Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #2: "Molecules of Emotion" by Candace Pert


Dear kids,

Candace Pert is the neuroscientist who discovered that emotions are a real, physical, chemical part of the body. That’s right: total badass. Much of her book, Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel, describes her journey of discovery and what happened afterward. The rest of the book discusses the science behind the discovery.

I wish she’d done a bit more editing–maybe another draft or two–but the ideas in the book are fascinating and important, and since she’s primarily a scientist, not a writer, who cares?

My notes and highlights:

The science, briefly: Every cell in the body is studded with receptors that receive signals that direct cell division, metabolism and every other cell activity. “Signal[s] come from other cells and [are] carried by juices . . . providing an infra for the ‘conversation’ going on throughout the bodymind. You know these juices as how neurotransmitters and together called peptides.” 98 percent of data transfer occurs through these, while only 2 percent occurs between cells.

Receptors and signals together are the “molecules of emotion”. There is a ligand for each individual emotion, each individual perception, each different kind of awareness, including bliss, hunger, satiety, anger, etc.

The ligand isn’t only active part of equation. Receptors wiggle and send vibrations to attract the proper ligand, like a lock and key coming together. These vibrations and constant responses form a continuous electrical current throughout your body.

Your body, then, is your subconscious mind. The molecules in the brain aren’t the cause of your emotions; they are your emotions.

Other notable quotes:

  • “God is a neuropeptide.”
  • “Less than 2 percent of neuronal communication actually occurs at the synapse.” Ligands, transmitters, peptides, hormones, factors make up the rest, where they bind to receptors.
  • Robert Bottesman: “. . . Information transcends time and space, placing beyond the confining limits of matter and energy, a cow grazing in a meadow of a botanical strolling through the same meadow will perceive meadow (grass differently So: info depends on the observer “. . . including the observer in the equation admits a new level of intelligence to the system.” . . . “It’s the difference that makes a difference.”
  • Uses the term “information theory” to discuss how information processing in the brain is linked to quantum theory and the rest of the physical world.
  • Information exists outside realm of matter and energy. “And since information in the form of biochemicals of emotion is running every system of the body then our emotions must also come from some realm beyond the physical. . . the mind, the consciousness, consisting of information, exists first, prior to the physical realm, which is secondary merely an outpicturing of consciousness.”
  • The human body is a metaphor, “. . . just a way of referring to an experience we all have in common.”

To learn more or to purchase the book, see:


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