Saturday, November 14, 2015

Epigenetics and Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis (Part 10/20)

How Traumas Get Embedded

A recent report from Northwestern University notes that some traumatic memories, such as chronic child abuse, are so painful that they get buried deep in the brain and become difficult to access (Jovasevic et al., 2015). Those memories were created in a certain mood/feeling or state of arousal and “can best be retrieved when the brain is back in that state.” This new brain research provides support for my concept of resonance, which posits that specific feelings on all three levels are inter-connected via related frequencies. In Primal Therapy, as the patient goes back in time in his sessions, he will connect with feelings stored deeper in the brain which resonate with the same mood, as one level of the memory is linked to lower levels. The mood or feeling belongs to a hierarchy of imprints/feelings, where each level gives way to deeper more remote levels, all related in tone and emotional meaning. The links are not only due to similar feelings but reflect historical processes; each link carries us further back in our ontology until we surpass memory as we think of it. We go back in archaic times as well, where there are no words or even feelings, just instincts. For that reason, when a patient uses words while appearing to relive such archaic events, we know it is abreaction, a false memory. When a patient is back in an accent brain, there are no words in the reliving because no words exist at that level. Let me be clear: the reliving is literal, as the patient is submerged in history and lives for a time on that lower level only.

In the Northwestern experiment, scientists infused the hippocampus of mice with gaboxadol, a drug that stimulates extra-synaptic GABA receptors. Researchers describe as getting the subjects “a little inebriated.” Then the mice were put in a box and given a brief, mild electric shock. When the mice were returned to the same box the next day, they showed no signs of fear and moved about freely, leading researchers to conclude they didn’t remember the shock from the day before. However, when the mice were given the same drug before going back to the box, they froze, as if fearfully anticipating another shock.

Researchers concluded that the drug changed the way the memory was originally encoded, so the mice remembered the stressful experience of the shock only when they were returned to the same brain state created by the drug. In other words, they believe that the brain, when drugged, “used completely different molecular pathways and neuronal circuits to store the memory.” And then the authors make this Primal statement: “The best way to access these memories is to return the brain to the same state.” Seems like a quote from my work, but it is no more than arriving at the same reality by different methods. The question is, how do we get the patient back in that state?

I repeat, the means of getting to those old memories needs to follow evolution; that is devolution or evolution-in-reverse. We need to begin at the last or latest link of memory and then use resonance to travel back in time to where key imprints lie. We don’t decide this; it is done by the patient who is often upset by something in the present, and once locked-in will slide effortlessly back in history following the feeling links. His devolution is not random; it is guided ineluctably by resonance.

So is Primal Therapy nothing more than a time machine, a means to revisit our history, to turn back the clock to previously neutral, non-neurotic states? It may sound far-fetched, but more and more evidence suggests it’s true. Scientists are now learning how to wind back the developmental clock on the microscopic level — taking a current skin cell, for example, and treating it so that it returns to a previously neutral, uncommitted state, an embryonic state. Once that is done, the cell can be reprogrammed to become another kind of cell. During this critical window certain needs must be fulfilled and, if they are not, cells may become imprinted in adverse ways.

Here’s another way to put it: once a mark is made on the cell we are psychologically and physiologically affected for life, until, and only until, the inciting event is revisited and relived. And it can be relived unconsciously, through the process of resonance. That is, a trauma that took place in-utero can be re-experienced without a specific awareness of it, by virtue of being part of the chain of pain, once we are locked into the memory circuit. In Primal Therapy, when we explore these ramified events and begin to relive them, we are connecting three levels of consciousness – the present, our past childhood and our infancy/gestation – by descending through three levels of brain development.


  1. A 2015 French rodent study “Integration of New Information with Active Memory Accounts for Retrograde Amnesia: A Challenge to the Consolidation/Reconsolidation Hypothesis?” expanded my understanding of the Northwestern study.

    The French researchers showed that any drug that causes an "internal state change," even if it’s just nausea, can trigger state-dependent memory.

    As both studies may apply to humans, a drug wouldn’t necessarily be required to "induce an internal state." An emotional or physical experience may be sufficient to produce a state-dependent memory.

    1. You need to explain more. thanks for the interest and help. art

    2. The French study found:

      “Memories can be established and maintained without de novo protein synthesis and that experimental amnesia may not result from a disruption of memory consolidation/reconsolidation.
      Posttraining/postreactivation treatments induce an internal state, which becomes encoded with the memory, and should be present at the time of testing to ensure a successful retrieval.
      This integration concept includes most of the previous explanations of memory recovery after retrograde amnesia and critically challenges the traditional memory consolidation/reconsolidation hypothesis, providing a more dynamic and flexible view of memory.”

      From an analysis of the study:

      “A different drug, lithium chloride, produces the same pattern of effects – it blocks ‘reconsolidation’, but this can be reversed by a second dose at the time of recall. However, lithium chloride is not an amnestic [a drug that blocks memory formation] – it doesn’t block protein synthesis. Rather, it causes nausea.
      The implication of the lithium experiment is that any drug that causes an ‘internal state change’, even if it’s just nausea, can trigger state-dependent memory and behave just like an ‘amnestic’.”

      As this study may apply to humans, a drug wouldn’t necessarily be required to “induce an internal state.” An emotional or physical experience may be sufficient to produce a state-dependent memory, in my opinion. For example, the Northwestern study found, albeit with rodents and use of a drug:

      “Fear-inducing memories can be state dependent, meaning that they can best be retrieved if the brain states at encoding and retrieval are similar.”

  2. Dear Art

    My mind is occupied by one thing, that if you will die no one can save me and it will be to late. Yes I know this that it is my "magical" thinking but anyway it is all the time with me.

  3. An email comment: "Awesome and clear, just wonderful. Yet, for those of us who cannot afford a move let alone your therapy it is small consolation except for some hope for a better future for others and perhaps for our world."

  4. Another email comment: "Thank you very much for this BLOG! Since my computer was down, I am only now able to catch up on reading all of the emails. Although I faithfully follow the ones on epigenetics and believe the science behind our evolutionary system, I cringe at the idea of mice and rats as guinea pigs. (Not that I love these creatures, but inflicting pain for our sorry Human Conditions...?) When I majored in psychology years ago, I refused to work in an animal lab. Instead, I was allowed to take a computer-based Memory Lab course.

    What you are saying in this blog reiterates what Alice Miller said in her books. Regardless of what you believe about "self-therapy," after my first flashback on July 26, 1987, I have been on my own. My Freudian psychiatrist believed that repression should remain repressed. I slowly began to see how he had been harming instead of helping me. To one of my devastating emerging memories he responded with, "There's no evidence!! Had I not noticed how seductive toddler girls are?" I could have strangled him with glee! It took a while to gain enough courage to take on the journey on my own, the only support being Stettbacher's and Miller's books.

    How well I understand the rage! I felt like killing the whole world! Whenever possible, I locked myself in my bathroom and screamed for hours.

    Again many thanks."

  5. Hi,

    slightly off topic. I've been experimenting, opening up the Primal Theory debate. . . or rather finding out that it is nearly entirely a 'closed subject'. There seems to be a very 'real' un-reality installed into people's psyche which prevents them from perceiving the terrifying truth of our collective (and individual) condition & therefore existence. Most of all with all this 'terrorism' there seems to be a complete 'herd mentality' of avoidance and belief. An almost romantic projection onto all the players in the game. The terrorists, their manipulators (who-ever they are), the police and most of all of course the victims. The media respond with increasingly predictable sound bites and wrap up the whole business with "have a nice day".

    The degree to which individual trauma & repression holds down genuine intelligence and the ability to truly respond seems to have no end, no bounds and no solution; hence we romanticise the whole situation and build altars of tragedy and well meaning epitaphs. One of the signatures of all this is that no sooner have we laid our wreaths at the feet of all this suffering do we hurriedly turn and depart back to the bustle of our own hectic lives. . . All "Out There".

    I am not cured and so have no 'proof' nor do I have 'evidence'. . . But something that I've learned has completely changed me, my outlook, and I wish with all my heart and all my natural intelligence that this 'knowing' could some how be imparted to others. Why? Surely not just because I want them to believe what I believe? No.

    Currently a particularly sane politician in UK has become ostracised because he refuses to engage in the politics of revenge. He will continue to refuse until what? Until he becomes the victim of a terror attack himself? Very likely because that is what Primal Pain does. Primal Pain allows almost any one to take OFFENSE and then to make OFFENSE the standard response to any conflict. This in turn becomes the rational for all further political dealings. Offense.

    On the radio right now the whole debate is reduced to one of violent retaliation and aggressive revenge. The public (allegedly) want RESULTS. . . but do they really? How many people actually believe in a knee jerk reaction to a problem? Sieglinde's distinction is important. Zeitgeist is a herd phenomena based on a multitude of beliefs of which not ONE is a valid bite of information to act on but we do. We twist and turn like a herd of wildebeest on the run. On the run from what? From those noisy helicopters hovering above, filming us, observing us, controlling us, steering us, compelling us. . .

    Don't let those helicopters make you feel any worse than you already do. Primal Pain is bad enough without all that hassle. . .

    Paul G.

  6. For all who would like to know the truth:
    Nothing is more distressing to me than to feel something is wrong with my body and no doctor is willing or able to help, to look deeper or go beyond the pain-meds prescription pad.

    In 2012 I asked my biochemistry professor if he has upcoming lectures on gene methylation. Instead of answering, he asked why (he suspected my intention) and recommended a gene test. I did the test and since 2013 I know that I have over 600 markers and most of them related to IL (Interleukin). Inflammation (IL) is affecting organs, skin, vascular system (heart) the brain and hormone output. Inheriting bad genes is one subject, later gene methylation due to virus, bacteria, stress or neglect and/or abuse can be life-altering, because they make us sick.

    However it is not enough to know what genes are methylated, we need to know how to de-methylate, with Primal Therapy, snip out double helix or replace cancer genes, which must be the next science step.

    Now the University of Michigan has started “Genes for Good”, a free international gene testing program.
    Whoever likes to know the truth about damage inherited or later imprinted damage, instead of waiting for often incorrect diagnosis for the pain we endure daily, this link will lead you to a genetic eye-opener.


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.