HOW WE CHANGED SEROTONIN LEVELS NATURALLY
ALSO, ENHANCING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM THROUGH FEELING
My colleagues and I conducted a research project on our patients in Paris, in 1984 in England, in conjunction with Open University, Milton Keynes, and St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London. It was a double-blind study directed by Professor Steven Rose of Open University, with the cooperation of Professor Bernard Watson of St. Bartholomew's.¬† We measured imipramine binding to blood platelets. We examined the imipramine (a serotonin analogue) binding capacity of blood cells, which are formed from the same stem cells as neurons and whose imipramine binding capacity is therefore thought to reflect neuronal serotonin-binding capacity. Since blood cells and neurons are formed from the same stem cells, we assume that what is going on in the blood system matches what is going on in the brain, that is, imipramine as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor as well as a norepinephrine inhibitor, would have parallel functions in the blood system and the brain.¬† In terms of uptake inhibitors, the final result was more serotonin and epinephrine in the synapses of our research subjects, indicating better repression or inhibition.¬† Imipramine binding is lower in depressives.
Blood platelets biochemically resemble neurons, which include possession of transmitter uptake and binding sites. The levels increased with our therapy so that imipramine binding to platelets normalizes in our therapy. With this normalization the patient then had increased anti-pain and anti-anxiety capacity.¬† And indeed, they did feel better. But feeling better according the subjective ideas of the patient is never enough. It must be accompanied by commensurate physiologic indices.¬† Here are Professor Rose's (who is not part of the primal community) conclusions:
- Self-referring individuals entering psychotherapy show a level of maximal specific binding of 3H-imipramine binding to blood platelets about one-half that of a control group of self-defined normal subjects not in therapy.
- Six months after beginning a course in Primal Therapy, their average imipramine binding level had increased until it was indistinguishable from control levels, and this increase was maintained for a further six months.
- Eleven of twelve subjects showed some improvement in score on an arbitrary psychic assessment scale over this period, and there was a positive correlation between this improved assessment score and increased imipramine binding.
The research cited above is quite important because new patients with anxiety, OCD and ADD had low imipramine binding; while advanced patients showed normal levels with the resolution of their presenting symptoms. It means that even though early trauma depressed the levels of serotonin in the system, reliving tends to normalize them; reliving seems to reestablish set-points. Thus, reliving tends to give us back the wherewithal to put down pain and anxiety and make us feel comfortable again. This means an end to a cycle of taking tranquilizers every day, and sleeping pills every night in order to function. It can mean an end to addiction.
In an associated study at St. Bartholomew‚Äôs Hospital, London, (again double blind) we found that natural killer cells (which stay on the lookout for developing cancer cells and attack them) were enhanced after one year of Primal Therapy. (All of this is discussed in detail in my book, Primal Healing). Anxiety seems to suppress these cells, while normalization of the system makes them more effective.¬† A study by Locke examined how a group of individuals dealt with problems. The good "copers" had high levels of natural killer cells; the bad "copers" did not.
It seems logical that when we have a traumatic experience early in life there are widespread biologic changes.¬†¬† It is also logical that in reliving those traumas there should be normalizing changes in all those parameters.¬†