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am 31. März 2000
Over recent years the evidence that cancer and heart disease are caused by psychological factors, and can therefore be treated more effectively by psychotherapy than by other methods, has become increasingly clear. The work by Michael Marmot has shown this in Coronary Heart Disease of British Civil Servants. David Spiegel has shown this in a randomised trial of late-stage breast cancer patients and Hans Eysenck has shown it in several randomised trials of stressed people who were either cancer prone or heart disease prone. But none of the mechanisms proposed so far have provided a satisfactory explanation for how psychotherapy might reverse such degenerative diseases or prevent them.
The importance of the book is that it explains in an easy to understand way how the emotions control the cells of the body and thereby are a major contributory factor to diseases such as cancer, coronary heart disease, arthritis, etc.
According to Dr Pert the emotions are the link between the mind (thoughts) and the body. Molecules of emotion run every system in our body. This communication system is the body-mind's intelligence and it is wise enough to keep us healthy.
Before the discovery of cell receptors it was believed that the main control mechanism for the body was the nervous system operating via the brain, spinal cord, nerves and sensory receptors. The sensory receptors activated the brain via messages sent via the central nervous system. This process uses electrical impulses in the neurons, and two chemical neuro-transmitters, acetylcholine and nor epinephrine, in the synaptic cleft between the neurons. This caused the mechanism of the brain to be referred to as essentially electrical.
The second mechanism discovered more recently involves receptors on the cells, and neuropeptides circulating in the extracellular fluid, the blood and the cerebrospinal fluid. This gives rise to the concept of the chemical brain. The mechanism operates over a longer time scale and over longer distances. It also allows these information molecules to communicate across different systems, such as the endocrine, neurological, gastrointestinal and even the immune system at locations where they share channels. How does this second system work?
The two main factors in the process are the cell receptors and the ligands made up of neuropeptides (pp.22-3).
The cell receptors are large molecules made up of proteins, tiny amino acids strung together in crumpled chains. The lie like lily pads on the surface of a pond, the cell membrane, with roots enmeshed in the surface. They are sensing molecules or scanners for the cell.
They are receptive to "binding" preferentially with other substances diffusing through the extra cellular fluid, like sex with a preferred mate on a cellular level. When this substance touches the receptor it tickles it and arouses it to change shape to suit the visitor. The ligand (or binding substance) and the receptor strike the same note or frequency that rings a bell that opens the doorway to the cell and information enters the cell.
In this way receptors are the control buttons on the cell surface allowing substances flowing past the cell to control the cell's major functions - effectively linking the body's trillions of cells as integral parts of the organism's brain. This chemical brain acts in a similar way to the body's endocrine system whose hormones can travel the length and breadth of our bodies (p.139).
Events impact on individuals in a way depending on how receptive they are to the event. A traumatic event might not be accepted. It might become a repressed emotion and get stored in the unconscious mind, ie the body, via the release of neuropeptide ligands, and these memories are held in their receptors (p.147).
The immune system is also involved because it can communicate not only with the endocrine system, but also with the nervous system and the brain (p.164).
The mind then is that which holds the network together, often acting below our consciousness, linking and coordinating the major systems and their organs and cells in an intelligently orchestrated symphony of life (p.185).
Disease is caused by unexpressed emotions being stored. Disease-related stress produces information overload, the mind-body network being so taxed by unprocessed sensory input in the form of suppressed trauma and undigested emotions that it has become bogged down and cannot flow freely. The autonomic nervous system, regulated by peptide flow (such as breathing, blood flow, immunity, digestion and elimination) collapse upsetting the normal healing process. Meditation, by allowing the long-buried thoughts and feelings to surface, gets the peptides flowing again, returning the body and the emotions to health (p.243).
The book is essentially a chronological account of Candace Pert's frustrating experiences as a medical scientist in a male dominated profession. It takes us through her scientific discovery phase and describes what happens when a woman scientist comes up against male egos vying for the top prizes. She ultimately refuses to sacrifice her principles for the sake of ambition and leaves her beloved profession in a series of self-awareness experiences. As she drifts into the alternative health area she finds her true fulfilment and the reader is the beneficiary.
The reader can therefore learn some of the science and politics of orthodox medicine, and at the same time learn some of the principles of the self-awareness movement, all in the context of an interesting novel.
Those wanting to see a summary of the mechanism will find it very frustrating because the various bits are described in different parts of the book.
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am 11. Juli 2000
Ascertaining the existence of a biomolecular basis to our emotions and by illustrating this new discovery in a clear and accessible style, the author of this book allows us to understand our selves, our feelings, and our complex relationship between body and mind. The journey Candance Pert makes us make in "Molecules of Emotion" is also filled with personal discoveries: intertwining with her research is her story as a woman and mother, and all the obstacles she had to overcome.
This volume is a fundamental work, rich with intuitions and wisdom, possessing the rare quality of modifying the way we see the world and ourselves in it. The disconcerting conclusion, that is, that our emotions and their biological components build the essential connection between mind and body, is not resolved with the rejection of modern medicine. Au contraire, Pert's discoveries integrate the extant techniques, proposing a new scientific interpretation of the power mind and emotions exercise on our health and our well-being.
As a researcher and a father, I can truly substantiate the author's thesis, which I have experimented on myself and my progeny with astounding effects.
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am 25. Mai 1999
After I tried to read this irritating, unfocused book, I went looking for a book that really did explain what scientists have learned about the brain-mind's neurochemistry in recent years.
This week, I found it. For the mainstream reader, I heartily recommend Dr. Allan Hobson's "The Chemistry of Conscious States: How the Brain Changes Its Mind", which was published in 1994.
The page for "The Chemistry of Conscious States" includes a nice, long synopsis and review to get you started.
"The Chemistry of Conscious States" is out of print, but the Seattle Public Library has a copy. You can borrow it through interlibrary loan while you're waiting for to locate a copy for you to buy.
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am 8. Mai 1999
A disappointing and flawed book by an interesting but apparently flawed scientist. It reads like a very early draft of what could have been a wonderful achievement.
Too much time is spent defending her own petty Nobel Prize ploys and attacking those of her equally grasping colleagues. Far too much of the narrative is spent on leaps of armchair speculation, and too little effort is directed toward helping the rest of us understand the empirical results of current research.
To use an Olympic analogy from the film "Chariots of Fire", Ms. Pert's book suggests her scientific style to be more like that of the film's sprinter (driven by nervous energy) than like that of the miler (all heart and determination). She also shows little of the hurdler's nobility and conflict-resolution skill. If she were a marathoner like Marie Curie, Agnes Pockels or Ada Lovelace, then she might still be conducting original and meaningful research, instead of treading the boards as a motivational and polemical speaker.
I wish she had written "Molecules of Emotion" using the care and intellectual honesty that Dr. Ramachandran shows in his recent (and excellent) "Phantoms in the Brain".
She seems to have been a talented researcher when she chose to work at it. I hope she decides to return to the laboratory and trade in her dreams of Nobel glory for the quiet satisfaction of having added to human understanding through careful investigation. For me, those intrepid, low-profile researchers who enjoy discovery for itself are the true heroes in the advance of science. They are also the authors whose explanations for the rest of us I find most helpful.
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am 11. Februar 1998
Pert, will one day be generally regarded at least as highly as Sherrington or Penfield in the archives of neuroscience and probably higher. In her typically atypical style, she breaks all the rules as she wrote this remarkable book. And why not? She broke the nearly three hundred year Cartesian (the mind and body are separate) paradigme, one of the most enduring in all of science! This is not just a clearly written book on the neuroscience of emotion carrying peptides/receptors, but also of the emotional human drama of her journey of scientific discoveries. For the scientist in us, Pert clearly spells out how ligands (substances which specifically bind to selective receptors initiating sometimes dramatic intracellular biochemical changes) and termed "information molecules" or "information substances" communicate across systems which were for the most part traditionally considered separate. The "new neurology" demonstrates ligand communication between the neurological, immune, endocrine, and gastrointestinal systems. The reader may well be astounded to see that the traditional neurotransmitters (ligands such as dopamine, histamine, GABA, etc.) only comprise a tiny fraction of nervous system communication. The peptides, carriers of emotion and other information make up 95% of all ligands. Beyond the science however, Dr. Pert also provides an interesting inside look at the real world of scientific research. Her struggles, defeats and triumphs are told as she describes the dog-eat-dog culture of competitive neuroscience research in the suppressive and male dominated pharmacological, governmental, political realms. Only rarely in history does discovery, high intellect, and raw courage meld in one human being. And when it does, a revolution is born.
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am 4. November 1999
This book presents an innovative scientist through her own eyes, and (like the twisted duke's explanations in Browning's poem "My Last Duchess") her self-justifying words of explanation reveal much more of her own dark side than she could ever have intended.
All times since Copernicus (at least) have been tumultuous eras of discovery in one area of research or another, and scientists are indeed humans like the rest of us. However, that doesn't justify the personal attacks Pert includes in her book any more than it justifies the personal animosities and self-serving strategems of other scientists whose less-than-attractive personalities seem to have been the price of their brilliance. Scientists can be brilliant without being brutal--the gentle examples of Agnes Pockels, Lord Rayleigh and Charles Darwin come to mind--and that is much to be preferred, even while one is on the cutting edge of neurochemical research. Brilliance is no excuse for underhanded dealing and unprofessional writing.
I would have preferred to read about Pert's discoveries in a book that presented her personal battles more objectively than she seems able to do, or even omitted them entirely.
There are good sociological insights to be found in this book--into the obsessive, cutthroat pursuit of scientific credit fostered at certain research universities and the apparent fact that feminist scientists can be as petty and despicable as anyone else, for example--but they aren't necessarily the insights the author had in mind, and they distract from the presentation of her work.
Methinks the lady doth protest too much.
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am 15. April 2000
I have loaned Dr. Pert's book and the cassette version to so many friends that this review is from memory. This is a significant book about the human experience, the chemistry of our emotions and the "chemistry" of politics. If you plan on doing important research in any field, read this book. "The ivory tower" of scientific discovery is a political institution whether at the National Institute of Health or your local university. This is a brave and very personal account of the many challenges facing women who enter the exciting and demanding world of research at the cutting edge of knowledge. This book is much more than a detective story about the discovery of endorphin and its receptors in the brain and elsewhere. It is also about the arena where laboratories fiercely compete for the next breakthrough and the eventual money that goes with it. Read the entire book and you will see why she feels the way she does about the politics and personalities of discovery. You will also learn why you feel the way do because of the neurotransmitters that circulate in your body. Yes, she got a little spiritual near the end of the book. As a biologist I know just how difficult that transition can be. I have never met Dr. Pert. Just in case you read this review, Candice, I wrote this little poem in the back of my copy of your book: The soul is cellular, it lives in every cell. It is who we are, our story to tell. It floods our tissue beyond the brain. It is our happines; it is our pain. This sacred fluid, beneath the skin; A raging river with levees thin. It made the jump from an ancient sea, But can it leap into eternity?
From the soon to be published, "In and Out of Time ,Poems and Art for the Moment" by Tom Herren and artist Melanie Gottlieb.
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am 14. Mai 1999
True believers seem to enjoy this book, so I suppose it tells them what they want to hear. When I first looked for "Molecules of Emotion" in the public library, its one copy had some 57 holds placed on it. But now that I've read it, I think a better title might be "Mein Kampf: Why I Feel the Way I Feel". The reader has to wade through lots of mudslinging to get to the science.
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am 29. Februar 2000
If Dr. Perts report that her crucial insight and research were stolen by her unscrupulous superiors is correct (and from my research, I have every reason to believe that it is), then she has this alpha males undying admiration.
Dr. Pert is a victim, and has the right to protest her mistreatment in any manner she deems necessary to soothe her wounds.
She is hated and called a "whiner", not because she is a thief or a liar, but because she dares protest her treatment at the hands of thieves and liars.
They hate her because, as the legendary journalist H.L. Mencken observed:
" One is always most bitter, not toward the author of one's wrongs, but toward the victim of one's wrongs. "
The unscrupulous individuals that were identified by name in the book have every right to sue for defamation in a court of law, if she is in fact, lying.
The fact that they have not done so only testifies to the truth of her account.
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am 3. Juni 2000
I am thrilled to see someone of Dr. Pert's background proving medically when energy healers have known for so long.
After reading about Dr. Pert's work and others like Dr. Bessel van der Kolk about how trauma is stored in the body/mind I began to realize why talk therapy wasn't producing very good results. I needed to find a way to release the trauma from the body/mind and energy healing was the key. Energy healing has been more effective than anything I have done. I am grateful to Dr. Pert and her studies and have now looked into energy healing because of her work and it is the most powerful healing that I have ever done in all the past 10 years. Reiki, Thought Field Therapy and SHEN are wonderful healers and ways to release the trauma from the body/mind. Even massage and other types of body work have been remarkable at releasing the stored trauma. Thanks Dr. Pert.
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