Do preventive interventions for children of mentally ill parents work?

The fifth and final paper of Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance week was a 2017 German/Italian meta-analysis of psychiatric treatments involving human children:

“The transgenerational transmission of mental disorders is one of the most significant causes of psychiatric morbidity. Several risk factors for children of parents with mental illness (COPMI) have been identified in numerous studies and meta-analyses.

There is a dearth of high quality studies that effectively reduce the high risk of COPMI for the development of mental disorders.”

I found the study by searching a medical database on the “transgenerational” term. The authors fell into the trap of misusing “transgenerational” instead of “intergenerational” to describe individuals in different generations.

Per the definitions in A review of epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of reproductive disease and Transgenerational effects of early environmental insults on aging and disease, for the term “transgenerational transmission” to apply, the researchers needed to provide evidence in at least the next 2 male and/or 3 female generations of:

“Altered epigenetic information between generations in the absence of continued environmental exposure.”

The meta-analysis didn’t provide evidence for “transgenerational transmission of mental disorders.”

Several aspects of the meta-analysis stood out:

  1. Infancy was the earliest period of included studies, and studies of treatments before the children were born were excluded;
  2. Parents had to be diagnosed with a mental illness for the study to be included;
  3. Studies with children diagnosed with a mental illness were excluded; and
  4. Studies comparing more than one type of intervention were excluded.

Fifty worldwide studies from 1983 through 2014 were selected for the meta-analysis.

Per item 1 above, if a researcher doesn’t look for something, it’s doubtful that they will find it. As shown in the preceding papers of Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance week, the preconception and prenatal periods are when the largest epigenetic effects on an individual are found. There are fewer opportunities for effective “preventive interventions” in later life compared with these early periods.

Science provides testable explanations and predictions. The overall goal of animal studies is to help humans.

Animal studies thus provide explanations and predictions for the consequences of environmental insults to the human fetus – predictable disrupted neurodevelopment with subsequent deviated behaviors and other lifelong damaging effects in the F1 children. The first four papers I curated during Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance week provided samples of which of these and/or other harmful effects may be predictably found in F2 grandchildren, F3 great-grandchildren, and future human generations.

When will human transgenerational epigenetic inheritance be taken seriously? Is the root problem that human societies don’t give humans in the fetal stage of life a constituency, or protection against mistreatment, or even protection against being arbitrarily killed?

The default answer to the meta-analysis title “Do preventive interventions for children of mentally ill parents work?” is No. As for the “dearth of high quality studies” complaint: when treatments aren’t effective, is the solution to do more of them? No.

The researchers provided an example of the widespread belief that current treatments for “psychiatric morbidity” are on the right path, and that the usual treatments – only done more rigorously – will eventually provide unquestionable evidence that they are effective.

This belief is already hundreds of years old. How much longer will this unevidenced belief survive? “Do preventive interventions for children of mentally ill parents work? Results of a systematic review and meta-analysis” (not freely available)


How one person’s paradigms regarding stress and epigenetics impedes relevant research

This 2017 review laid out the tired, old, restrictive guidelines by which current US research on the epigenetic effects of stress is funded. The reviewer rehashed paradigms circumscribed by his authoritative position in guiding funding, and called for more government funding to support and extend his reach.

The reviewer won’t change his beliefs regarding individual differences and allostatic load since he helped to start those memes. US researchers with study ideas to develop evidence beyond such memes may have difficulties finding funding.

Here’s one example of the reviewer’s restrictive views taken from the Conclusion section:

Adverse experiences and environments cause problems over the life course in which there is no such thing as “reversibility” (i.e., “rolling the clock back”) but rather a change in trajectory [10] in keeping with the original definition of epigenetics [132] as the emergence of characteristics not previously evident or even predictable from an earlier developmental stage. By the same token, we mean “redirection” instead of “reversibility”—in that changes in the social and physical environment on both a societal and a personal level can alter a negative trajectory in a more positive direction.”

What would happen if US researchers proposed tests of his “there is no such thing as reversibility” axiom? To secure funding, his sphere of influence would probably steer the prospective studies’ experiments toward altering “a negative trajectory in a more positive direction” instead. An example of his influence may be found in the press release of Familiar stress opens up an epigenetic window of neural plasticity where the lead researcher stated a goal of:

“..not to ‘roll back the clock’ but rather to change the trajectory of such brain plasticity toward more positive directions.”

I found nothing in citation [10] (of which the reviewer is a coauthor) where the rodent study researchers even attempted to directly reverse the epigenetic changes! The researchers under his guidance simply asserted:

“..a history of stress exposure can permanently alter gene expression patterns in the hippocampus and the behavioral response to a novel stressor”

without making any therapeutic efforts to test the permanence assumption! Never mind that researchers outside the reviewer’s sphere of influence have done exactly that. In any event, citation [10] didn’t support an “there is no such thing as reversibility” axiom.

The reviewer also implied that humans respond just like lab rats and can be treated as such. Notice that the above graphic conflated rodent and human behaviors. Further examples of this inappropriate merger of behaviors are in the Conclusion section.

What may be a more promising research approach to human treatments of the epigenetic effects of stress now that it’s 2017? I pointed out in The current paradigm of child abuse limits pre-childhood causal research:

“If the current paradigm encouraged research into treatment of causes, there would probably already be plenty of evidence to demonstrate that directly reducing the source of the damage would also reverse the damaging effects. There would have been enough studies done so that the generalized question of reversibility wouldn’t be asked.

Aren’t people interested in human treatments of originating causes so that their various symptoms don’t keep bubbling up? Why wouldn’t research paradigms be aligned accordingly?” “Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress”

What are we to believe?

This 2017 blog post from’s Justin Raimondo outlines the latest instance of exploiting beliefs:

“..neither the sources of this story nor those who are reporting it can be trusted..journalism is not a means of discovering knowledge, but a weapon to be deployed in a political-ideological conflict.”

Similar to the development of other beliefs, this current one discourages inquiries into “..information about the real us a highly distorted version of events.” It follows the blueprint of Using citations to develop beliefs instead of evidence in that once the faulty information becomes widely cited, refuting evidence is ignored, and the false belief is used for other purposes. “What Are We To Believe? Fake news plus phony “intelligence” equals disaster”

Using citations to develop beliefs instead of evidence

This 2009 Harvard study analyzed how citations were used as tools to establish a belief.

The researched data was gathered from 1992 to 2007 on a specific subject of Alzheimer’s research. The belief was that “β amyloid is produced by inclusion body myositis myofibres or is uniquely present in inclusion body myositis muscle.”

The author used social network analysis to determine:

“..four primary data papers, five model papers, and one review paper constituted the 10 most authoritative papers..that the claim was true.

The supportive papers received 94% of the 214 citations to these primary data, whereas the six papers containing data that weakened or refuted the claim received only 6% of these citations.

95% of all citation paths flow through four review papers by the same research group..Amplification of a claim is instead introduced into belief systems through the citing of review papers and other papers that lack data addressing the claim.”

Some of the benefits believers received included:

  1. It became easier to build models if a researcher believed “..animal and cell culture experiments are valid models of inclusion body myositis” although “The uncited data suggest that the animal and cell culture experiments are no more models of inclusion body myositis than any other neuromuscular disease in which muscle regeneration occurs.”
  2. Believers used exaggerations in their confirming research that diverted the original claim’s meaning. As an example, “..three supportive citations developed into 7848 supportive citation paths—chains of false claim in the network.”
  3. Citation biases and diversions could be used to support proposals for new funding.

Just imagine how compressed this phenomenon’s timeframe is now with our social networks! The tools available for creating memes and widespread nonfactual distortions are children’s play.

A few questions:

  • What do we believe in that isn’t thoroughly investigated, where we haven’t found the time or inclination to search for opposing results?
  • What causes us to believe these things?
  • What are the positive and negative consequences of our beliefs? “How citation distortions create unfounded authority: analysis of a citation network”

Hat tip to Jon in the comments section of Neuroskeptic’s blog post “The Ethics of Citation”

Hope sells

I used a browser yesterday that didn’t have ad blocker software installed. The below pictures came from one of the ads that displayed:



A young girl in a dance position and outfit juxtaposed with an appeal: “No situation is HELPLESS because there is HOPE.” How interesting!

I didn’t click through the ad yesterday to see what was being sold by engaging customers’ beliefs, within which lay hope. When I clicked the ad today, it asked for donations to “Sponsor a Child,” develop “the perfect recipe for sustainable success,” and, at the bottom of the page, “We love because Jesus loves.”

What do we know about this ad’s appeal from reading Dr. Arthur Janov’s May 2016 book Beyond Belief? Can hope change a helpless situation per the ad?

On one level – yes, in a believer’s brain, by blocking helpless feelings. Otherwise – no. Hope ultimately isn’t a remedy for the causes of what created helpless feelings.

I donated to a similar organization for a few years, but not anymore.

Beyond Belief: What we do instead of getting well

Continuing Dr. Arthur Janov’s May 2016 book Beyond Belief:

“p. 61 Heavy pains with no place to go just pressures the cortex into concocting an idea commensurate with the feeling..The feeling itself makes no sense since the original feeling has no scene with it nor verbal capacity; it was laid down in a preverbal time without context, sa[v]e for the feeling itself.

..we cling to those ideas as strongly as the feelings driving us are..Sometimes we argue with someone not realizing that we are battling a defense which is implacable. They don’t want to hear what we have to say. They want to protect their psyche.”

“p. 63 ..suffocation at birth is registered not as an idea, but as a physiologic fact. It becomes an idea when the brain evolves enough to produce ideas. Then it can produce, ‘There is no air in here.’

..A slightly stifling atmosphere in the present can set off this great pain and with it an exaggerated response. ‘I have to leave this woman because she stifles me.'”

“p. 64 It doesn’t matter about the facts we know if we cannot stop drinking or if we cannot maintain a relationship with someone else.”

“p. 68 My task is to examine why individuals adopt belief systems, whatever they are, and how certain feelings provoke specific kinds of belief demonstrate how feeling feelings can alter those beliefs without once addressing the beliefs at all. Deprogramming is not necessary. Probing need is. Resolving feelings seem to render belief systems inoperative.”

“p. 71 ..we are a nation and a world of seekers, a people who seek refuge in all manner of beliefs.”

“p. 75-76 Later in life, equipped with the cortical ability to substitute ideation for feeling, the traumatized baby can call upon a god to save him from his inner pain, even when he doesn’t know where the pain originated, or even that there is pain. He just calls upon a god to watch over him, to see that he gets justice, who won’t let him down, and above all, who will help him make it into life..”

“p. 106 Neurosis is the only malady on the face of this earth that feels good..numbs the feeling. Numb feels good – not ‘good’ in the absolute sense, just not ‘bad.’

So we settle..we get numbed out and feel no pain and in return, life is blah blah. The person then feels she is not getting anything out of life and seeks out salvation or a guru in one form or another.”

“..we are a nation and a world of seekers, a people who seek refuge in all manner of beliefs.” The patient’s story on pages 89-105 told of horrific damages inflicted by believers and the subsequent consequences. Variations of his story with its adverse childhood experiences could be told by tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone!

Why isn’t the internet flooded with stories of people facing their realities and doing something to effectively address the real causes of what’s wrong in their lives?

Said another way, why is the internet instead flooded with stories of people NOT facing their realities, and doing things to prolong their conditions and avoid getting well?

The many reasons why people do things that don’t truly get them well are covered in Beyond Belief and Dr. Janov’s other publications. One obstacle for people who want enduring therapeutic help is the intentional misrepresentation of Primal Therapy.

Every day I look at the results of an automated search that uses “primal therapy” as the search term. Along with the scams and irrelevancies are the “scream” results.

This misrepresentation is addressed in places such as here:

“Primal Therapy is not Primal ‘Scream’ Therapy. Primal Therapy is not just making people scream; it was never ‘screaming’ therapy. The Primal Scream was the name of the 1st book by Dr. Janov about Primal Therapy.”

People who perpetuate the “scream” meme are only a few seconds away from search results that would inform them and their readers of accurate representations of Primal Therapy. What purpose does it serve to misdirect their readers away from doing something to effectively address the real causes of what’s wrong in their lives?

Beyond Belief: The impact of merciless beatings on beliefs

Continuing with Dr. Arthur Janov’s May 2016 book Beyond Belief:

“p. 17 When someone insults us, we immediately create reasons and rationales for it. We cover the pain. Now imagine a whole early childhood of insults and assaults and how that leaves a legacy that must be dealt with.

..The mind of ideas and philosophies doesn’t know it is being used; doesn’t know it serves as a barricade against the danger of feeling..It is why no one can convince the person out of her ideas. They serve a key purpose and should not be tampered with..We are tampering with a survival function.”

“p. 19 It seems like a miracle that something as intangible and invisible as an idea has the power to transform our biologic system. It makes us see what doesn’t exist and sometimes not see what does. What greater power exists than that? To be fooled is not only to convince someone to believe the false, but also to convince others to not believe the truth.

The unloved child who cannot bear the terrible feelings of hopelessness shuts down his own feeling centers and grows insensitive, not only to his pain, but to that of others..So he commits the same error on his child that was visited upon him, and he does so because of the way he was unloved early on. He cannot see his own hopelessness or that of his child.”

“p. 56 ..all defensive beliefs must have a kernel of hope inside of is the embedded hopelessness that gives rise to its opposite – hope – and its accompanying biochemistry of inhibition or gating. To be even more precise, it is the advent of pain surrounding hopelessness that produces the belief entwined with hope..

All defensive belief serves the same function – repression, absorbing the energy of pain.”

“p. 57 An unloved child is a potential future believer.”

“p. 58 one has the answer to life’s questions but you. How you should lead your life depends on you, not outside counsel.

..we do not direct patients, nor dispense wisdom upon them. We have only to put them in touch with themselves; the rest is up to them.

Everything the patient has to learn already resides inside. The patient can make herself conscious. No one else can.”

“p. 29 The personal experience stories throughout the book are written by my patients and, with the exception of a few grammatical corrections, they are presented here exactly as they were given to me.”

All of the Primal Therapy patients’ stories thus far started with horrendous childhoods that resulted in correspondingly strong beliefs.

I came across a public figure example today in 10 Defining Moments In The Childhood Of Martin Luther King Jr. The author included two items germane to an understanding of how beliefs may develop from adverse childhood experiences:

  • 8. King Sr. “..would beat Martin and his brother, Alfred, senseless for any infraction, usually with a belt.”
  • 6. “By the time King was 13, he’d tried to kill himself twice.”

Every reference I found tied King Jr.’s suicide attempts to his grandmother’s death, and not to King Sr.’s beatings or other preteen experiences.

Granted that it’s only the patient who can put together what happened in their lives so that it’s therapeutic. Beyond Belief and Dr. Janov’s other publications outline the framework.