on July 31, 2005
I purchased the book expecting to read about peptides, receptors, structure activity relationships, and the relationship between "molecules" and "emotions". Instead, I got an interesting book about being a woman scientist in a male dominated field, and the inside political struggles of being a grad student, post doc, etc. I read about choosing publication dates, the struggle for the Lasker prize, etc. Having "been there, done that", I can attest that Dr Pert is right about everything she says. Her story is very well written, engaging, and even entertaining.
But I didn't want to read about the POLITICS and SOCIOLOGY of studying the molecules of emotion. I wanted a review of the area, giving pertainent molecular, chemical, biochemical and psychological information. Of course, such a tome might not sell as well to the general public, but I'm not convinced that the general public will be all that interested in the power struggles that go on in academia and the palace.
I would line up for a second book by Dr Pert - one that reviews the area in the fashion described.
However, that doesn't mean the current book isn't without merit. I will probably recommend this book to beginning graduate students, along with other classics such as Brook's "The Mythical Man Month". I have seldom seen such a clearly defined expositon of the cut-throat nature of academia and big science as this book. I wonder how many grad students will be dismayed by the revelation that science is 10% inspiration, 50% persperation, and 40% politics.
on August 12, 2002
Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert Ph.D. reads like a high tech medical thriller. The fact that it's autobiographical non-fiction never detracts and it proves an intriguing and surprisingly entertaining read. An often controversial and brilliant research scientist, Candace Pert has been on the cutting edge since the early 1970's, particularly in biomolecular medicine. She has contributed enormously to the paradigm shift in scienctific research that lead to proof of the mind-body connection in the laboratory. Her book takes the reader along on her often rocky journey in a burgeoning field and reveals the inside politics of the "old boy" club modern science has yet to outgrow today. Pert makes complicated science seem easy to understand and dishes it up in palatable bites. The plot alternates between a front row seat at one of her popular lectures and the wider view of her life as a scientist. From Ph.D. candidate at Johns Hopkins, controversial NIH insider to extensive lecturer, she shows the dark side of her professional journey as well as the gratifying career-making highs. She touches on her roles as a wife, mother of three and decidedly feminine woman in an alpha male field. What many will find truely thrilling about this book is the revolutionary science behind mind-body medicine and the promise of a brighter future for all humanity as the science is put into practice. A "must read" for nearly everyone. Of particular interest to women embarking on a career in the sciences or mind-body medicine advocates.
on August 23, 2000
When I was first recommended this book, the title made me very uncomfortable - too New Age for me. I thought it would be another book that would claim to find the bridge between mind and body, to point some unscientific pseudofacts that we should all be aware of. However, after the third recommendation I bought the book and delved into it.
Dr Candace Pert is a neuroscientist and she speaks biology, which is a recognised territory for me, since my wife is a scientist as well.
At the beginning of her book (which is, more than anything, a novel, a very good novel and very well written) Candace unfolds her scientific history and experience, mainly from a biological point of view but also from an autobiographical one. I was excited to enter her lab, when she invited me in, with her enthusiastic approach towards science and with professional knowledge phrased in words I could understand. Very gradually, she draws you into the basics of information-substances, which create the core of information flow in our bodies, communicating with the outside world and the inner one. With regard to facts - the book is full of them. If you are looking for scientific approval of complementary medicine, of hypnotherapy or any mind-body approach, you will surely find references for it there.
It is so heart-warming to find a western scientist who not only acknowledges the unity of mind-body (the body is the unconscious mind, she says), but also further serves the public in the endeavour to shift the old paradigm of separation and move towards a new, integrated one.
Candace's future flows right into her past (since information and metaphors are boundless in terms of space and time), creating a shift in her language. She stands on the edge of a new paradigm, explores her own boundaries, with beauty, love, excitement and humble humanity. Personally, I found a lot of the knowledge in the first part of the book irrelevant - when a paradigm changes, it needs a new language, new metaphor, but I acknowledge that we are on the threshold of an exciting shift. Hence, the old language is gradually twisting itself, until barely recognised, before finally moving forward to the new one. Speaking more languages is always better, having more choices is what we aim for - as humans, and as therapists.
She takes the reader in a shamanic journey of self-exploration, through the realms of her private life, through the realms of science, as she shapes it with her knowledge. I found myself joining her journey, holding her hand and showing compassion in her difficult moments, happy in her growth, always from within. You really ought to read this book.
on August 16, 1999
Dr. Perts book is worth reading by any one interested in understanding the interrelationship between our body, mind, emotions and health. Much better than the many dogmatic eastern books so lacking in western-scientific thought, Dr. Pert makes the science easily understandable by laypersons. Those who criticize her "whining" against her former mentors obviously didn't finish the book, or they would have seen her own admission for her need to release the unhealthy emotions she harbored for being slighted by her male colleagues who took the credit for her valuable discovery. It's seems her detractors are the ones who are whining too much! Thought her writing is perhaps shaky at first (she lacks the eloquence of say, E.O. Wilson), she finds her stride midway through, presenting an intriguing account of the science behind the vital two-way communication continuously going on within us. While her descent into religion and spirituality was disappointing (she should have stuck with emotions - which are enough to convey her point), the book still reflects a solid effort.
on September 23, 2005
Dr. Pert's credentials as a pioneer in this field is well documented. Her research has given credibility to what humans have known intuitively, that is, that the mind and the body are one. In this manuscript, Dr. Pert attempts to bring into a reader's grasp, a basic understanding of a very complex subject. She brings her theories and findings closer to us by using her own life experiences as examples of how, the way we process information, determines our molecular response. We are what we think. Some of the chapters addressing the science itself may have to be read twice as it is indeed a complex subject but she does a pretty good job at simplification. Towards the end of the book, some readers may feel that she may be reaching too far with her connections to alternative medicine and the New Age crowd but , from reading Dr. Pert's biography on previous occasions, reaching too far is what she does best. It is that drive and ability to see beyond the established rule that makes her a pioneer. I would certainly recommend this book.
on February 10, 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.
on March 17, 2005
Take a few doctors of medicine and philosophy, the worlds of academia and laboratory science, the heated race for a discovery with the potential for Nobel Prize status, weave them artfully together and lo, you've got a page-turner that reads like The DaVinci Code.
Though I was willing to slog through a dry scientific tome, this book manages to make the world of molecules, peptides and receptors accessible. The added tales of pettiness, rivalry and politics among scientists (author included) seeking to unravel microscopic mysteries gives the book a very human dimension.
The film What the Bleep Do We Know? led me to Molecules of Emotion. Ordinarily, I don't seek books based in traditional science but I was fascinated by Dr. Candace Pert, who appeared in the film, and her work with the mind-body connection.
Pert's book charts her personal and professional journey beginning in 1970 as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University. Her early work aided in the discovery of endorphins. Later, when she was passed over for a prestigious pre-Nobel prize, she challenged her mentor for the recognition she felt she deserved, an act of hubris with far-reaching results in her own, and many of her colleagues', professional lives. Pert is humbled and transformed by her experience.
Because the chemicals of emotions are intimately connected to vitality, Pert's work points to the importance of the mastery of emotions. Her contribution to science demonstrates what she calls "bodymind'" intelligence and the power we all have for health without costly drugs and high-tech medicine. Also of interest in understanding emotions and overcoming superficial and addictive relationships are Ramtha's books, That Elixir Called Love and Gandalf's Battle on the Bridge.
Perhaps a little short on hard science for some, Molecules of Emotion offers plenty to the student of life.
on April 27, 2006
A direct connection between your heart (emotion and feeling) and the rest of your body affects your state of health. According to Pert, "It is the emotions, I have come to see, that link mind and body." Dr. Pert is a research professor in the Department of Biophysics and Physiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine. The book reports on research findings and practical applications to body-mind medicine for health and happiness. Her research began when she was a medical graduate student at John Hopkins University in the early 1970s and carried on as she led a team of researchers with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1975 to 1987. During that tenure her team identified "molecules of emotion." Combinations of tiny bits of protein on the surface of cells form receptors, sensors that collect chemical information carried throughout your body by other molecules called ligands. Receptors and ligands are very particular about the company they keep; to bind together they must be perfectly matched. Some ligands are natural to the body, such as peptides, neurotransmitters, and hormones; some are natural but foreign to the body, such as viruses; and others are artificial chemicals. When a ligand binds with a receptor (in what Pert calls "sex on a molecular level") information is deposited onto and into the receptor in a biochemical exchange that has profound effects. If a receptor waiting for a natural body ligand is unoccupied, because emotional repression has reduced the supply of peptides, for instance, a matching virus can dock and illness results.
Her story of how she made these discoveries reads as much like a modern spy novel as it does a scientific report. She goes on to make lots of imaginative mystical leaps about what these discoveries mean for living a healthy fulfilling life.
on March 31, 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.
on April 3, 2006
After watching "What the Bleep Do We know?" I intended on reading a little from each of the authors presented in this movie. She was the first.
This book takes you through the personal journey of Dr. Pert and how her personal life and her profession affect each other. Some may find this as a put-off, but I see it necessary to take the reader into an understanding of how she got from A to B. It gives credibility to her position as one reads her story.
Dr. Pert opened my eyes to the politics of being a scientist in today's world. I felt her frustration of being a woman in her field among men.
This book opened my eyes to the possibilities of changing our current medical care and insurance support for such care based on her extensive knowledge of biology and pharmecuticals. Well, like a deflated balloon, she doesn't get full recognition or continued support for her AIDS breakthroughs in science, which implies a whole new form of medical healing from what we currently experience; where the cure isn't worse than the disease.
It's possible that her methods show a great potential for healing faster, easier and less costly - and that alone may be enough for financial supporters to shy away from her. There's no money in health, only in disease and it's constant, illusive, extended methods towards the idea of healing - while ignoring how energy plays a part of it all. Meanwhile, we all pay a hefty price with our lives, time, and money. As Fred Flinstone says, "How droll. Very droll."
Anyway, after reading her book, I found myself feeling confirmed in my conviction of using modern pharmecuticals as a LAST resort to healing, never first. I also found myself re-thinking the unconventional uses of energy.
Kudos to Dr. Pert.