Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Scientific Confirmation for Primal Therapy

It isn’t only what happens in a laboratory with men in white coats that counts as science; I think clinical science also counts in the mix.  And it is not only the need to extrapolate from studying little animals with white tails.  It means studying real people with real maladies.  Which I believe we have done over fifty years, including also research results from outside groups … those mysterious souls in white coats.

Let me give one example.  Over the years we have seen dozens of patients suffering migraine headaches.  Those were the ones with severe anesthesia at birth.  Their Primals (reliving of feelings) were of choking and suffocation, gasping for air.  It was the commonality of most of them, but not all.  But as they relived lack of oxygen at birth, the suffocation went away as did the migraine.  It sounds like we figured it all out right away.  No.  It took months and years of this observation to learn that the whole vascular system was shutting down to defend against dying from lack of oxygen.  It was an extreme conservation move to survive.

Sometimes if the Primal did not finish there would be a return of the migraine, in short, there was still the memory of suffocation at work.  We were learning that the origins of many migraines was this asphyxiation during the birth process.  One of the early treatments for migraines was oxygen.  Now it is pills for shutting down pain, but coffee as a vasoconstrictor can help because it helps shut down the blood flow.

What then happened later on was that almost any stress could trigger the migraine as it also reawakened the original reaction which became the modus operandi for the sufferer.

The first coalescence of lab research and our clinical efforts was found at King’s College, London; Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience.  They wondered why pain continued even after the physical insult had gone.  They wanted to know why pain became chronic.  One thing they knew was that in pain there were more pain nerves active.  But why did they continue to cause pain?  Why did these proteins maintain their altered function?  They believed it was prolonged by epigenetics.  After an initial injury there is an “epigenetic footprint”.  The molecular imprint reawakens those proteins again; hence pain.  It tells us about the mechanisms but less often about the “why” of all this.  Why is there a migraine, in the first place? What caused it?

In Primal terms, the imprinted memory is still there and endures, and adverse events can set off the reactions again.  The nerves involved are still there waiting to be activated again.  But they carry the imprinted memory and are vulnerable. The triggers can be any threat or danger, even a criticism, taken as a threat to being loved; worse, to be excluded.

Another point of convergence between lab science and clinical science: A November 2015 study in Nature, Neuroscience (see, found that prenatal trauma was important in leaving traces on the gene of past trauma. This happens to coincide with our work where we actually see patients relive these traumas—a process called methylation.

The lab scientists found that these early traumas were heavily implicated in the later development of schizophrenia.  They studied methylation traces in over 500 cases and found that methylation changes “were most pronounced between pre and postnatal periods”.  We are finding this often during gestation that leads to many different kinds of mental afflictions.  Terror states becoming anxiety reactions in the parlance, the key cause of attention deficit reactions later on. Several studies have shown DNA methylation earlier than anyone expected: in the prenatal life.  And this then, in turn, changes gene expression, so what looks like pure genetics is really epigenetics which can be changed because it is not set in stone.  And a great deal of methylation changes occur very early to start the neurotic process even before we are born.  So in any therapy that deals with later life exclusively may be missing the proper therapeutic target.

It is not ideas that produce neurosis; it is the feeling traumas that predate them. They produce twisted ideas and perceptions and also physical abnormalities.

Here is more of what the researchers point out: ”Whatever risk factors are occurring in the fetal environment in utero, they appear to leave a lasting  mark on the sites that are different later in life in brains of patients (with schizophrenia).”
So there is an imprint that causes damage and endures and affects our mental apparatus.
Wait, isn’t that Primal Theory?  Oh my, we converge.
We must address the right brain, which literally is the right brain which imprints earlier than the left, if we are to help patients.  And isn’t that our goal?


  1. Art: Have you contacted these people to send your own findings in order to confirm and expound on theirs? However, "new" scientific findings or theories are accepted only to the extent human neurosis will allow them to be. Genetic determinism as a cause of disease is accepted because people don´t have to change addictive dietary habits or face the fact they´ve been abusing themselves for decades and feel guilty about it. Telling people they are hurting or have hurt their children is similar. The truth has a long hard struggle for acceptance in a world of defending against internal truth. gary

    1. Gary, No I never thought about it. Maybe I will. art janov


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.