The Science of Emotions

Grace Moy O’Brien

(published in EZ Australia vol. 17 - 19/20)

Are we victims of our emotions or can we affect the way we feel? Is it possible to change our health for the better just by changing our emotions? Well, according to the late Dr. Candace Pert, Ph.D, we can. 

Pert held a career in research in the field of neuroscience and pharmacology, and was responsible for her ground breaking discovery of the brain’s opiate receptor, which led to the discovery of emotional molecules, which she called neuropeptides. This led to the creation of a new interdisciplinary branch of science known as “Psychoneuroimmunology” or PNI. PNI is a marriage of neuroscience, immunology and endocrinology. 

Pert proved that the body and the mind are one and it is our emotions and feelings that link the two. She refers to the inseparable “bodymind” and is of the strong opinion that consciousness is a body-mind phenomenon. Her research showed that consciousness, thoughts and emotions play a crucial role in our health and wellbeing. 

Pert said, “In the end, I find I can’t separate brain from body. Consciousness just isn’t in the head. Nor is it a question of the power of the mind over the body.....”

“Mind doesn’t dominate the body, it becomes body.”

To put it simply, our emotional state has a strong influence on our health and well-being due to these emotional molecules called neuropeptides. There are hundreds of thousands of receptors on the surface of our cells. These receptors are constantly on the lookout for matching chemical keys, and when a receptor meets its perfect chemical match, ie., a matching neuropeptide, it is like a specific key fitting into a matching lock. The peptide (emotional molecule in this case) which contains chemical messages, transfers these messages to the receptor which in turn passes these messages on to the cell, triggering a cascade of chemical reactions, ultimately creating a positive or negative change within the body. 

Hence, positive and uplifting emotions will create positive changes in the body and negative emotions will create negative changes in the body. 


The implications of this research are huge. Think about this. You have an amazing internal laboratory within you and you as the emotional scientist has the power to create changes within your body. Have you ever wondered why when exposed to the same dose of virus, some people get sick and others don’t? This is because the neuropeptides and their receptors are constantly communicating with the immune system. 

Therefore, happy and positive people generate positive chemical productions such as endorphins and serotonin, which in turn strengthen their immune system.

If we have the power to make ourselves feel bad or sick, what about the reverse? What are the implications for the role we can play in the treatment of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, etc.? 

 Pert is of the opinion that “we need to start thinking about how the mind manifests itself in various parts of the body and, beyond that, how we can bring that process into consciousness....” 

So, go forth and create!


Grace O’Brien