to stay alive for as long as possible.

    1. Richard: Staying alive at my age is not always a given. Art

  2. Art!!
    Geniuses do stay alive(Sophocles,Tizian, Hippokrates etc.etc) lived till 100!
    Yours emanuel

  3. Please stay alive, I'm coming to eat Birthday Cake with you again when I've got through this very nasty patch.

    I thought this was interesting...

    But at One Time ...

    When the epics of ancient Greece were first transcribed to paper, you can bet it was paper stained with the tears of their sobbing protagonists. Odysseus (the guy who killed a Cyclops and frickin' won the Trojan War) would break down into tears periodically, at least once just because he listened to an emotional song. That's because in ancient Greek culture, "men were expected to cry if their family's honor was at stake." One of the greatest signs of true manliness was to shed tears.

    Yeah, but that's Greece, right? They were all kinds of androgynous! On the contrary: This idea was spread through most cultures, and continued through the Middle Ages and up to the Romantic Movement. Japanese samurai, medieval heroes and even Beowulf himself cried like babies throughout their adventures. As recently as the 19th century, male tears were actually celebrated as a sign of honesty, integrity and strength. And not in the "you're brave enough to show your weakness" way, but just as a symbol that you actually gave a crap. And it probably also meant you were confident that no one would mock you, since you had just won a battle or torn the limbs off of a monster with your bare hands.

    1. Hi Emma

      An interesting post. Art has been quoted as saying something like "Being English should be a diagnosable condition". There was a recent BBC series about the English and their emotions. Suppossedly in the 17th and 18th century we were this incredibly emotional bunch who were renouned for crying at the drop of a hat. Then in the Victorian era things changed and the stiff upper lip developed. A deadening of emotion. There were all kinds of theories about this but I wonder about the growth of public schools and the Empire might have something to do with it as well as the cold approach to child rearing that seemed to so sum up Victorian England. It is a known fact that sending kids away to school is a very traumatic event in the child's life. Ripping them away from the bosom of the family must have had a dreadful effect building on earlier trauma probably brought on by being brought into the world by the kinds of parents who liked to "see children but not hear them" etc. These people then went round the world dominating other countries so had to be cold to survive.
      Then add two very traumatic world wars which the UK was right at the heart of and is it any wonder that generations learned to "button up".

      One could also see this as the rise and fall of one kind of trauma over another. Perhaps the earlier crying people were the sympaths showing emotion while not really understanding them whereas the later none crying people are the parasympaths avoiding emotion but quietly observing. The balanced healthy sane people were as always able to see what was going on and feel and understand themselves. Then there is the fourth person who swings between all three other types. Probably mostly either sympath or parasympath but due to early trauma is often totally out of control.

      Do you think that Beowulf etc were crying due to great stress. If you are fighting all the time then your stress hormones will be high all the time so one way to get rid of these is to cry.

      I used to be able to cry at the drop of a hat. If anyone showed me the slightest bit of empathy if I was in a difficult situation the tears would flow. Probably because I had spent my whole life waiting for someone to show me some empathy. Now I am getting in touch with all the trauma that caused the situation I find it more difficult to cry. I wonder whether this is because so much is queuing to see the light of day I am too overwhelmed to cry. It's getting better but I do find it strange.

  4. A genius never dies! Being immortal means that the best of you is left in us. Your ingenious / life-affirming message, we transfer on to new generations. Can you look forward to a better, more human, end whether it happens now or in 10 years?


    1. Jan, Nicely said but I would like to be around to enjoy it for a while. art

    2. Honestly Jan, I have never understood this relationship to abstract immortality. When you're dead everything you were and did is everybody else's (not yours) inheritance. Personally I could not care less if the entire universe forget I had ever existed, no matter what I did. It's all their party - not mine!

    3. Hi,

      My Dad is softening as he gets older, 85 now. . . Still the "old age yuppie" zooming about in his 'Smart car'. . . But he said (after another kind gift to me to mend my Landrover):

      "With my ending pending, I'm spending". . .

      After all, you can't take your wealth to the grave. Perhaps, more rarely, there are those who manage by some strange co-incidence, serendipitously even, to impart their wealth through the art of relating, That I am now convinced is where wealth really deposits its value. All else is Scheherazade. . .

      Paul G.

    4. Andrew,

      I was somewhat concerned when my desire, to transfer Art’s innovation (to re-live pain and traumas from before, during and after birth) to future generations, caused heartburn in the form of lack of understanding of my “immortality-metaphor”. As a humanist (one who is concerned with the interests and welfare of humans) I care a lot, about how the universe remembers my contribution / it’s inheritance. The future “partygoers” will depend on if you carry the ingenious / life affirming Primal Principles forward or something similar you have developed. Even if the entire universe forget that you have existed.

      Jan J.

  5. Art!
    Addendum...Since words are cheap resp.oftentimes not some hints;
    Dr.Michael Colgan has written i.a. a book about "living up to 100"
    And Durk Pearson and his "Life extension" may be of interest .

    And hawthorne ,Ribose Q 10 enzyme ,Nattokinase arginine/citrulline are helpfuf for the cardio-
    vascular health!
    Yours emanuel

    1. Emanuel: If anything I think that Primal should do that. art

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I forgot about that. These days I got into total fight mode that it would terribly wrong of me not to forgive anyone who picked a fight with me. Hopefully soon I can get back to LA and pick a fight with the nice padded wall which seems to be the best thing long run. I managed to close up and am trying to leak out the feelings in little bits. I don't recommend hitting your birth feelings in Abu Dhabi when it's 110 degrees outside and there is nothing but mosques and shopping malls. Anyway, I landed somewhat on my feet, somewhat on my head in a small town in Hungary studying music so if anyone wants to visit you're welcome. I try not to give up on my dreams of being an ace musician and successful primal patient but they don't always mix very well.

      This baby is cute...

    2. Emma: Welcome back to the land of the conscious. art

    3. Partly. Hungary has the 2nd highest suicide rate in the world. Still recovering from centuries of being in the middle of being invaded by Turks, Hitler, Stalin, Mongols. The Arab would would have a higher suicide rate except for the fact that suicide attempts land you in prison if you don't make it and in Allah's bad books which ever way. Me and Allah don't get on too well, much better in Hungary with music. At least the country is beginning to turn around and singing your heart out certainly helps!

  7. it is also interesting to read and watch on internet about "third stage of labor"- from newborn delivery to the delivering of placenta.
    ... i knew so little about it.

  8. good description of the placenta by the venerable Dr Karl...

    Strange how 'cord round the neck' is so common in humans.

    1. 1/5th of Babies emerge with the cord wrapped round the neck. I thought it might be interesting to see what percentage of suicides are caused by hanging. If you scroll down to "Suicides by gender" it lists 23.4% of men and women 19.7% as using hanging or suffocation. What is also so incredible is the huge disparity between the number of men killing themselves compared to women. lists about 14% use hanging as a means of killing themselves. Obviously US statistics. This site lists about 25% of suicides by hanging at about 25%. even more interesting is that this piece states that quite a few suicides in Bridgend in Wales were found in a semi kneeling position. Perhaps this even more describes a person reflecting a feotal position at the beginning and end of their lives.

  9. Art,
    something oftopic -or not very far from it.
    On the the occasion of hearing the accusations and "arguments" of opponents of arbortion..
    one gentleman(?) gentle... talked on an TV interview about his conviction "that from the moment
    of ampfimixis(ovum plus spermium... there is a human being...!

    Besides the FACT that this blatantly infamous remark concerning the suffering of real human beings it is obviously ridiculous !
    Thatnotwithstanding it was ALWAYS an aporetic ! consideration of me .
    This nwew living being on earth having all the RIGHT to be protected against harm and polution of
    his?/her? surrounding (in the broadest sense) and then "we" (not me for that matter ..I had
    a vasectomie decades ago...) stop his coming into exsistence.

    I do NOT condemn abortion!! but itis a puzzling situation (in the ethical sphere)

    Nontheless Your inspiring article once again showed me the awe awakeniing complextity and intelligence of NATURE.
    Yours emanuel

  10. Need... a survival "instinct" that can block all memories of mom... and everything becomes possible if necessary for survival! That's why we physically can survive in a crazy world as children... and on into the adult if we do not get to experience the cause of it? We are on are way to make it through the most important discovery mankind has made in any area Janovs Primal Therapy!

    Thanks to you Art!



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.