Archive

Tag Archives: mental health


You might remember, I’m not an astrologist but I do like to look at things from lots of different perspectives. It can be helpful to observe life from a cellular level and then all the way out to the ethers. Here’s a snapshot of how you might want to see today’s universal weather.

The moon might be conjuncting Mars and Neptune in Pisces as I write. No matter what, it’s happening. This alongside a slew of planets already retrograde makes clarity a scarce commodity. Wasn’t it Ann Lennox of the Eurythmics who sang, “Sweet dreams are made of cheese.” That’s right, right?

Right now the only thing clear is that communication is messy. This way one moment and that way the next. Whether it’s yourself or others you’re in communication with it’s easy to misunderstand and be misunderstood. Moving forward is in circles. Patience is required. Mind the brainwashing that can come with such polarities.

So why not wake up and smell the roses. Nothing too progressive is happening. Whatever fire is before you, it’s likely been burning like this for a bit. It has its own intelligence now. It’s not yielding. Another way said, it’ll do what it wants. Take the weekend to get away while attending to the party. Whatever that means. How ever that can happen. Weeding, organizing a closet, a walk in the park of solidarity. You see what I mean. Whatever you do, do it with equanimity. Bring balance to the circular progression by staying awake in and enlivened to your life.
_______________________________________________
In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

WwNKDXkI have been up since three am shaking the trees. I set my alarm based on the forecast and when it went off I turned on the outside light hoping against the odds that it wouldn’t be true, but it was.

Big, wet flakes were pouring from the night sky. I wanted to be frantic, after all what kind of a world do I live in where it snows on my gorgeous purple Foxglove – testing their spines for endurance, or the giant peony beginning to splay over, what about the hosta and don’t even talk to me about the brand new Japanese Maple with its fragile new leaves. I was off to the races.

What a cruel, cruel world. And there I was, out in it. Wet, heavy snow demanding that everything bend to its ruling. Headlight over the top of my hat, donned in a sweater and rain coat, the poor choice of snow boots when rain boots were for the job. Forget about gloves, my fingers are now worthless. Get the picture. This is still going on at 10 am, out every hour shaking off the threat.

It is not so much that it is snowing, it never lasts long here and it is pretty. It is more that it is not what I thought would happen and even knowing that it might happen, I didn’t really know what I could do about it. I felt helpless against the odds.

There is an ABUNDANCE of that out there right now: helpless against the odds. You don’t need me telling you that. We all know, and we are all tired of the reminder that there is no control. I got the memo, you got the memo, but still it bears reminders.  I can control nothing. I never could and I never will. It is impossible. Physics won’t allow for it. NO CONTROL, only influence.

The good thing about influence is that it is more powerful then control because it endures. Those staked garbage bags over my Foxglove? They are working with me to keep those stunning flowers healthy, and I am working with them by shaking off the snow they are keeping out so together we can keep on protecting my flowers. I, in collaboration with those bags, the snow, and the foxglove, am influencing a different outcome.

The opposition between Venus and Jupiter is big. There is good potential for magnifying the importance of things, letting things get blown out of proportion. If needed, re-read the first paragraph. Be mindful to that which you set an alarm. You don’t have to be alarmed and you don’t have to make it alarming. Do what you want. Create the life you want to live.

Pluto in Capricorn is squaring the opposition between Venus and Jupiter. This can likely incite the manipulative tactic of he said, she said, the dog said. This kind of communication is fraught with hostility, aggression and, I am sad to say – meant to harm.

Be mindful. Stay grounded. Remember what you want. Act in your best interest. See what happens that you like and can build on. Me? I am looking forward to seeing those wonderful Foxglove after the snow.


In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

lonely-eleanorIt is here!  The full moon in Taurus came in Monday morning. Chiron in Pisces supported the Moon while the Sun in Scorpio opposed it. Sometimes polarized energies support a wealth of opportunity in what can go unnoticed as the space between. There is no option in one choice and there only two options in two choices, but the distance between two options is abundance.

This full moon finishes up some old, stubborn beliefs about how to play well with others around the concepts of love and money. You may desire to feel deeply wounded about how this plays out. But rest confidently assured that the light will illuminate some deep, and possibly obsessive, pathological tendency on your part to self-sacrifice. You might be about to come face-to-face with your fatal flaw. But does it have to be fatal? Life is filled with considerations about life and death, junctures of consternation that demand internal examination in order to evolve.

Imagine yourself the leading character in a story where you are struggling to succeed. A good story always includes the hero and their struggle to succeed. What gets in your way of doing what you want to do? At the root of most (maybe all) fatal flaws is hubris, but it might not look the way you think. Hubris or pride may be the foundation of your fatal flaw in a way you don’t recognize.

Take George Bailey’s ability to put the needs of others ahead of his own needs. How could this possibly be pride-filled?  But this self-sacrificing behavior provides George with great purpose – initially. I add that qualifier because, in time, the very thing that made George a compassionate man eventually makes him bitter and resentful.  Yet he continuous to sacrifice himself for what he beliefs is the greater benefit to others. In this process he becomes fixed on being “a good person,” and other aspects of himself, like his desire to affect his own destiny, become suppressed. As an observer, it seems unnecessary that George should only find reconciliation in annihilation.  But in order for George to live, he must die the death of his fatal flaw. He must come face to face with the flawed perception that he is all used up by others, when he has really used himself up through his hidden hubris.

Look yourself in the mirror this Full Moon. See your fatal flaw. It is your struggle to maintain a survival system that has outlived its usefulness. It is okay to let it go, even if it appears to mean defeat. Trust that you can rebirth yourself into the contemporary. Let go of past agreements that bind you from your free will and perpetuate a compulsion to be loyal to the past, as if your worth or goodness is stuck in time.

You might be seeing your tragic flaw as a moral dilemma but,  when reconciled, this dilemma can redeem you and free you from your human capacity to make life a struggle. Go ahead and see your flaw as cathartic. Let it have purpose that transcends you more deeply into your worth or value.  Let the fear of failure guide you through a catharsis and learn that you are greater then you think you are.


In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

60b1e524_shamanic_drumming_small
The work ahead is to heal the divide without becoming divided, and the transverse is giving us more then just two ways to do that. The Moon in Pisces, conjunct Neptune could have you feeling disappointed or confused. Saturn in Sagittarius does its best to provide another way to think about things, but Mars in Aquarius objects, and is determined to protest and beat on a whole other drum.

I have been missing in action for a little bit. I went out to mend fences a few weeks ago and got caught up in a deep conversation about areodynamics with the dead. Today, I am making my way out of the rabbit hole. On landing, I see that things are the same and I see that they are different. I think my recent conversation may be helpful.

Life is composed of two seemingly opposed energies. We are taught to live life within the boundaries of these polarities. Am I right? Or am I wrong? What do you think? But it doesn’t matter what you think. What matters, is what you know.

Knowing, like “seeing,” is an intelligence that is acquired when the mind and the body communicate with each other and then with the rest of the transverse. So what do you notice that you know, what do you see? Do you notice a certain emotional experience around an intellectual inquiry? On my recent journey, I noticed that I was afraid to ask the very question I had set out to answer. I felt the fear in a tightening through my chest and the shortness of my breath. “Don’t ask unless you listen,” I was told. Hmm, I thought I could do it, but when it really came time, I knew I wasn’t ready. I could feel the weight of it. I was afraid to say what I wondered out loud.  I was afraid to make it a real query and not just an idea in my head. I knew that saying aloud would release it from the fantasy that I could control it’s outcome, it’s truth. I knew my expression of it would make it real.

I was afraid to listen. I was afraid to hear. I didn’t want to see what the future might hold. I hesitated to move forward. Fear attracts danger and I saw all the possible bad ways this could work out. And then I was told, “If you want to understand, you will have to look into it.” And I heard the words and knew that my quest could never be contained in the boundaries of some intellectual pursuit. What a drag. An idea is fine, but it would take more then musing to make it valuable. The last messenger, impatient or perhaps enthusiastic, shouted at me, “Get out of here, go! Go, go, go!”

Thrusted forward, back into the evolutionary game, up the rabbit hole and out of there. Back here, where Donald Trump is president and the weather in Boulder Colorado is sunny and some men are making a very dusty mess in my house, and Charlie our cat still has no teeth. See what I mean, some things are different and some things are the same.

1. It is not what you think that matters, it is what you know. 
2. Don’t ask, unless you listen. 
3. If you want to understand, you will have to look into it. 
4. Go forward in service of what really matters to you. 

Begin now. Embrace your human-ness while striving for the Divine. This will give you lift. It is not what you think that matters, it is what you know. It may be necessary to see what you think, and then see what you feel, and then see everything in between. If you want to know the answer to the question, you will have to listen to all the information. This will ground you. Sometimes, when things are complex, it is a drag. But that drag serves purpose, it creates a necessity to accept one thing while embracing another. The trajectory forward is found through the resistance of the two opposed energies. In this way, things aren’t always what they seem to be, and in that case, there is always room for things to be different.

Go into the rabbit hole. Travel into the strange trip of your life and be birthed again in the wisdom of greater knowing. Now see what you want to do about it.


In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

51e924b6d528dbb197ff975cef11360f

Mars in Capricorn, Pluto in Scorpio, Uranus in Aries, and the Sun and Mercury in Libra! Holy cow and take me out to the ball game. I don’t care it I ever come back, as long as I can dance.

This continues to be one powerful moon cycle. Can the Cubs take the World Series? Has the curse of the goat been lifted? What about you? Do you think you’ll get a pony? Maybe the moon? Or does it seem your box of Cracker Jack is missing the prize?

Jupiter, with a heart bigger then life, magnified it all – the whole catsatrophe of living. Everything thing is bigger when it is magnified, opportunities and obstacles. So if you noticed it is a little dicey out there, there is good reason.

Electronics faltering, traffic lights failing, email problems, phone issues, never mind the madness it creates when you feel so disconnectedvor misunderstood. What’s up with all that? Remember deep ecology? That is what we are practicing here. Considering our lives from the cellular all the way out to the transversal.  This is not about astrology. This is about living your life in a world that is bigger then you think. It is so big, it  blows your mind. The good news is that sometimes it takes a shattered mind to really see things. You gotta come undone before you can put yourself together.

Where do you really fit in? Do you think you are suppose to fit in somewhere in particular? Is fitting in like finding a prize, if you don’t find it, you don’t fit in?  That is like living in a box.  There are only so many options in a box and usually boxes contain options that are similar.  In a box, you reduce your opportunities. This week consider that the abundance of the “disconnect” that is out there right now, may be of service to you. The fact that you are misunderstood might empower you to embrace the full catstrophe of your life. You might be able to adopt an outlook under these conditions that embodies awe and curiosity for the rich mess of life.  You might find that riding that unpredictable roller coaster ride with all its dilemmas, sorrows, joys, traumas, tragedies, and ironies, is living your life.

Love life.  All all of it, the full catastrophe of it. Don’t fake it like a sentimental greeting card.  Really love it.  Be courageous and love it.  Have a little of that vibration that in language is, “to hell with it all, let’s dance.”  Living your life is the ultimate of living life.

Not sure how to do it?  Start by breathing in for 4, hold for 2, and exhale for 6.  First, let yourself be fully alive in your own breath and then ask your self, “What do I want to do now?”  Now, go do it!!!


In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

tumblr_m4nyt1qqiq1qbskzqo1_r2_500

What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and throw a lasso around it and pull it down. You can have the moon. The moon, a pony, what are we talking about here? Are we talking about what you want or are we talking about what you fantasize about wanting.

Hm, big difference.

This week is a good time to sort some things out, especially where the desire for love is concerned. Remember love? The truth of love is way bigger than the moon. It has a far greater reach then the child within you ever imagined, and yet love can be as easy eating candy.

The Moon and Venus are conjunct in Scorpio and trine Neptune in Pisces while Pluto is in Capricorn. Let this aspect support an interesting perspective as you consider your heart’s desire. Notice your typically fixed pattern of behavior in response to the stimuli of “love.” Is your response driven by your sensitivity? Is it something you can feel right now? Or is it more motivated by your practicality? Is it something you think about?

Does it compel you into a mental and emotional frenzy around the acquisition of it?  Some might say this could feel like walking a tight rope. And some might think that this compulsion threatens them with a fall from grace. And you know what happens when a person thinks they will fall.

This week, bridge the gap between what you think, feel, and desire. How can you bring the three experience together in a way that is useful to you?  It might go something like this:

I want to feel connected.  I want to feel like I belong where I am. I know that feeling. I think it is useful and it compels me to seek it out, finding a thread of it here and length of it there. Pretty soon my instinct for roping it in is pretty good.

Sort it out. What do you want? What do you fantasize about? Can you make them come into balance?


In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

KickDog

How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?

It has been a few weeks since I posted about abuse.  I needed some time to refresh.  It is a tough topic to bring one’s attention to weekly.  It is challenging to discover new ways to talk about a very old topic that simply boils down to three words – it hurts badly.  As I type that, it occurs to me that perhaps the three words are – it impacts everyone.  And now I am thinking that if it hurts badly and impacts everyone, why is there so little discussion about it?  Why is the topic shameful?  Why are those speaking about it either vehemently reduced to blithering cry babies or met with silence, isolation?

Abuse is a taboo subject. Wikipedia defines taboo as “a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake. Such prohibitions are present in virtually all societies. The word has been somewhat expanded in the social sciences to strong prohibitions relating to any area of human activity or custom that is sacred or forbidden based on moral judgment and religious beliefs. “Breaking a taboo” is usually considered objectionable by society in general, not merely a subset of a culture.”

If abuse is a taboo, then perhaps any discussion of abuse becomes an associated taboo.  Maybe it is time to consider that abuse is not a taboo in our society.  It is not vehemently prohibited, most offenders are not held accountable through the judicial system.  The statistics would support that abuse is not accursed as a practice.  And it seems that it is only objectionable in theory and not in practice.  The recent public abuse Malia Obama endured is a good example that abuse is not taboo in our culture.  Or how about the countless things Donald Trump feels free to express regarding the myriad of people he hates.  Maybe abuse is covertly hidden in our fascination with celebrities; it would seem that we love to hate them.

So what is the deal with abuse?  Is it possible we all shy away from the conversation because in our hearts we each know that our potential as humans contains the ability to abuse?  Is it possible that we each know unconsciously that we abuse daily?  Is it overwhelming to consider yourself as an abuser on the continuum of abuse?

It is for me, and I think that is why I needed a break.  Sometime to process my own resistance to my own abusive practices.  My instantaneous knee jerk reaction to a centipede, the illogical action of stomping on the poor creature.  My judgement of someone’s competence that leads me to behave inconsiderately.  My fear that I won’t be heard by another that causes me to lash out personally against them.

Abuse is a far too common practice, and the taming of it will require self-awareness and reflection.  It won’t be easy.  It will be hard.  It isn’t only about what someone else does.  It is about what we each do.


Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com

 

tumblr_lqdk4qFCeq1qbj1sio1_1280

It may be a little dicey through today. The inner planets are active right now. You might notice an increase in anxiety or irritability. There is a fair amount of resistance out there, and if you aren’t resisting changing, your neighbor might be. The moon rises today against Mars, Mercury, and the moon. If you look inward, you may discover you are fighting old ideas about growing (up!).

What to do? This is only going to last a day or two, so you can wait for it to pass. Use your breath, return to the NOW where the thing that you think is irritating you isn’t really what’s got you worked up. But if you want, you can drop into your body and use your intuition. You can decide what you want to do about the resistance you might experience, when you experience it.

Intuition is a common human experience of knowing something immediately that fosters a compelling sense of truth without conscious reasoning. It involves rapid communication between the right brain and the body. It is a powerful experience because the space between the conscious and unconscious processing is where change in one’s thinking can occur with the greatest ease. Intuition bridges the narrowly focused critical thinking skills of the conscious mind with the quick, flexible and larger processing ability of the unconscious mind and provides great insight. This newly acquired insight is then affirmed in the body through sensations that indicate truth.  You may call it a gut feeling.  (Adapted from the work of Dr. Lori Hops and Terry Marks-Tarow)

Are you willing to consider that intuition is an internal human program that can guide you through change? If you are, does it make sense to hone it? What if you really do already know what you want and how to access it? Are you ready to consider the self-determination that that information may provide you? Or do you notice it scares you? Would you prefer to deny it? Do you believe it is blasphemous? Ridiculous? Illogical? And where do those beliefs lead you?

This week, take a peek inside. Consider trusting how you feel about something with one caveat –  you gotta be on the right side. The right side of the brain that is. Go there right now. Breathe in for 4, hold for 2, and exhale for 6. Practice this breath just three times and then notice what happens. That shift you feel, that sense that you have more space and time in your life – that is the right side of the brain. Once you are there, check out your intuitive thought. What more can you learn about the information you received intuitively?

And now the big finish. The leap of faith.  Trust yourself.  Ask yourself, “What do I want to do now?” Follow that inquiry until it takes you to something actionable that you agree with, that resonates with your mind and body. Then?  Yep, that is the leap.  Do it.  Go ahead and do it.  See what happens.


In the midst of what you see as problematic, it can be difficult to recognize the opportunities. I can help you discover a new way of thinking that will assist you in managing and negotiating life’s obstacles. You will find that this new way of thinking provides you opportunities that you hadn’t previously noticed as well as affords you the confidence and desire to live your life in the driver’s seat.

Tami Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBCCH, HTP is a licensed psychotherapist who practices solution-oriented healing from a deep ecological perspective. Her specialities include hypnosis for anxiety, performance, and creativity. Sessions on-line or in Boulder, Colorado include cutting edge brain therapies that will change the way you think. Learn more at attentiontoliving.com

gut
Reporting for this article was supported by the UC Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship.

The rich array of microbiota in our intestines can tell us more than you might think.

Eighteen vials were rocking back and forth on a squeaky mechanical device the shape of a butcher scale, and Mark Lyte was beside himself with excitement. ‘‘We actually got some fresh yesterday — freshly frozen,’’ Lyte said to a lab technician. Each vial contained a tiny nugget of monkey feces that were collected at the Harlow primate lab near Madison, Wis., the day before and shipped to Lyte’s lab on the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center campus in Abilene, Tex.
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

Lyte’s interest was not in the feces per se but in the hidden form of life they harbor. The digestive tube of a monkey, like that of all vertebrates, contains vast quantities of what biologists call gut microbiota. The genetic material of these trillions of microbes, as well as others living elsewhere in and on the body, is collectively known as the microbiome. Taken together, these bacteria can weigh as much as six pounds, and they make up a sort of organ whose functions have only begun to reveal themselves to science. Lyte has spent his career trying to prove that gut microbes communicate with the nervous system using some of the same neurochemicals that relay messages in the brain.

Inside a closet-size room at his lab that afternoon, Lyte hunched over to inspect the vials, whose samples had been spun down in a centrifuge to a radiant, golden broth. Lyte, 60, spoke fast and emphatically. ‘‘You wouldn’t believe what we’re extracting out of poop,’’ he told me. ‘‘We found that the guys here in the gut make neurochemicals. We didn’t know that. Now, if they make this stuff here, does it have an influence there? Guess what? We make the same stuff. Maybe all this communication has an influence on our behavior.’’

Since 2007, when scientists announced plans for a Human Microbiome Project to catalog the micro-organisms living in our body, the profound appreciation for the influence of such organisms has grown rapidly with each passing year. Bacteria in the gut produce vitamins and break down our food; their presence or absence has been linked to obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and the toxic side effects of prescription drugs. Biologists now believe that much of what makes us human depends on microbial activity. The two million unique bacterial genes found in each human microbiome can make the 23,000 genes in our cells seem paltry, almost negligible, by comparison. ‘‘It has enormous implications for the sense of self,’’ Tom Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told me. ‘‘We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human. That’s a phenomenal insight and one that we have to take seriously when we think about human development.’’

Given the extent to which bacteria are now understood to influence human physiology, it is hardly surprising that scientists have turned their attention to how bacteria might affect the brain. Micro-organisms in our gut secrete a profound number of chemicals, and researchers like Lyte have found that among those chemicals are the same substances used by our neurons to communicate and regulate mood, like dopamine, serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). These, in turn, appear to play a function in intestinal disorders, which coincide with high levels of major depression and anxiety. Last year, for example, a group in Norway examined feces from 55 people and found certain bacteria were more likely to be associated with depressive patients.

At the time of my visit to Lyte’s lab, he was nearly six months into an experiment that he hoped would better establish how certain gut microbes influenced the brain, functioning, in effect, as psychiatric drugs. He was currently compiling a list of the psychoactive compounds found in the feces of infant monkeys. Once that was established, he planned to transfer the microbes found in one newborn monkey’s feces into another’s intestine, so that the recipient would end up with a completely new set of microbes — and, if all went as predicted, change their neurodevelopment. The experiment reflected an intriguing hypothesis. Anxiety, depression and several pediatric disorders, including autism and hyperactivity, have been linked with gastrointestinal abnormalities. Microbial transplants were not invasive brain surgery, and that was the point: Changing a patient’s bacteria might be difficult but it still seemed more straightforward than altering his genes.

When Lyte began his work on the link between microbes and the brain three decades ago, it was dismissed as a curiosity. By contrast, last September, the National Institute of Mental Health awarded four grants worth up to $1 million each to spur new research on the gut microbiome’s role in mental disorders, affirming the legitimacy of a field that had long struggled to attract serious scientific credibility. Lyte and one of his longtime colleagues, Christopher Coe, at the Harlow primate lab, received one of the four. ‘‘What Mark proposed going back almost 25 years now has come to fruition,’’ Coe told me. ‘‘Now what we’re struggling to do is to figure out the logic of it.’’ It seems plausible, if not yet proved, that we might one day use microbes to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders, treat mental illnesses and perhaps even fix them in the brain.

In 2011, a team of researchers at University College Cork, in Ireland, and McMaster University, in Ontario, published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that has become one of the best-known experiments linking bacteria in the gut to the brain. Laboratory mice were dropped into tall, cylindrical columns of water in what is known as a forced-swim test, which measures over six minutes how long the mice swim before they realize that they can neither touch the bottom nor climb out, and instead collapse into a forlorn float. Researchers use the amount of time a mouse floats as a way to measure what they call ‘‘behavioral despair.’’ (Antidepressant drugs, like Zoloft and Prozac, were initially tested using this forced-swim test.)

For several weeks, the team, led by John Cryan, the neuroscientist who designed the study, fed a small group of healthy rodents a broth infused with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a common bacterium that is found in humans and also used to ferment milk into probiotic yogurt. Lactobacilli are one of the dominant organisms babies ingest as they pass through the birth canal. Recent studies have shown that mice stressed during pregnancy pass on lowered levels of the bacterium to their pups. This type of bacteria is known to release immense quantities of GABA; as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA calms nervous activity, which explains why the most common anti-anxiety drugs, like Valium and Xanax, work by targeting GABA receptors.

Cryan found that the mice that had been fed the bacteria-laden broth kept swimming longer and spent less time in a state of immobilized woe. ‘‘They behaved as if they were on Prozac,’’ he said. ‘‘They were more chilled out and more relaxed.’’ The results suggested that the bacteria were somehow altering the neural chemistry of mice.

Until he joined his colleagues at Cork 10 years ago, Cryan thought about microbiology in terms of pathology: the neurological damage created by diseases like syphilis or H.I.V. ‘‘There are certain fields that just don’t seem to interact well,’’ he said. ‘‘Microbiology and neuroscience, as whole disciplines, don’t tend to have had much interaction, largely because the brain is somewhat protected.’’ He was referring to the fact that the brain is anatomically isolated, guarded by a blood-brain barrier that allows nutrients in but keeps out pathogens and inflammation, the immune system’s typical response to germs. Cryan’s study added to the growing evidence that signals from beneficial bacteria nonetheless find a way through the barrier. Somehow — though his 2011 paper could not pinpoint exactly how — micro-organisms in the gut tickle a sensory nerve ending in the fingerlike protrusion lining the intestine and carry that electrical impulse up the vagus nerve and into the deep-brain structures thought to be responsible for elemental emotions like anxiety. Soon after that, Cryan and a co-author, Ted Dinan, published a theory paper in Biological Psychiatry calling these potentially mind-altering microbes ‘‘psychobiotics.’’

It has long been known that much of our supply of neurochemicals — an estimated 50 percent of the dopamine, for example, and a vast majority of the serotonin — originate in the intestine, where these chemical signals regulate appetite, feelings of fullness and digestion. But only in recent years has mainstream psychiatric research given serious consideration to the role microbes might play in creating those chemicals. Lyte’s own interest in the question dates back to his time as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh in 1985, when he found himself immersed in an emerging field with an unwieldy name: psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, for short. The central theory, quite controversial at the time, suggested that stress worsened disease by suppressing our immune system.

By 1990, at a lab in Mankato, Minn., Lyte distilled the theory into three words, which he wrote on a chalkboard in his office: Stress->Immune->Disease. In the course of several experiments, he homed in on a paradox. When he dropped an intruder mouse in the cage of an animal that lived alone, the intruder ramped up its immune system — a boost, he suspected, intended to fight off germ-ridden bites or scratches. Surprisingly, though, this did not stop infections. It instead had the opposite effect: Stressed animals got sick. Lyte walked up to the board and scratched a line through the word ‘‘Immune.’’ Stress, he suspected, directly affected the bacterial bugs that caused infections.

To test how micro-organisms reacted to stress, he filled petri plates with a bovine-serum-based medium and laced the dishes with a strain of bacterium. In some, he dropped norepinephrine, a neurochemical that mammals produce when stressed. The next day, he snapped a Polaroid. The results were visible and obvious: The control plates were nearly barren, but those with the norepinephrine bloomed with bacteria that filigreed in frostlike patterns. Bacteria clearly responded to stress.

Then, to see if bacteria could induce stress, Lyte fed white mice a liquid solution of Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning in humans but generally doesn’t prompt an immune response in mice. To the trained eye, his treated mice were as healthy as the controls. But when he ran them through a plexiglass maze raised several feet above the lab floor, the bacteria-fed mice were less likely to venture out on the high, unprotected ledges of the maze. In human terms, they seemed anxious. Without the bacteria, they walked the narrow, elevated planks.

Each of these results was fascinating, but Lyte had a difficult time finding microbiology journals that would publish either. ‘‘It was so anathema to them,’’ he told me. When the mouse study finally appeared in the journal Physiology & Behavior in 1998, it garnered little attention. And yet as Stephen Collins, a gastroenterologist at McMaster University, told me, those first papers contained the seeds of an entire new field of research. ‘‘Mark showed, quite clearly, in elegant studies that are not often cited, that introducing a pathological bacterium into the gut will cause a change in behavior.’’

Lyte went on to show how stressful conditions for newborn cattle worsened deadly E. coli infections. In another experiment, he fed mice lean ground hamburger that appeared to improve memory and learning — a conceptual proof that by changing diet, he could change gut microbes and change behavior. After accumulating nearly a decade’s worth of evidence, in July 2008, he flew to Washington to present his research. He was a finalist for the National Institutes of Health’s Pioneer Award, a $2.5 million grant for so-called blue-sky biomedical research. Finally, it seemed, his time had come. When he got up to speak, Lyte described a dialogue between the bacterial organ and our central nervous system. At the two-minute mark, a prominent scientist in the audience did a spit take.

‘‘Dr. Lyte,’’ he later asked at a question-and-answer session, ‘‘if what you’re saying is right, then why is it when we give antibiotics to patients to kill bacteria, they are not running around crazy on the wards?’’

Lyte knew it was a dismissive question. And when he lost out on the grant, it confirmed to him that the scientific community was still unwilling to imagine that any part of our neural circuitry could be influenced by single-celled organisms. Lyte published his theory in Medical Hypotheses, a low-ranking journal that served as a forum for unconventional ideas. The response, predictably, was underwhelming. ‘‘I had people call me crazy,’’ he said.

But by 2011 — when he published a second theory paper in Bioessays, proposing that probiotic bacteria could be tailored to treat specific psychological diseases — the scientific community had become much more receptive to the idea. A Canadian team, led by Stephen Collins, had demonstrated that antibiotics could be linked to less cautious behavior in mice, and only a few months before Lyte, Sven Pettersson, a microbiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, published a landmark paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that showed that mice raised without microbes spent far more time running around outside than healthy mice in a control group; without the microbes, the mice showed less apparent anxiety and were more daring. In Ireland, Cryan published his forced-swim-test study on psychobiotics. There was now a groundswell of new research. In short order, an implausible idea had become a hypothesis in need of serious validation.

Late last year, Sarkis Mazmanian, a microbiologist at the California Institute of Technology, gave a presentation at the Society for Neuroscience, ‘‘Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience.’’ Someone had inadvertently dropped a question mark from the end, so the speculation appeared to be a definitive statement of fact. But if anyone has a chance of delivering on that promise, it’s Mazmanian, whose research has moved beyond the basic neurochemicals to focus on a broader class of molecules called metabolites: small, equally druglike chemicals that are produced by micro-organisms. Using high-powered computational tools, he also hopes to move beyond the suggestive correlations that have typified psychobiotic research to date, and instead make decisive discoveries about the mechanisms by which microbes affect brain function.

Two years ago, Mazmanian published a study in the journal Cell with Elaine Hsiao, then a graduate student at his lab and now a neuroscientist at Caltech, that made a provocative link between a single molecule and behavior. Their research found that mice exhibiting abnormal communication and repetitive behaviors, like obsessively burying marbles, were mollified when they were given one of two strains of the bacterium Bacteroides fragilis.

The study added to a working hypothesis in the field that microbes don’t just affect the permeability of the barrier around the brain but also influence the intestinal lining, which normally prevents certain bacteria from leaking out and others from getting in. When the intestinal barrier was compromised in his model, normally ‘‘beneficial’’ bacteria and the toxins they produce seeped into the bloodstream and raised the possibility they could slip past the blood-brain barrier. As one of his colleagues, Michael Fischbach, a microbiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said: ‘‘The scientific community has a way of remaining skeptical until every last arrow has been drawn, until the entire picture is colored in. Other scientists drew the pencil outlines, and Sarkis is filling in a lot of the color.’’

Mazmanian knew the results offered only a provisional explanation for why restrictive diets and antibacterial treatments seemed to help some children with autism: Altering the microbial composition might be changing the permeability of the intestine. ‘‘The larger concept is, and this is pure speculation: Is a disease like autism really a disease of the brain or maybe a disease of the gut or some other aspect of physiology?’’ Mazmanian said. For any disease in which such a link could be proved, he saw a future in drugs derived from these small molecules found inside microbes. (A company he co-founded, Symbiotix Biotherapies, is developing a complex sugar called PSA, which is associated with Bacteroides fragilis, into treatments for intestinal disease and multiple sclerosis.) In his view, the prescriptive solutions probably involve more than increasing our exposure to environmental microbes in soil, dogs or even fermented foods; he believed there were wholesale failures in the way we shared our microbes and inoculated children with these bacteria. So far, though, the only conclusion he could draw was that disorders once thought to be conditions of the brain might be symptoms of microbial disruptions, and it was the careful defining of these disruptions that promised to be helpful in the coming decades.

The list of potential treatments incubating in labs around the world is startling. Several international groups have found that psychobiotics had subtle yet perceptible effects in healthy volunteers in a battery of brain-scanning and psychological tests. Another team in Arizona recently finished an open trial on fecal transplants in children with autism. (Simultaneously, at least two offshore clinics, in Australia and England, began offering fecal microbiota treatments to treat neurological disorders, like multiple sclerosis.) Mazmanian, however, cautions that this research is still in its infancy. ‘‘We’ve reached the stage where there’s a lot of, you know, ‘The microbiome is the cure for everything,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘I have a vested interest if it does. But I’d be shocked if it did.’’

Lyte issues the same caveat. ‘‘People are obviously desperate for solutions,’’ Lyte said when I visited him in Abilene. (He has since moved to Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.) ‘‘My main fear is the hype is running ahead of the science.’’ He knew that parents emailing him for answers meant they had exhausted every option offered by modern medicine. ‘‘It’s the Wild West out there,’’ he said. ‘‘You can go online and buy any amount of probiotics for any number of conditions now, and my paper is one of those cited. I never said go out and take probiotics.’’ He added, ‘‘We really need a lot more research done before we actually have people trying therapies out.’’

If the idea of psychobiotics had now, in some ways, eclipsed him, it was nevertheless a curious kind of affirmation, even redemption: an old-school microbiologist thrust into the midst of one of the most promising aspects of neuroscience. At the moment, he had a rough map in his head and a freezer full of monkey fecals that might translate, somehow, into telling differences between gregarious or shy monkeys later in life. I asked him if what amounted to a personality transplant still sounded a bit far-fetched. He seemed no closer to unlocking exactly what brain functions could be traced to the same organ that produced feces. ‘‘If you transfer the microbiota from one animal to another, you can transfer the behavior,’’ Lyte said. ‘‘What we’re trying to understand are the mechanisms by which the microbiota can influence the brain and development. If you believe that, are you now out on the precipice? The answer is yes. Do I think it’s the future? I think it’s a long way away.’’

Peter Andrey Smith is a reporter living in Brooklyn. He frequently writes about the microbial world.

ACEP Blog

Fred Gallo It’s been 16 years since I introduced the term Energy Psychology with my book by the same title; however, actually I introduced the term in seminars that I presented prior to that time. Some people have been concerned as to why I chose the term Energy Psychology, since it may restrict its usage to people with appropriate licensure. However I would like to assure you that restricting usage has never been the intention and many professionals employ psychological research and principles in the course of their professions. This applies to not only psychologists and psychiatrists, but also counselors, physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, social workers, physicians, managers, you name it. Even attorneys employ psychological principles in jury selection, and politicians utilize psychological principles to win elections and to convince their constituents. Anytime human interaction is involved, psychological principles can come to bear. However it is correct that only appropriately licensed professionals…

View original post 897 more words