Thursday, October 31, 2013

Alzheimer’s Disease: What Causes It And How Do We Treat It?

There is some new work by the Rush University Medical Center (October 2013) that begins to inform us about Alzheimer’s disease. They say that experiencing traumatic events in mid life can lead to later Alzheimer’s. They recruited 800 middle aged women and followed them for 40 years, checking in to see if they had a trauma and when and what kind. This would include the death of spouse, caring for a sick relative or unemployment. For each of these events there was an increased risk of later Alzheimer’s disease By 20%. This was despite how well they seemed to cope with it. (see

The researches claim that this is the best evidence by far to date linking psychological stressors with dementia. They go on to state that previous studies showed that stress hormones could help increase the build-up of proteins that are found in the brains of people with dementia. This means that serious disease such as dementia is related to stress. Not surprising. But wait! They have not touched the critical source of stress; the traumas during gestation and birth. In our clinical work we have found that as patients start to relive these early events the vital signs skyrocket, brain waves are increased in amplitude and frequency and other signs of severe stress.

We need to imagine what happens to a fetus fighting for her life because of lack of oxygen or of the carrying mother ingesting alcohol or serious pain medication.
There is terror and panic; her life is at stake, not the same as losing a job later on. The fetus cannot scream or talk or explain her agony but we see it in her biologic signs. And unlike the current research, the scientists, when discussing what to do about all this, believe the person needs stress reduction techniques to help eliminate the problem. I am not sure. I am very not sure.

The point is that these very early traumas are imprinted and are locked into the system for a lifetime. They form the basis for how later stress will be reacted to. That should be the next study; to see how the imprint plays into all this. I think it does in a big way; that primal stress is important in the later advent of Alzheimer’s disease. So if middle age stress can lead to disease think about how traumas on a naïve and vulnerable being can affect later illness. Just because the fetus cannot scream does not mean that she is not suffering. And that suffering continues on and on.

What we are planning to do soon is study the imprint and how to reverse it; that is the ultimate reduction of stress. We want to see if we can reverse history through reliving traumas. For if we can do that we may well help patients to avoid serious disease later on. We will measure the methylation process by which traumas are stamped into the brain. If we reverse methylation we may stop historical traumas from going on to do damage later on. We will reverse history. Think of that; stopping an imprint from going on to cause damage. That is mind-blowing.

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.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Looking Glass is Inside Out

         I have often wondered why there is so much nonsense out there in the treatment of mental illness.  One psychiatrist says most of it is a brain disease and the answer will be found in analyzing the molecules of the brain. This is also the view of the head of the National  Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow.  She spends her days in the depths of brain neurons trying to find answers to so many problems. Still others come up with nutty ideas about depression and anxiety that I have cited in numerous articles.  Some want to drill in the brain, others shock it, and most others want to medicate it.  Few if any know what it is they are shocking or medicating. The reason: they all need to guess what “it” is.   And “it” is not a neuron or a molecule or a hormone. “It”  is a memory, an imprinted one that sways genes in one direction or another and alters the trajectory of our lives.

         In other words, they all have  to guess because no one has seen “it;” they all have to look at it from outside, imagining what lies inside. Yet it can be seen and it is palpable. But before we get to “it”, we need to get to the human being who carries the “it.”  He is the ultimate arbiter of what is true.  We need to focus on her or him and not just molecules. Only then can one observe the wrenching body arcs from the pain,and hear the gasping for breath, the screams and tears.  One can observe the relief from the reliving, as the body and face relax, not only from observation but in the indices of vital signs that descend radically, and in an ordered fashion, after a primal reliving.

         Why hasn’t anyone thought about it?  Because Behaviorists rule the roost.  Looking at it all from the outside is "de rigueur", while feelings are anathema – a simple negative influence to be eschewed, set aside and abandoned.  Feelings become pests in the overall scheme of science where precise measurement is the apotheosis.  Yet it is feelings that govern and drive us; feelings when repressed make us sick. We will never notice this so long as we remain outside the realm of feeling and choose to observe it from afar.  How can we know that anoxia at birth may play a part in migraines until we see someone relive the beginning of anoxia and develop a headache?  How can we know what is behind depression until we see deep pain at work with repression rushing to save our sanity and create depression as a consequence?  How can we know what is behind anxiety until patients travel down the chain of pain, descending through levels of consciousness to the most primordial reactions of panic?  How can we ever know what trauma at birth does to us until we see the reliving and discover the lifelong allergies and attendant breathing problems?  Or what it does to blood pressure and heart rate as they rise radically during the reliving, then drop to normal levels after the primal experience.

         So of course some can say it is a brain disease since we can always find neurological accompaniments to anorexia, for example.   None of this exists in a vacuum.  Of course there are changes in serotonin levels accompanying the affliction but they are not necessarily causes.  We will never know that so long as we are “objective observers.”  Once we delve into deep memory and feelings we will find a whole new world, the primal world, if you will.  It will open up a plethora of directions that pain has taken us, but it is not in the chemistry of pain where answers will be found, but in the causes of that pain.  Of course when there is a lack of serotonin in certain anxiety states it helps to add serotonin to the mix, in the form of Prozac.  But that is what I call tinkering or tweaking.  It has little to do with ultimate causes.   We can tweak dopamine or serotonin in depression, and currently they do this by adding “chemical uppers,” that have the effect of activating the neurotransmitters. Or they tinker with the glutamate level allowing more activation with less repression.

         And when they tinker it has to be a daily job because the causes are untouched and create the same old mess over and over again. Witness drug addiction.  The addict’s pain is very deep and requires heavy-duty drugs to calm it—over and over again.  How do we know?  We have treated addicts and see the pain underlying the addiction. We know it is refractory because the level of pain, down deep in the brain is never touched in all those rehab centers.  Worse, they do not know it exists. So what do they do? They calm it chemically and are satisfied with that. Why satisfied?  Because they have never seen the Pain!  Never seen the agony, which allows them to think that it is just a bad habit.   Or to believe that a few words of praise can help it.  Or to think that a good diet will change it.  Or to think that a few lectures or group therapy sessions will change it.  And the pain, hidden and recalcitrant, shouts back at the curers: “Try to find me! I am far below where you are looking, encrusted into the deepest chemistry of the brain,  conjoined with repression so no one can see  how I operate.”

         And on the psychological side, how could any of us know that not being held and caressed right after birth can lead to life-long terror of being alone.  Or that this memory can play an important part in depression when there is no one around us to soothe and calm.  So when we are not busy working and surrounded by people we get depressed.  More important, how can we know that love is primordial in the earliest months and years of our existence until we see what its absence does to us?  Lack of touch and hugs causes pain, more pain than we realize. Or that an anxious carrying mother is speeding up the metabolism of her baby, perhaps for a lifetime.  We cannot know about the imprint that lies engraved into the brain until we observe its reliving.  And reliving over and over with the same vital signs each time.  No one who has not seen primal pain in its full blown agony can know what it does to us and how it drives our behavior and intractable addictions. The imprint is the archive of our remote past that we carry around all the time but never know it because in its repressed state it is unrecognizable. 

         So does nothing help?  Lots of things help – help to tweak and tinker.  But only one thing works to reverse the imprint, resolve the engraved feelings, restore health and relieve suffering – Reliving. Aah!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Mystery Known as Depression

This article published in the Journal for Neurocognitive Research of the World Psychiatric Association (Activitas Nervosa Superior).
Read the full text at: (available as a pdf).

Here is the abstract:

"This opinion article presents the result of years of observation of depressive patients. It is a report on their treatment while undergoing a feeling therapy that deals with reliving past imprinted trauma in context of new research in neurology and biology. The underlying premise is that early traumatic events, including the time in the womb and at birth, leave an imprint aided by epigenetic methylation that endures and comes to dominate our lives. It later accounts for serious ailments and the imprint plays a role in our behavior, interests and attitudes. Through a feeling psychotherapy that allows patients to relive their traumatic history might be possible to found a way to make profound changes in depression. "

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.