Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel

Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel

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by Candace B. Pert, Pert

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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 …  See more details below


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 and possessing 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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Editorial Reviews

Paul Trachtman
. . .Pert offers a clear and often riveting account of her research. . .She also [offers] a rare glimpse of the ruthless competition for prizes and money that sometimes obscures the pursuit of truth. . .There are enough new facts. . .to astonish. . .many readers. . . .Much of what Pert has to say is solidly grounded in new research, but she's on shakier ground in her occasional embrace of pop psychology and mysticism.
Kirkus Reviews
Pert, a self-described 'catalyst in the mindbodyspirit revolution in modern medical science,' and once a chief of brain chemistry at the NIH, freely intermingles vibrant stories of her professional and personal life with her theories about neuropeptides. Currently a research professor at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, Pert may be best known as one of the scientists on Bill Moyers' PBS series 'Healing and the Mind.' In the early '70s, she made a name for herself with her key role in discovering the brain's opiate receptors. For the next decade, however, owing to her protests over her exclusion from the prestigious Lasker Award, her reputation among scientists was more that of feminist troublemaker than pathfinder. Certainly the picture she draws here of the science establishment would seem to suggest a world of aggressive, even ruthless, alpha males fighting for the top prize. She also traces her own evolution from competitive bench scientist to explorer of personal healing modalities. The death of her father, the end of her marriage, her resignation from the NIH, her embracing of the Christian faith, and her discovery of the healing power of dreams—all were, she says, life-shaping events.

Pert also explains her theory that neuropeptides and their receptors are the biochemicals of emotions, carrying information in a vast network linking the material world of molecules with the non-material world of the psyche. Her views on mind-body cellular communication mesh well with the concepts of energy held by many alternative therapies, and she is now, not surprisingly, a popular lecturer on the wellness circuit. Her final chapter describes an eight-part program for a healthylifestyle, and she has appended an extensive list of alternative medicine resources. Strong scientific support for the mind-body school of medicine, sure to rankle those alpha males back in the labs.

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Product Details

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Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 2, Romance of the Opiate Receptor

Looking back over twenty-five years, it seems that destiny played an important role in the unfolding of events that led to the discovery of the elusive opiate receptor. Although it was my fierce belief and passionate devotion that drove me in the final stages, I had only my curiosity and a series of seemingly serendipitous occurrences to put me on the track of proving that there did indeed exist within the brain a chemical mechanism that enabled drugs to act.

My first encounter with the opiate receptor was in the summer of 1970, after I'd graduated with a degree in biology from Bryn Mawr College and before I entered medical graduate school at Johns Hopkins University in the fall. That encounter was personal, not professional. In June I had accompanied my husband and small son to San Antonio, Texas, where we were to live for eight weeks while Agu completed his required medical corps basic training for the army. Agu had completed his Ph.D. in psychology at Bryn Mawr, and now it was time to fulfill his deferred military obligation. I was looking forward to a summer off; maybe even a vacation, after four years of grueling, married-with-child college life. I also intended to bone up on some basics before entering the doctoral program in the fall, so I brought with me a copy of Principles of Drug Action by Avram Goldstein. Since the program I was entering at Hopkins would focus on neuropharmacology, the study of the action of drugs in the brain, I wanted to prepare myself and figured Goldstein's book was the best place to start.

But real-life experience preemted the academic learning and instead ofreading about the opiate receptor I got to experience its effects firsthand. A horseback-riding accident put me flat on my hack in a hospital bed, where, doped to the gills on Talwin, a morphine derivative was given to ease the pain of a compressed lumbar vertebra, I remained for most of the summer. My body immobilized by the injury and my attention span shanghaied by the drug, I was unable to concentrate enough to read the selected text or any other book, and instead spells my days lying around in a blissful altered state while my back healed.

Later, when I was off the drug and able to sit up, I read part of Goldstein's book, which included a thorough introduction to the concept of the opiate receptor. I remember marveling at how there were tiny molecules on my cells that allowed for that wonderful feeling I'd experienced every time the nurse had injected me with an intramuscular dose of morphine. There was no doubt that the drug's action in my body produced a distinctly euphoric effect, one that filled me with a bliss bordering on ecstasy, in addition to relieving all pain. The marvelous part was that the drug also seemed to completely obliterate any anxiety or emotional discomfort I had as a result of being confined to a hospital bed and separated from my husband and young child. Under its influence, I'd felt deeply nourished and satisfied, as if there weren't a thing in the world I wanted. In fact, I liked the drug so much that, as I was ending my stay at the hospital, I very briefly toyed with the idea of stealing some to take with me. I can see how people become addicts!

This intense overlap of physical and emotional experience, both originating from a single drug, fascinated me and sparked anew my interest in the connection between brain and behavior, mind and body — a connection that had originally come to my attention during my freshman year in college. On my own for the first time in my life, I had subsisted for an entire semester on a diet of peach pie, and thereby had thrown myself into both a thyroid blowout and a major depression. So it happened that I received my official introduction to the idea that something happening in the body could affect the emotions. Now, as I began graduate school, I was about to explore the connection scientifically, and begin the work to which I would eventually devote my life. And it all had to do with these strange little things called opiate receptors.

Copyright © 1997 by Candace B. Pert

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Meet the Author

Candace B. Pert, Ph.D.,is Research Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where she also conducts AIDS research. She was featured in Bill Moyers's book and PBS series Healing and the Mind, and lectures extensively throughout the country.

Deepak Chopra has gained worldwide acclaim as a teacher and writer in fields as diverse as mind-body medicine, Ayurveda, the nature of God, and the path to success. Time magazine called him one of the one hundred icons of the twentieth century, "the poet-prophet of alternative medicine." The author of more than thirty-five books and one hundred audio, video, and CD-ROM titles, Dr. Chopra has been published on every continent in dozens of languages. More than twenty million copies of his books have been sold worldwide. He is the founder of the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California.

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