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Candace Pert

Pert, Candace Beebe (1946- ), American neuroscientist and pharmacologist best known for her discovery of opiate receptors in the brain. A receptor is a molecule with an electrically active indentation into which a molecule with a matching shape will fit. Receptors come in many different shapes that fit only molecules of particular substances. For example, opium will bind only to opiate receptors. Receptors play an important role in the body since some substances will not act in the body until they attach to their corresponding receptor.

Pert's discovery of opiate receptors in the early 1970s raised the question of why receptors exist for opiates, substances that don't naturally occur in the body. The British pharmacologist John Hughes and the German-born Scottish pharmacologist Hans Kosterlitz later discovered that the body contains compounds similar to opium. They called these substances endorphins, short for endogenous morphinelike compounds. The receptors that opium and similar drugs bind to are actually endorphin receptors.

Pert was born Candace Beebe in New York City. She studied at Hofstra University where she met Agu Pert, a graduate student. They married in 1966 and Candace left school. Soon after, the couple moved to Philadelphia. She returned to college at Bryn Mawr University and in 1970 earned a B.A. in biology. When her husband was sent to Maryland to fulfill a military obligation, Pert went with him, enrolling at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. There she studied pharmacology with the American psychiatrist and pharmacologist Solomon Snyder. At first she performed research on neurotransmitters, chemicals that instruct other neurons in the body to turn off and on. She then began the search for opiate receptors, which had been started in 1971 by the American pharmacologist and neuroscientist Avram Goldstein at Stanford University. She eventually published her findings, with Snyder as coauthor, in Science in 1973. In 1978 Solomon, Hughes, and Kosterlitz won the Lasker Award, a prestigious award for medical research, for discoveries related to opiate receptors. Pert complained about her exclusion from the prize because she had contributed significant information to the discovery. Solomon later acknowledged that Pert should have shared the Lasker Award with him and his colleagues.

In 1974 Pert received her Ph.D. and became a research fellow at Johns Hopkins. One of her projects was to make maps of the brain that showed the locations of opiate receptors. She moved to the National Institutes of Health  (NIH) in 1974, conducting research there on other receptors in the brain until 1987. By that time she had become chief of the section on brain chemistry at the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She was the only woman chief at NIMH at that time. The year before she left, Pert started working with peptides, short chains of amino acids. In particular, she studied messenger peptides, or neuropeptides, which carry messages from the brain to receptors in other parts of the body. She helped discover Peptide-T, a drug that shows potential for blocking the AIDS  virus from entering a particular receptor to which it binds. In 1987 Pert founded Peptide Design, a private company, to study peptides in more detail. It closed in 1990 after financial backing fell through.

Since 1990 Pert has been an adjunct professor in the department of physiology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She continues to study endorphin receptors, focusing on psychoneuroimmunology, a science that studies the link between the mind and the body. Pert believes that the existence of peptides and their receptors demonstrates how the mind and body communicate. She has a CD out entitled Psychosomatic Wellness: Healing your Bodymind. See

"Pert, Candace Beebe," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. © 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Why do we feel the way we feel?

Until recently, Emotion was virtually impossible to define. The kinds of questions that needed to be answered include: how emotion is manifest, how memory and emotion interact, whether emotion is concrete (real) or conceptual (a construct), if concrete, how emotion acts in the body, and how unexpressed emotion is stored.  How do our thoughts and emotions affect our health? Are our bodies and minds distinct from each other or do they function together as parts of an interconnected system? 

Candace Pert, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist whose extraordinary career provides startling and decisive answers to these and other challenging questions that scientists and philosophers have pondered for centuries. Her groundbreaking book is Molecules of Emotion, the science behind mind and body medicine, published by Simon and Schuster.

For Dr. Pert,  the mind is not just in the brain -- it is also in the body. The vehicle that the mind and body use to communicate with each other is the chemistry of emotion. The chemicals in question are molecules, short chains of amino acids called peptides and receptors, that she believes to be the "biochemical correlate of emotion." The peptides can be found in your brain, but also in your stomach, your muscles, your glands and all your major organs, sending messages back and forth. After decades of research, Dr. Pert is finally able to make clear how emotion creates the bridge between mind and body.

Her pioneering research on how the chemicals inside our bodies form a dynamic information network, linking mind and body, is not only provocative, it is revolutionary. By establishing the biomolecular basis for our emotions and explaining these new scientific developments in a clear and accessible way, Dr. Pert empowers us to understand ourselves, our feelings, and the connection between our minds and our bodies -- or bodyminds -- in ways we could never have imagined before. From explaining how there is a scientific basis to popular wisdom about phenomena such as 'gut feelings,' to making recent breakthroughs in cancer and AIDS research, Dr. Pert provides us with an intellectual adventure of the highest order.

Molecules of Emotion is a landmark work, full of insight and wisdom and possessing that rare power to change the way we see the world and ourselves. Dr. Pert's striking conclusion that it is our emotions and their biological components that establish the crucial link between mind and body does not, however, serve to repudiate modern medicine's gains; rather, her findings complement existing techniques by offering a new scientific understanding of the power of our minds and our feelings to affect our health and well-being. 

As a research professor at  Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, Dr. Pert is one of the scientists on Bill Moyers' PBS series 'Healing and the Mind.' The journey Dr. Pert takes us on in Molecules of Emotionis one of personal as well as scientific discovery. Woven into her lucid explanations of the science underlying her work is the remarkable story of how, faced with personal and professional obstacles, she has grown as a woman and a mother and how her personal and spiritual development has made possible her remarkable scientific career. 

She offers a rare glimpse of the ruthless competition for prizes and money that sometimes obscures the pursuit of truth. Because of her protests over her exclusion from the prestigious Lasker Award, her reputation among scientists was more that of feminist troublemaker than pathfinder. Certainly the picture she draws here of the science establishment would seem to suggest a world of aggressive, even ruthless, alpha males fighting for the top prize. She also traces her own evolution from competitive bench scientist to explorer of personal healing modalities. The death of her father, the end of her marriage, her resignation from the NIH, her embracing of the Christian faith, and her discovery of the healing power of dreams—all were, she says, life-shaping events.

Trained as a pharmacologist, Dr. Pert discovered the opiate receptor in 1972, the structure on the surface of a cell that allows it to admit outside substances, such as nutrients and hormones. Malfunctions in the operation of cell receptors can cause disease. Dr. Pert also explains her theory that neuropeptides and their receptors are the biochemicals of emotions, carrying information in a vast network linking the material world of molecules with the non-material world of the psyche. 

Dr. Pert explains that perception and awareness play a vital part in health and longevity. She is able to explain how her research bridges the mind and body gap that is sadly prevalent in modern traditional medicine. Her views on mind-body cellular communication mesh well with the concepts of energy held by many alternative therapies, and she is now, not surprisingly, a popular lecturer on the wellness circuit. Her book describes an eight-part program for a healthy lifestyle, and she has appended an extensive list of alternative medicine resources.  For all of those who have sought out complementary medicine, this book will confirm what you have long suspected: that alternative approaches to health do work. Dr. Pert explains why.

 The scientific basis of the components of the molecules of emotion has basically two parts: The receptors that receive the smaller molecule, kind of  into themselves on the surfaces of self. The other half isthe ligand, the small molecule that binds to the receptors. These smaller molecules can be drugs, hormones, or other chemicals -- chemicals made from within, many  of which are peptides in their structure. These are all over, not just the brain but different parts of the body, including the heart and the vessels around the heart.

Does the mind come first, or chemistry?   It is the crux of the difference between Eastern and Western thought. In Eastern, the consciousness precedes reality. In Western, we think consciousness is a secretion of the brain, like urine is a secretion of the kidneys. She writes that there is a very close correspondence between the highest, most concentrated areas of enrichment of a certain neuropeptides and where the chakras are classically supposed to be -- there's a striking concordance to chakra, the Eastern system of seven energy centers. The seven centers actually correspond in places of enriched neuropeptides VIP (vasoactive intestinal peptide), which is an incredibly important neuropeptides, critical in regulating the neural immune switches between the brain and the immune system, as well as being involved in the pathogenesis of AIDS. 

She delves into the relationship between the chakras by hypothesis in the current Western biochemical correspondence. You don't have to be a scientist -- sometimes they're too skeptical about ancient wisdom backed up by thousands of years in practice. I think this whole chakra spinal cord neuropeptides correspondence is one of the hottest potential places for therapeutics. It's very complex, thinking of it as an integrated whole --the ancient wisdom of Eastern philosophy wedded with the best technique and scientific methods as modern science.

Do we treat physical conditions from an emotional point of view or vice versa?  Dr. Pert says," I honestly cannot differentiate the physical from the mental, vice versa. The answer is you simultaneously do both, because they're flip sides of the same thing... I think a key word is balance, but I do feel that the meditation if possible twice a day in some kind of ritualized and not free-form form could be the cornerstone of a fitness program, along with exercise, which many studies have shown is the critical anti-aging variable in all kinds of animals and human beings."

Western medicine may say "it is all in your head" means that whatever is bothering a patient is therefore not important or real. According to Dr. Pert, the paradigm has got to shift. Even if it was entirely mental, thinking it's all in your head shows no awareness of the new research, suggesting the consciousness is a body-mind wide phenomenon. 

But how does awareness actually transform matter?  Dr. Pert believes that biophysicists will be answering that question. "I have a feeling and my understanding is it will involve some kind of signal -- a signal is  information conveyed over time -- that occurs simultaneously in a non-material substrate and the physical substrate of the body."

Her work in San Francisco at St. Francis Hospital looks at is whetherpeptide T will be able to decrease virus levels in AIDS patients when added to existing regimens of drugs which stabilize the virus, but do not take it to a low enough level for people to feel uncomfortable. In the past, the drug has been studied for its effects as an antidote for neuroaids, and peptide T has been shown to reverse the mental and neurological damage caused by the AIDS virus.

A paper published in the Archives of Neurology in January 1998 in a three-site, sponsored, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Patients on peptide T improved, while the placebo group deteriorated. The drug has no toxic side effects of its own, and appears to be easily tolerated with other drugs, from the highly-effective anti-retroviral regimens. The hope is to see some beneficial antiviral effects in the patients, since what was observed in the test tube has been so dramatic. Dr. Pert and Michael Ruff, a colleague, visited University of Puerto Rico, where these test tube experiments were repeated, showing that Peptide T (HIV Peptide T) blocks the major form of the virus which is in about 80% of people.

Her web site, TINM stands for The Institute for New Medicine -- a nonprofit foundation and research institute at Georgetown University and School of Medicine, founded to scientifically examine new medicine, some of which is ancient, and to understand things that haven't been looked at sufficiently. Look for her tape, the title of which is "Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind.

Dr. Pert believes emotions are the key to our physiology -- to coordinating all parts into a harmonious whole. It's the total qualities that engage different systems to act in a coordinated fashion. There's a historical denial of the importance of emotions in our culture, unfortunately. But the direct effects of shifts in consciousness on physical well-being are being studied.

In Molecules of Emotion you can read about the history of discovery of the various  neuropeptides and what parts of the body they are in, and what roles they play in physiology, intertwined with personal reminisces. Candace Pert teaches the interrelatedness of body and mind in reachable scientific terms. She's an inspiration to all of us in her never-ending quest for truth and wholeness in our bodyminds. Her book reads like a novel with the exception of a highly technical ending with a quick, but brief section on what steps you can take to help yourself. 


Creative Emotion

Approaching A Theory of Emotion - An Interview With Candace Pert, Ph.D.

By Lynn Grodzki, Fellow The New Identify Process (NIP) and other forms of emotive psychotherapy embrace the healing tradition of catharsis

Pert, Candace Beebe, an Encarta Encyclopedia Article Titled "Pert, Candace Beebe"
Pert, Candace Beebe (1946- ), American neuroscientist and pharmacologist best known for her discovery of opiate receptors in the brain. A receptor is a molecule with an electrically active indentation into

The Institute for New Medicine
Candace Pert's Book Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine A RealAudio Interview with Candace Pert,PH.D. Peptide T®:Old Drug, New Information:AIDS Trial To Begin

Candace Pert
A Passion for Learning. Professional development opportunities for leaders in education. TW Branun brings the very best in Professional Development and Staff Development to your school or district.

The Emotional Connection
Quick Survey Which of these theories do you prefer? James-Lange Canon-Bard Candace Pert Plutchik None of these by CgiScripts.Net A long-standing debate has developed around the ultimate source of emotions. 

Nexus 2000: Candace Pert -- featured speaker.
Neuroscientist and Research Professor whose pioneering research in Molecules of Emotion shows how chemicals in our bodies form a dynamic information network, linking mind and body (her photo is here).

Milestones in Neuroscience Research
Some of the best references for the events that document the history of the neurosciences.

WebMD - Dean Ornish's Life Style Components: Stress Management with Candace Pert
Advertisement Advertisement Advertisement MyWebMD Log In Profile MyHealthRecord WebMD Today Home WebMD Newscenter Today's Live Events Pharmacy Medical Info Diseases and Conditions Medical Library Drugs and Herbs Family Genetics Self-Care Health-

(AIDSLINE) Candace Pert, PhD: neuropeptides, AIDS, and the science of mind-body healing 
[interview by Bonnie Horrigan] NLM AIDSLINE Important note: Information in this article was accurate in 1998. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. Click here to return to AIDSLINE main menu Altern Ther Health Med. 1995 

Healing Arts Report
Candace Pert on the chemistry of emotions When a patient receives bad news Dear Reader Think of all the words and phrases relating to the heart -- heartthrob, heart-to-heart, take heart, speak from the heart, follow our hearts, heartsick, heartbroken, heartache,...

Journal of Naturopathic Medicine, Vol. 3, Number 1-- HealthWorld Online - - HealthWorld Online
Peptide T: A GP-120 Blocking Protein Emily Kane, N.D. The following is a report on a presentation by Candace Pert, Ph.D, Professor, Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ and Director of Research

Internet Neuroscience Resources - Description: Internet Neuroscience Resources These sites provide comprehensive lists of neuroscience links    

This editorial web page is meant for informational purposes only. 


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Personal Mythology
Meditation Links
Candace Pert
and Polarities
Transformation and 
Thought For 
The Day
The Chemistry 
of Well-Being
Emotional Isolation,
A Guy Kind of Thing
Cellular Consciousness
- Dr. Bruce Lipton
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