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Contemporary Reichian Analysis

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Contemporary Reichian Analysis: Evolutive Stage, Epigenetics, and the Neuromediator Dynamic

By Genovino Ferri

Increasing awareness and understanding of epigenetics and neuroplasticity in current research has resulted in a new perspective of psychotherapy that is integrated with neurobiological information. This information is at the root of an emerging paradigm shift in body psychotherapy that I call Evolutive Stage Neuromediator Vegetotherapy.

I am proposing a route for descending into the depths of Analytical Time and for re-emerging at the surface without getting lost during the analytical-therapeutic journey. This process allows greater appropriacy and permits therapists and their clients to delve into Analytical Time and re-emerge without getting lost during the analytical-therapeutic journey.
Epigenetics and Psychotherapy

Conrad Waddington coined the term epigenetics in the 1940s when discussing environmental factors modifying gene expression that resulted in phenotypes— observable traits determined by our genes and the environmental influences on these genes. Psychology’s interest in epigenetics arises from studies that have demonstrated that epigenetic mechanisms influence patterns of neurological development and brain function. While neurogenesis and neuroplasticity play a role in rewiring the brain, epigenetics highlights the role thoughts, behaviors, and experiences play in our gene expression, which in turn, impact our brain and body.

Moving neuroscience further into the world of psychoanalysis, geneticist Eric R. Kandel demonstrated that memories can be modified by learning processes, which are translated into new neuronal circuits (Siracusano & Rubinoo, 2006). From a neurobiological (and bodily) perspective, psychotherapy may cause changes in patterns of behavior utilizing a learning process that can influence gene expression and modify synaptic connections. Thanks to developments from Kandel’s studies words have acquired the dignity of being therapeutic, by making modifications to the central nervous system’s plasticity—our words, spoken and thought, can rewire our brain and impact our genetic expression resulting in new psychodynamic behavioral patterns.

Epigenetics and Human Patterning: Starting with the Arrow of Evolutive Time

The perinatal period may represent a critical window of opportunity during which environmental experiences can produce long-term effects on the nervous system and behavior. In particular, the process of learning goes as far back along our arrow of evolutive time as the embryo-fetus-newborn’s earliest sensory experiences in the primary object relationship, which is to say as far back as our inter-corporeal, intrauterine pre-subjectivity.

For example, insecure attachment styles favor imbalance on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the creation of an allostatic load, which is to say a condition of exhaustion of internal resources caused by prolonged stress or because of an organism’s poor adaptive capability (McEwen, 2004). In particular, stress acts not only on the prefrontal cortex but also on the hippocampus and the amygdala – central nervous system structures that are in constant interaction with external input. Research using functional neuro-imaging techniques has demonstrated an increase in the volume of these brain structures in cases of clinical depression and anxiety disorders.

In women affected by depression during the final three months of their pregnancy, Oberlander et al. (2008) identified epigenetic processes in babies (an increased degree of methylation of the 1F exon promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1). Glucocorticoids play an important role in allostatic processes relating to an organism’s stress response. The glucocorticoid receptors (membrane proteins coded by the NR3C1 gene) are most likely expressed by the influence of epigenetic processes acting on associated, encoding genes.

There is ever more evidence suggesting that psychotherapy is effective if it is accompanied by epigenetic changes, so this would mean that DNA methylation could be a potential biomarker for successful therapy. Could a sample of saliva, together with interviews and a map of the NR3C1 receptor methylation sites, at regular intervals, represent an opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of psychotherapeutic intervention?

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