Molecules of Emotion (Why You Feel the Way You Feel)

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9780671033972: Molecules of Emotion (Why You Feel the Way You Feel)

Why do we feel the way we feel? How do our thoughts and emotions affect our health? Are our bodies and minds distinct from each other or do they function together as parts of an interconnected system? In her groundbreaking book "Molecules of Emotion, " Candace Pert -- a neuroscientist whose extraordinary career began with her 1972 discovery of the opiate receptor -- provides startling and decisive answers to these and other challenging questions that scientists and philosophers have pondered for centuries.

Her pioneering research on how the chemicals inside our bodies form a dynamic information network, linking mind and body, is not only provocative, it is revolutionary. By establishing the biomolecular basis for our emotions and explaining these new scientific developments in a clear and accessible way, Pert empowers us to understand ourselves, our feelings, and the connection between our minds and our bodies -- or bodyminds -- in ways we could never have imagined before. From explaining how there is a scientific basis to popular wisdom about phenomena such as 'gut feelings, ' to making recent breakthroughs in cancer and AIDS research comprehensible, Pert provides us with an intellectual adventure of the highest order.

The journey Pert takes us on in "Molecules of Emotion" is one of personal as well as scientific discovery. Woven into her lucid explanations of the science underlying her work is the remarkable story of how, faced with personal and professional obstacles, she has grown as a woman and a mother and how her personal and spiritual development has made possible her remarkable scientific career. "Molecules of Emotion" is a landmark work, full of insight and wisdom andpossessing that rare power to change the way we see the world and ourselves. Pert's striking conclusion that it is our emotions and their biological components that establish the crucial link between mind and body does not, however, serve to repudiate modern medicine's gains; rather, her findings complement existing techniques by offering a new scientific understanding of the power of our minds and our feelings to affect our health and well-being.

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About the Author:

Candace B Pert, PH.D., is Research Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington DC where she also conducts AIDS research.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

THE RECEPTOR REVOLUTION: AN INTRODUCTORY LECTURE

Scientists, by nature, are not creatures who commonly seek out or enjoy the public spotlight. Our training predisposes us to avoid any kind of overt behavior that might encourage two-way communication with the masses. Instead, we are content to pursue our truth in windowless laboratories, accountable only to members of our highly exclusive club. And although presenting papers at professional meetings is encouraged, in fact required, it's rare to find one of us holding sway to standing-room-only crowds, laughing, telling jokes, and giving away trade secrets.

Even though I am a long-standing club member and bona fide insider myself, I cannot say that it has been my trademark to follow the rules. Acting as if programmed by some errant gene, I do what most scientists abhor: I seek to inform, to educate, and inspire all manner of people, from lay to professional. I try to make available and interpret the latest and most up-to-date knowledge that I and my fellow scientists are discovering, information that is practical, that can change people's lives. In the process, I virtually cross over into another dimension, where the leading edge of biomolecular medicine becomes accessible to anyone who wants to hear about it.

This mission places me in the public spotlight quite often. A dozen times a year, I am invited to address groups at various institutions, and so, when not engaged in my work at Georgetown University School of Medicine, where I am a research professor in the Department of Biophysics and Physiology, I go shuttling from coast to coast, sometimes even crossing the great blue waters. It was never my plan to become a scientific performer, to act as a mouthpiece for educating the public as well as practitioners in the alternative health movement, so wed was I for most of my career to the mainstream world of the lab and my research. But it's been a natural evolution, and I am now at home in my new role. The result of translating my scientific ideas into the vernacular seems to have been that my life in science and my personal life have transformed each other, so that I have become expanded and enriched in myriad unexpected ways by the discoveries I've made, the science I've done, and the meaning I continue to uncover.

Writing this book was an attempt to put down on paper, in a much more detailed and usable form, the material I've been presenting in lectures. My goal in writing, as in speaking, was twofold: to explain the science underlying the new bodymind medicine, and to give enough practical information about the implications of that science, and about the therapies and practitioners embodying it, to enable my readers to make the best possible choices about their personal health and well-being. Perhaps my journey, intellectual as well as spiritual, can help other people on their paths. And now -- on with the "lecture"!

ARRIVAL

Whenever possible I try to arrive at the lecture hall early, before the members of the audience take their seats. I get a thrill out of sitting in the empty room, when all is quiet and there exists a state of pure potentiality in which anything can happen. The sound of the doors swinging open, the muffled voices of the crowd as they file slowly into the room, the clinking of water glasses and screeching of chairs -- all of this creates a delightful cacophony, music to my ears, the overture for what is to come.

I watch the people as they move toward their seats, finding their places, chatting with a neighbor, and getting comfortable, preparing themselves to be informed, hopefully entertained, unaware that my goal is to do more: to reveal, to inspire, to uplift, perhaps even to change lives.

"Who's this Candace Pert?" I may ask, retaining my anonymity as I playfully engage the person now seated next to me. "Is she supposed to be any good?" The response is sometimes informative and always amusing, allowing me a brief entry into the thoughts and expectations of those I am about to address, I nod knowingly in response and pretend to arrange myself more comfortably, more attentively.

I often find myself addressing very mixed audiences. Depending on the nature of my host's organization, the crowd is either weighted toward mainstream professionals -- doctors, nurses, and scientific researchers -- or toward alternative practitioners -- chiropractors, energy healers, massage therapists, and other curious participants -- but frequently includes members from both camps in a blend that can best be described as the Establishment meets the New Paradigm. This sort of composition is very different from the more homogeneous audiences present at the hundreds of talks I've given over the past twenty-four years to my fellow scientists, colleagues, and peers. For them, I deliver my more technical remarks in the language of the club, not needing to translate the code we all understand. I still address such groups, making the yearly round of scientific meetings, but now I also venture into a foreign land, where few of my fellow scientists dare -- or wish -- to go.

Breathing deeply for a moment or two, I relax into my seat and close my eyes. My mind clears as I offer a brief prayer to enter a more receptive state. Calling on an intuitive sense of my audience's expectations and mood, I can feel the wall coming down, the imaginary wall that separates us, scientist from lay person; the expert, the authority, from those who do not know -- a wall I personally stopped believing in some time ago.

THE AUDIENCE

As the room fills, I can feel the excitement building. When I open my eyes and glance around at one of these mixed crowds, I notice first that, in marked contrast to the more scientific gatherings, there are usually large numbers of women present. It still surprises me to see so many of them, dressed beautifully in their flowing California-style robes of many colors. I am always stunned by the many shades of purple in their dress, more shades than I ever knew existed! Then, looking beyond the surface, I try to assess the various components of my audience and what might have motivated them to come today.

My attention goes first to the doctors and other medical professionals, whose contingent is almost always dominated by males. The men sit erect in their well-tailored dark suits and crisp white shirts, while nearby their female counterparts look officiously around, checking the room for the faces of their colleagues.

Scattered more sparsely throughout the room are the neophytes, earnest young men and women with packs on their backs and dreams in their eyes. Their posture is perky and eager, revealing their sincerity and also their uncertainty about what they want or where they are going.

As the room settles and voices are hushed to a low din, I wonder: What do all these people expect me to tell them? What do they want to know, what are they hoping for?

Some are here because they saw me on Bill Moyers's PBS special Healing and the Mind, a program that also included segments with Dean Ornish, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Naomi Remen, and a number of the other doctors, scientists, and therapists who are trying to make the same mind-body connections that have become my life's work. Being interviewed by such a well-informed, receptive journalist made it possible for me to speak of the molecules of mind and emotion with a passion and humor not ordinarily associated with medical research scientists. I tried to make it easy for a television audience to understand the exciting world of biomedicine, molecular theory, and psychoneuroimmunology, revealing information usually shrouded by an impenetrable language, letting them know that they have a stake in understanding this body of knowledge, because it could give them the power to make a difference in the state of their own health.

The physicians, nurses, health care professionals -- what brings them out? Have they touched on some new situation that their current knowledge cannot explain? Many of them know me as a former chief of brain biochemistry who toiled at the National Institutes of Health for thirteen years, demonstrating and mapping biochemicals I later came to call the physiological correlates of emotion. Some may know that I left the National Institutes of Health when I developed a powerful new drug for the treatment of AIDS and couldn't get the government interested. All of them seem to be aware that science marches on, and that much of what they were taught in medical school twenty years ago, even ten years ago, is no longer current, even applicable. They know that my work is in a breaking field -- no less a chronicler of contemporary culture than Tom Wolfe himself has pronounced neuroscience the "hottest field in the academic world" in a recent issue of Forbes -- and that it's just now finding its way into medical schools around the world.

Then there are the many massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors -- the so-called alternative medicine practitioners who offer their patients approaches that are not part of the mainstream. I'm aware that these people have been marginalized for years, rarely taken seriously by the powers that be -- the medical schools, insurance companies, the American Medical Association, the Food and Drug Administration -- although it is well documented that the public spends billions yearly on their services. Later, in the Q&A sessions that follow the talks, they tell me they believe I have done the research that will lead to the validation of their theories, their beliefs. They have read about my theory of emotions, about how I have postulated a biochemical link between the mind and body, a new concept of the human organism as a communication network that redefines health and disease, empowering individuals with new responsibility, more control in their lives.

The philosophers, the seekers, they're here too. Some are very silent -- listeners, not talkers -- these pale, earnest young men and women who tell me after the lecture that they've been traveling in India or living in Asia. They see my work as proof of what their gur...

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