Current scientific research confirms that prenatal life and early childhood are two decisive phases in the evolution of human beings. Both our physical and psychological health, as in eating habits, self-esteem, intelligence quotient and building relationships with others, are rooted in our life in the womb.
It is during the first years of life – including the prenatal period – that the brain’s architecture and its functional abilities are setup. Neither the fetus, nor the baby can decide for themselves. Parental influence as well as environmental influences are determinant factors in this “primary” development.
Traditions often mention that “the children of couples in love are beautiful and intelligent.” If a couple’s life is harmonious during pregnancy, it allows for the neutralization of both parents’ negative hereditary aspects, and for the enhancement and reinforcement of the positive aspects.
An epigenetic approach to pregnancy
By François AMIGUES, osteopath:
After having stated that everything gets determined before the age of six, then before the child is three, and then at birth, science now realizes that in fact, adult health and disease get determined at the level of the “parental pre-conceptional terrain.”
If it has become clearer that the foundation of a child’s health is being prepared even prior to his or her conception, and it is during prenatal life that many environmental influences coming from the mother, the couple and their direct or indirect environment have a decisive impact on the genetic encoding that reigns throughout a person’s life. Thus, a human being’s potential health is rooted in the parent’s pre-conceptional genetics and this “sensitive” period extending from the development of the fertilized egg, the embryo and the fetus, all the way to the newborn child. The actual education of a child occurs during this time, and a very particular attention should be given to prenatal life by the expecting parents and especially by the pregnant mother. After the birth everything is in place, and educational efforts will only be assimilated – effortlessly or forcefully, according to the child’s constitution – as a training in socio-cultural mores.
Psychiatrist Thomas Verny, a precursor of his time, demonstrated the importance of prenatal life. The child is formed in the night of the womb, in accordance to an aggregate of maternal stimuli acting on his or her embryonic development, and also in accordance to morphogenic forces – a concept dear to David Bohm and Rupert Sheldrake who were the first ones (after Lamarck) to question genetic determinism and acknowledge the existence of a remarkable genetic plasticity “sensory modeling” that can modify the genome throughout the pregnancy.
Then, cell biologist Bruce Lipton’s findings on the plasticity of the protein of the DNA shook all the former theories about genetics, by confirming the clinical observations that had led to the hypothesis of a genetic interactive plasticity between mother and fetus. These findings ushered the study of prenatal life into the realm of social health sustainable perspectives.
As a matter of fact, the discovery of epigenetics required some thirty years of research before finally being corroborated by a group of researchers. And it is only recently that Universities have grasped the magnitude of the applications epigenetics can deliver to the world.
Indeed, there is so much to be gained from the discovery of the laws of epigenetics in the field of medicine and for today’s young couples.
For example, each untreated scar is a retractable tissue that, as time goes by, generates tensions in a particular zone. This pathological state of a tissue ends up influencing a whole region, then the whole body. An emotional and psychological unease develops, whose nature depends on the impacted zone (in the case of a zone next to the liver, the person might experience a lack of satiety due to defective functions of fat or glucose storing). Each lesion and its correspondent electromagnetic field is then able to re-encode some of the body’s genetic material in order to sustain it, while adapting to the new state. Each information subsequently received by this organism will be perceived through the “glasses” of these acquired internal states. This is why a same stimulus can trigger different responses in two organisms of the same kind.
Cognitive neurology, an open door to epigenetics
The departments of cognitive neurology that have sprung almost everywhere around the world, are the fruit of astounding research in psychiatry, the first science to have revealed a field of a two-way correspondence between the states of the body and the psychological moods (somato-psychological and psychosomatic). Universities have invested in numerous and multidisciplinary studies that establish such correspondences. One of these complementary approaches came from the field of ethology, and its brilliant researcher Boris Cyrulnik who obtained outstanding results in the recovery of psycho-sensory motor developmental retardation of Romanian orphanage children who had been tied to a bed or a chair during their whole childhood. He observed these abandoned children who had suffered severe physical and psychological deterioration, and had the idea of running some brain scans. Those showed atrophies of a scale close to the one of lobotomized patients; but nevertheless once the children were placed in foster families, in less than a year the neuro-limbic atrophies had disappeared! When we modify the milieu, we modify not only the way our brain works, but also the biological support upon which our cognitive functions work. It is well known that common affective stimulations are vital in order to structure our affective life, to realize that we cannot always do as we please, to learn how to contain oneself and be interested in other people’s mental universe.
Here again, whether in neurophysiologist Georg Groddeck’s first clinical studies on psychosomatic medicine or more recently in the work of psychologist Arthur Janov, we see the same “adaptive response to the environment in order to keep living.” Negative or positive stresses will determine lifetimes of extreme survival or blossoming lifetimes at the highest degrees of life’s manifestation, like brotherhood with all people and being of service to others.
No doubt, it is neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti who best exposed this reality with his discovery of the famous mirror neurons, which reflect the environment in order to sense it and develop empathy, as well as an essential means of learning and adapting to life.