The Molecules of Emotion




article in French

21 October 2013 / By Miriam Gablier

Magazine Inexploré | INREES


Translation of selected excerpts: (Version française en bas)

"This grand orchestration is mediated by the "molecules of information", 98% of whch are peptides (hormones, neurotransmitters). The peptides unite the organs and the systems of the body in a whole that reacts to internal and external changes” says Candace Pert.


Psychology influences biology or biology influences psychology? At the end of the 19th century, psychologist and philosopher William James, considered as the father of american psychology, elaborates a thesis according to which every corporal reaction produces a sensation that the brain perceives as a physical element. In this aspect, the emotions are produced by the body. Then, the physiologist Walter B. Cannon, whose findings on the the stress response and the homeostasis concept are primordial, supports the opposite, that the emotions are produced in the brain and that they induce body reactions.



Candace Pert thinks that they are both right. “It is a system of retroactive responses that work in both ways, she says. The emotions literally transform the spirit in matter and every time there is a production of a peptide, this creates soul.



Inversely, as explains Dr. Louis Teulières, our soul states influence our health. “When we are in a state of stress, we often have inflammations of all kinds: ulcer, eczema... Take care of your stress and you will see your inflammations heal. Hadn't Voltaire already told us? “I decided to be happy because it is good for my health”.


The article cites Candace Pert:


Excellent book:

The “Molecules of Emotion” by Candace Pert:

(Note: To reach the main elaboration of the subject it is possible to start reading at chapter 7)


Review of the book:



Extraits de l'article

Lundi 21 Octobre 2013 / Par Miriam Gablier

Magazine Inexploré | INREES


"Cette grande orchestration se fait alors grâce aux molécules dites « de l’information », qui sont à 98 % des peptides (hormones, neurotransmetteurs… etc). « Les peptides servent à réunir les organes et les systèmes du corps en un seul ensemble qui réagit aux changements internes et externes », nous dit Candace Pert.


Là où ça devient croustillant, c’est que ces fameuses molécules de l’information seraient exactement les molécules qui sont produites lorsque nous avons des émotions. « Les émotions créent toujours un courant spécifique de peptides dans le corps et influencent notre biologie »


La psychologie influence-t-elle la biologie ou bien est-ce la biologie qui influence la psychologie ? Nous ne sommes pas les premiers à nous poser la question. Dès la fin du 19ème siècle, le psychologue et philosophe William James, considéré comme le père de la psychologie américaine, élabore une thèse selon laquelle chaque réaction corporelle produit une sensation que le cerveau perçoit comme un élément psychique. En ce sens, les émotions sont produites par le corps. Par la suite, le physiologiste Walter B. Cannon, dont les découvertes sur les réponses au stress et le concept d’homéostasie sont primordiales, pense à l’inverse que les émotions sont produites dans le cerveau et qu’elles provoquent des réactions corporelles. 

Candace Pert, de son coté, pense que les deux ont raison. « C’est un système fait de réponses rétroactives qui marchent dans les deux sens, nous dit-elle. Les émotions transforment littéralement l’esprit en matière, et à chaque fois qu’il y a production de peptide cela crée de la psyché.


Inversement, comme nous l’explique le Dr Louis Teulières, nos états d’âme influencent notre santé. « Quand on est en état de stress, on a souvent des inflammations en tous genres : ulcère, eczéma… Soignez votre stress et vous verrez vos inflammations s’apaiser ». Voltaire ne nous avait-il pas dit : « j’ai décidé d'être heureux parce que c'est bon pour la santé » ?"



Molecules of Emotion : The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine

by Candace B.Pert

2010 - Published by Scribner


Excerpts from the book: Pert, Candace B. (2010-05-08). Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine Scribner. Kindle Edition.


Many of the following excerpts are available in the preview of the book at this Google Books Link



What is an emotion?


(p. 132) A theory of eight primary emotions according to R. Plutchik (Candice’s professor):

 sadness, disgust, anger, anticipation, joy, acceptance, fear, and surprise.


“Emotions, much like primary colors, could be mixed to get other, secondary emotions. For example, fear + surprise = alarm, joy + fear = guilt, etc.”


“Whether or not Plutchik’s classification is borne out by more research, the idea of certain emotions being mixed to produce other emotions is interesting, and suggests that when other factors such as intensity and duration of emotion are considered, there may easily be hundreds of subtle emotional states.”


(p.131) “When I use the term emotion, I am speaking in the broadest of terms, to include not only the familiar human experiences of anger, fear, and sadness, as well as joy, contentment, and courage, but also basic sensations such as pleasure and pain, as well as the “drive states ” studied by the experimental psychologists, such as hunger and thirst. In addition to measurable and observable emotions and states, I also refer to an assortment of other intangible, subjective experiences that are probably unique to humans, such as spiritual inspiration, awe, bliss, and other states of consciousness that we all have experienced but that have been, up until now, physiologically unexplained.”




What are emotion, mood and temperament?


“The experts also distinguish among emotion, mood, and temperament, with emotion being the most transient and clearly identifiable in terms of what causes it; with mood lasting for hours or days and being less easily traced; and with temperament being genetically based, so that we’re generally stuck with it (give or take certain modifications ) for a lifetime.”


“For example, Harvard psychology professor Jerome Kagan has proved that readily measurable traits like the tendency to be startled by novel stimuli can be shown most readily in those infants who go on to develop into shy children and adults.”





Where are emotions located and how are they transmitted?


Emotion location revisited: New data emerging to modify the concept of “the limbic system as the seat of the emotions”

(p. 134). "It was NIMH researcher Paul MacLean who popularized the concept of the limbic system as the seat of the emotions. The limbic system was one constituent of his triune brain theory, which held that there are three layers to the human brain, representing different stages of humanity’s evolution:

1. the brainstem (hindbrain), or reptilian brain, which is responsible for breathing , excretion, blood flow, body temperature, and other autonomic functions;

2. the limbic system, which encircles the top of the brainstem and is the seat of the emotions

3. and the cerebral cortex, in the forebrain, which is the seat of reason."



Emotion transmission: Chemical Information Transmission System and Information Substances

(p.139) "Miles concluded that the largest portion of information ricocheting around the brain is kept in order not by the synaptic connections of brain cells but by the specificity of the receptors— in other words, by the ability of the receptor to bind with only one kind of ligand.


In fact, the way in which peptides circulate through the body, finding their target receptors in regions far more distant than had ever previously been thought possible, made the brain communication system resemble the endocrine system, whose hormones can travel the length and breadth of our bodies. The brain is like a bag of hormones! Our view of the brain, and the metaphors we used to describe it, were permanently altered.


In 1984, at around the same time that Miles was teaching me the significance of the mismatch in the mapping studies, Francis Schmitt, an elder statesman of neuroscience from MIT who had originated the Neuroscience Research Program, introduced the terminology of “information substances” to describe a variety of transmitters, peptides, hormones, factors, and protein ligands. Alongside the conventional model of synaptic neuronal circuitry, Schmitt proposed a parasynaptic, or secondary, parallel system, where chemical information substances travel the extracellular fluids circulating throughout the body to reach their specific target-cell receptors. His idea was readily accepted, as was his vivid terminology."


Emotions are located in a psychosomatic network

(p. 141) "Because of the research I’ve been describing, we can no longer consider the emotional brain to be confined to the classical locations of the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. For example, we have discovered other anatomical locations where high concentrations of almost every neuropeptide receptor exist, locations such as the dorsal horn, or back side of the spinal cord, which is the first synapse within the nervous system where all somatosensory information is processed. (The term somatosensory refers to any bodily sensations or feelings, whether it is the touch of another’s hand on our skin or sensations arising from the movement of our own organs as they carry on our bodily processes.) Not just opiate receptors but almost every peptide receptor we looked for could be found in this spinal-cord site that filters all incoming bodily sensations. In fact, we have found that in virtually all locations where information from any of the five senses— sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch— enters the nervous system, we will find a high concentration of neuropeptide receptors. We have termed these regions “nodal points” (or, colloquially, “hot spots”) to emphasize that they are places where a great deal of information converges."


What does emotion storage in the psychosomatic network mean? Insights from memory storage mechanisms

(p.143) "Using neuropeptides as the cue, our bodymind retrieves or represses emotions and behaviors. Dr. Eric Kandell and his associates at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons have proved that biochemical change wrought at the receptor level is the molecular basis of memory. When a receptor is flooded with a ligand, it changes the cell membrane in such a way that the probability of an electrical impulse traveling across the membrane where the receptor resides is facilitated or inhibited, thereafter affecting the choice of neuronal circuitry that will be used. These recent discoveries are important for appreciating how memories are stored not only in the brain, but in a psychosomatic network extending into the body, particularly in the ubiquitous receptors between nerves and bundles of cell bodies called ganglia , which are distributed not just in and near the spinal cord, but all the way out along pathways to internal organs and the very surface of our skin. The decision about what becomes a thought rising to consciousness and what remains an undigested thought pattern buried at a deeper level in the body is mediated by the receptors."



An example of an emotion:  Examining the drive-state or emotion of thirst

(Experimental psychologists describe thirst as a "drive-state")


(p.145) "Is there one kind of peptide that is specific to each emotion? Perhaps. I believe so, but we have a way to go to work this out. In the case of angiotensin, a classical hormone that is also a peptide, we have a good, simple example of the relationship between a neuropeptide and a mood state, and how that mood state can coordinate and integrate what happens in the body with what happens in the brain. It has long been known that angiotensin mediates thirst, so if one implants a tube in the area of a rat’s brain that is rich with angiotensin receptors and drops a little angiotensin down the tube, within ten seconds the rat will start to drink water, even if it is totally sated with water . Chemically speaking, angiotensin translates as an altered state of consciousness, a mood state that makes humans and animals say, “I want a glass (or a trough ) of water.” In other words, neuropeptides bring us to states of consciousness and to alterations in those states. Similarly, angiotensin applied to its receptors in the lung or kidney will also cause bodily changes, all of them aimed at conserving water. For example, there will be less water vapor in each breath exhaled from the lung and less water in urine excreted by the kidneys. All systems are working together toward one goal— more water— which has been dictated by an emotion (or what the experimental psychologist would call a “drive state”)— that of thirst. Does the sum of the peptide secretions in our brains and bodies— our emotional state— bias our memory and behavior so we automatically get what we expect? Now, that is an interesting question that I will consider next.”



Links to Alternative and Complementary Medicine


(p.245) Though many of these modalities had a basis in Eastern philosophy and other non-Western traditions, which as a Western-trained scientist I would not ordinarily have known anything about, I had in fact had a limited exposure to Eastern ideas that dated back to the mid-eighties during my NIH lab days. (…)

Because of the growing public awareness of my research on endorphins and other neuropeptides, people from all kinds of unexpected backgrounds had sought me out at the time. A bearded yogi dressed in white and wearing a turban showed up at my office one day to ask me if endorphins were concentrated along the spine in a way that corresponded to the Hindu chakras. The chakras, he explained, were centers of “subtle energy” that governed basic physical and metaphysical functions from sexuality to higher consciousness. I had no idea what he was talking about, but , trying to be helpful, I pulled out a diagram that depicted how there were two chains of nerve bundles located on either side of the spinal cord, each rich with many of the information-carrying peptides. He placed his own chakra map over my drawing and together we saw how the two systems overlapped. It was the first time I seriously considered that there might be a connection between my work and the Eastern viewpoint. Before he left, the yogi taught me some simple exercises for focusing attention at each of the chakra levels, which I experimented with and found highly enjoyable for the energizing effects they produced.





Subconscious and Conscious Control of the Immune System 

Excerpt from the book by Pert, Candace B. (2010-05-08). Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (p. 191-2). Scribner. Kindle Edition.


If the immune system can be altered by conscious intervention, what does this mean for the treatment of major diseases such as cancer?



It’s a fact that every one of us has a number of tiny cancerous tumors growing in our bodies at every moment. The part of the immune system that is responsible for the destruction of these errant cells consists of natural killer cells whose job it is to attack these tumors, destroy them, and rid the body of any cancerous growth. In most of us, most of the time, these cells do their job well— a job coordinated by various brain and body peptides and their receptors— and these tiny tumors never grow large enough to cause us to become ill . But what happens if the flow of peptides is disrupted? Is it possible we could learn to consciously intervene to make sure our natural killer cells keep doing their job? Could being in touch with our emotions facilitate the flow of the peptides that direct these killer cells at any given moment? Is emotional health important to physical health? And, if so, what is emotional health? These are the sort of questions we have to start addressing if we take the links between body and mind seriously.



Excerpts from the book by Pert, Candace B. (2010-05-08). Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (p. 190). Scribner. Kindle Edition.




The immune system is trainable


The immune system is conditionable at the subconscious level

"In the 1920s and 1930s, pioneering Russian scientists showed that classical Pavlovian conditioning could both suppress and enhance the immune response. Working with guinea pigs and rabbits, for example, they paired cues such as a trumpet blast with injections of bacteria to stimulate the immune system. After repeated trials, the animals “learned” to activate their immune systems without the stimulus of the bacteria injections whenever they heard the sound of the horn."


"In Ader* and Cohen’s studies, rats were given an immune-suppressing drug flavored with sweet-tasting saccharin. Eventually, they became so conditioned to the effects of this drug that the saccharin taste alone, divorced from the drug, caused a suppression of their immune system— another demonstration of mental cues altering physiology."


*Psychologist Robert Ader of the University of Rochester School of Medicine (who was later to coin the term psychoneuroimmunology)"


The immune system can be consciously controlled

"In the pivotal experiments Howard Hall conducted at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, he instructed his human subjects in cyberphysiologic strategies. The word cyber derives from the Greek “kybernetes,” meaning “that which steers” or “the helmsman,” and in this context refers specifically to self-regulatory practices such as relaxation and guided imagery, self-hypnosis, biofeedback training, and autogenic training. Using several control groups, Hall showed that those with cyberphysiologic preparation could use these techniques to consciously increase the stickiness of their white blood cells , as measured by saliva and blood tests."




Conscious Respiratory Control of Pain


Reading notes from the book by Pert, Candace B. (2010-05-08). Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (p. 186). Scribner. Kindle Edition.


Pain researchers say that a brain region termed periaqueductal gray is filled with opiate receptors, making it a control area for pain.


Some yogis by doing breathing exercises can modify their pain thresholds. This is also true for Lamaze breathing classes for labor pain.


C. Pert says that there is a wealth of data showing how changes in the rate and depth of breathing induce changes in the quantity and kind of peptides that are released from the brain stem.


By modulating your breathing, either breathing very fast or holding your breath you cause neuropeptides or informational peptides to diffuse quickly through the cerebrospinal fluid in an attempt to restore the homeostasis (stable state) of the body.


Many of these peptides are endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, and other pain-relieving substances and therefore you can mediate pain relief.