Bodies + Memory – Class Notes 2018

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29 dec 2018 – Memory + Body Tissues

Take care of yourself. Modify. Step out. Questions, support…


The practice of noticing sensations can introduce new pathways or patterns into your life, into your nervous system, into all of your tissue. By noticing you have an opportunity to learn, to create new full-body tissue memories. You might keep an eye out for sensations that need support and for areas that are calm and vital. You can keep an ear out for the places that growth and change feel possible. Paying attention to sensation, somatics, mindfulness (whatever name you call it) can influence the direction that you grow in; it can expand your sense of agency. (In the class on Mindfulness I’ll talk more about science studies – how/why paying attention to sensation works.)


For now considering a forest. Starting with thinking about trees – where a seed drops, how the soil is, what the sunlight ratio is, if there is a bacteria that year, or a fire. However a tree is at any given time, we never blame a tree for growing in any particular way. It’s just doing it’s thing.

And consider yourself as a tree. No control over where you were planted, no control what type of tree you are (a Pine, a Lindon…), or which type of trees surrounded you and your roots, little control over how much sunlight you received as you were a sappling, whether or not there is a bird’s nest in your branches or if moss grows on your trunk…

Just for a moment, to consider, how do you hold these almost contradictory seeming ideas: You are similar to a tree in a forest, the ways this seed of you remembered how to grow, taught by the cells before it – and that you can influence how you grow. By listening very closely, you can learn to grow towards what sunlight is available. Do these/How do these ideas find a balance in your life?



Move as you’d like, take notes…

Today we are exploring memory and the body. A quote,The body might [be understood] as a single organ with full sensing capabilities, where any tissue may store … memories based on the specific receptors they possess, and the nature of the chemical messages [those tissues] receive. – Another way to talk about memory might be, information that we have learned; information that our tissue has learned.


Ok, so diving into cellular memory.

” … The instructions necessary to create all of the proteins in our body are coded inside our DNA. … DNA makes RNA, RNA makes protein, and proteins make us.” … The code is created by a unique family of molecules — called “nucleotides.” [This blueprint is like a generational, species memory.] (note: The five nucleotides involved in protein synthesis are named guanine, cytosine, adenine, thymine and uracil. … A gene consists of enough DNA to code for one protein, and a genome is simply the sum total of an organism’s DNA.) (PICTURE – +

“Every cell in your body contains nearly identical copies of its instruction manual, your genome. But the hundreds of “types” of cells in our bodies look and behave very differently from each other. How does that happen? Embryonic cells… giving rise to all the rest of our bodies’ cells… they read different parts of [the blueprint]

“All of the cells in an embryo start off identical and undifferentiated … become specialised to form any type of cell….by switching [proteins] on and off. For example, if one of the embryonic stem cells formed a muscle cell, it would switch on the genes to turn it into a muscle cell –

(notes: “genes are segments of DNA that code for proteins, and the process of reading portions of a DNA molecule to create an RNA molecule is called transcription. An enzyme accesses a gene by breaking the bonds between nucleotide base pairs at the center of the DNA molecule. The enzyme then matches complementary nucleotide bases to the base sequence of the gene, forming a single strand of RNA in the process.) – and note: differences of dna and rna –

(notes: Radiolab – the primordial journey

– cool side note: sex changing organisms! –

(note: “at fertalization a single-celled zygote then starts to divide, forming 2, 4, 8, 16 cells, and so on. Now it is an embryo… before the embryo implants in the uterus, this mass of around 150–200 cells is the blastocyst. The blastocyst consists of two parts: outer cell mass that becomes part of the placenta, inner cell mass develops into a human body.

STEM CELLS[Like embryo cells, adults have stem cells – cells that are not yet differentiated, not yet specialized. They] have been “identified in … adult tissues throughout the body: [BLOOD], in the skin, in hair follicles, in the gut — and a few months ago, in bone. They, too, could self-renew and give rise to their tissue’s various cell lineages. …

… some researchers have transitioned from viewing “stemness” as the defining trait of a cell category to viewing it as a function [that] many types of cells can perform or contribute to.

… “when the stem cells in solid tissues are destroyed, more specialized cells in those tissues can often revert to a stemlike state to take over repair functions on their behalf. Cells are therefore much more plastic than previously thought possible, with less fixed identities… We have to be more open-minded, more accepting of the fact that in principle, any cell can [have stem cell attributes]. … The way various cells all contribute to maintaining a tissue constitutes stemness — not any one cell type. –

(note: “That’s been shown in a slew of organs, including the kidney, lung, stomach and intestine. Perhaps most striking, some tissues (beyond the heart) don’t seem to have a stem cell population. The adult liver — the epitome of efficient organ regeneration — has no stem cells; instead … Clevers said, “every cell in the liver has the potential to behave like a stem cell.” – … And in 2006, researchers succeeded in transforming differentiated connective tissue cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which had the versatility of embryonic stem cells. That result showed that stemness could be induced. –

Day-to-day living means the body is constantly renewing its tissues. In some parts of the body, such as the gut and bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to produce new body tissues for maintenance and repair.

(note: stem cells can be difficult to find. They can stay non-dividing and non-specific for years until the body summons them to repair or grow new tissue. Adult stem cells can divide or self-renew indefinitely. This means they can generate various cell types from the originating organ or even regenerate the original organ, entirely. This division and regeneration are how a skin wound heals, or how an organ such as the liver, for example, can repair itself after damage.

SHORT VIDEO – Skunkbear – NPR –


Close eyes. Look right, left, etc. Try looking near and far – with closed eyes. Notice what you feel moving in face, body.

BACK to new cell formation “In the past, scientists believed adult stem cells could only differentiate based on their tissue of origin. However, some evidence now suggests that they can differentiate to become other cell types, as well.

In the new study, researchers examined how stem cells determined what kinds of specialized cells to form…. [they found that] Sugar was the primary player. The surface of the stem cells had specific sugar patterns that formed. For example, the sugar patterns on the stem cells that formed [a nervous system glial cell] were all similar but distinctly different from the sugar patterns on the stem cells that formed neurons. … how our stem cells know what cell types to form may simply be their sugar patterns…. how does that sugar get there, and why do stem cells have different sugar patterns? As of yet unknown.” –

Allen Institute for cell science, “We know so little about the rules that govern how our cells work, let alone how our bodies work.”


Epigenetics looks at how our predetermined [genetic makeup] interacts with our environment … to produce [the observable characteristics of an individual. These observable characteristics, called Phenotypes,] have an element of plasticity … you change during interaction with your environment, [throughout your life.] -

“in one sense, epigenetic modifications represent a sort of “family memory” … the epigenome is a multitude of chemical compounds that can tell [your DNA] what to do.

The genome is passed from parents to their offspring and from cells, when they divide, to their next generation. Much of the epigenome is reset when parents pass their genomes to their offspring; however, under some circumstances, some of the chemical tags … may be passed on to the next generation. When cells divide, often much of [these chemical tags are] passed on to the next generation of cells, helping the cells remain specialized.

The epigenome [or these chemical tags] … can attach to DNA and direct such actions as turning genes on or off, controlling the production of proteins in particular cells. … [for example] Specialized cells in the eye turn on genes that make proteins that can detect light, while specialized cells in red blood cells make proteins that carry oxygen from the air to the rest of the body.

…In this way, [the combination of genetic information with environmental information teaches your cells – so that they] can remember which genes are on or off. Your environment effects What your cells remember, which effects how you think, react …]


link 1 –

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link 3 –…0.0..0.142.481.0j4……1….1..gws-wiz-img…….0i8i7i30.yk046k5LpaU#imgrc=sEGfqe9bKL7pDM:

A new Science paper describe it more precisely as “transgenerational transmission of environmental information.” … [descendants of Holocaust survivors] for example, have lower levels of the stress-hormone cortisol in their blood, which means they’re more vulnerable to stress and fear.

(notes: DNA methylation, directly affects the DNA in a genome. In this process, proteins attach chemical tags called methyl groups to the bases of the DNA molecule in specific places. The methyl groups turn genes on or off by affecting interactions between the DNA and other proteins. In this way, cells can remember which genes are on or off.

histone modification, affects DNA indirectly. DNA in cells is wrapped around histone proteins, which form spool-like structures that enable DNA’s very long molecules to be wound up neatly into chromosomes inside the cell nucleus.) – – national (US) human genome research institute)

So generational memories exist, which predispose us, our tissue to grow in certain directions. BUT!

(Creating new cellular memories) is also possible.

“Research suggests that epigenetic [cellular generations within your own body] changes occur in response to acute resistance and aerobic exercise in a range of tissues including skeletal, blood… and brain and with 6 months of aerobic exercise showing alterations … in skeletal muscle … The process of exercise enhances and in some cases “reawakens” cellular and molecular processes that cause tissues to change and adapt

(notes: As far as manual [bodywork] therapy is concerned, evidence suggests that mechanical signals are crucial regulators of cell behaviour and tissue differentiation by affecting gene regulation at the epigenetic level –

Again – “the plasticity of our epigenome persists throughout our lives …evidence suggesting even fully differentiated somatic cells such as skeletal and muscle cells are able to respond to diverse environmental stimuli… –

epigenetic mechanisms are not restricted to early stages of human development but are broad dynamic controllers of [gene] plasticity in response to environmental factors. –


Mechanical forces acting upon the internal and/or external environment, such as in postures, movements and strains … [create a] “tensional memory” in … connective tissue architecture. This architecture changes accordingly to modification of habitual lines of tension… . – – [if you start to move differently, your tissue learns new information. Daily movement habits can effect the memory of your tissue.]

fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs . – wiki.

Embedded within the fascia are many types of nerve endings and receptors that communicate with the central nervous system.  Every movement we make changes the tension of the fascia in different parts of our body.  –

applied force can influence any part of the entire system, from cellular to the wholebody, and vice-versa, via a non-linear distribution of forces, in such a way that local stimuli invariably lead to global reorganization. “Every time a cell changes its shape or metabolism, every time a muscle contracts, a neuron synapses, or a gland secretes, the frequency of transmission of such vibratory signals changes throughout the system. –

Peel mandarine in one piece –
For one, this wrapping all around of the white membrane gives you a fascial idea/picture.
ALSO – importantly – this action is a learning to listen to tissue aide. Listen to the organic tissue. Notice that you cannot go faster than the tissue allows or it will break; notice that it is more sticky in some places than others. Nature repeats itself, uses similar structures. As you explore your own tissue – in tasting the sensations in your memories and in creating new memories, keep an ear out for this quality of not-going-faster than the tissue allows. Notice where/how you are similar to other organic material in the world.

FASCIA PLAY! Playing with fabric and skin. Noticing how far you feel the ripple effect. Solo or partner. Using spiderman webs (I learned this game from Malcolm Manning –

Coming back to connective tissue: “fibroblasts (a cell in connective tissue which produces collagen and other fibres) … maintain a specific gene expression pattern depending on where in the body they are taken from, and this has been dubbed a positional memory … the ground substance. … [the stuff inbetween fibres and cells, made of water, proteins, GAGs and proteoglycans] … provides a [kind of memory], a consistent set of signals to the cells… [AGAIN: this positional memory and microenvironmental memory can learn new habits, form new memories via PRACTICE moving in different ways. You body learns what you do.] –

[also note – seems to be a lack of science quantitative study on bodywork and memory …]

(NOTES: Ground Substance/Extracellular Matrix – fills the spaces between fibres and cells…. It actually consists of large molecules called glycosoaminoglycans (GAGs) which link together to form even larger molecules called proteoglycans. These molecules are very good at absorbing water, rather like a sponge, such that 90% of the extracellular matrix is made up of water. – The ground substance provides viscosity and plasticity to the tissues (as do collagen and elastin fibres).


in the immune system … on the second encounter of an antigen, the immune response is stronger and more rapid. This memory is stored in memory immune cells; for example, memory T cells exposed to a specific antigen have a different molecular makeup compared with naive T cells (Mackay, C. R. (1999). Dual personality of memory T cells. Nature 401, 659-660. doi:10.1038/44309) – Journal of Experimental Biology –


“our current understanding is that learning to play the lute and similar tasks is a form of motor learning in the central nervous system (CNS), and not the muscles. Thus, what has scientifically been called muscle memory so far is really synonymous to motor learning….

BUT!…. Results from recent experiments suggest that there is a form of cellular memory in the muscle cells themselves explaining the phenomenon that muscle mass previously obtained is easily regained, and that the cellular mechanism for this ‘memory’ is related to the [parts of the muscles cells remaining in the muscle tissue number of myonuclei.

[going back to the lute player – muscles are all over. In fingers, in ankles, in sphincters, in tongues, not just where big body builders show them.]

…nuclei are not lost during detraining or other atrophy conditions… This is the core of the mechanism for muscle memory, and it allows for hypertrophic growth without recruitment of myonuclei during re-training, not because more nuclei are not needed in large fibres, but because the nuclei are already there.

…a previously hypertrophied fibre would differ from a naive fibre in having more nuclei as a ‘memory of its past’. [If you worked out in your past and then stopped, when you return to it your muscles will get bigger faster. Or, put another way, there is a long-term mark etched in your body tissue of your past activity.] Thus, with current knowledge it is hard to be… precise … estimating the lifespan of myonuclei … muscle memory span, to somewhere between 15 years and a human lifetime.

PICTURE of muscle fiber:

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link 2 –


Then pick an area to look at. Close eyes. Recall it in your mind.

Try again – same thing – really notice the pattern your eyes draw. Really notice what parts of your head move as your eyes move.

“The pattern of eye movements is like the blueprint that the brain uses to piece different parts of the memory together so that we experience it as a whole.” –

“By looking at the patterns of eye movement and brain activity, researchers were able to identify which image a person was remembering …also –

(notes: This article has been an inspiration for my own eyeball explorations – Lisa Nelson –

(note:“researchers found that keeping the head still but shifting the eyes to one side or the other sparks vibrations in the eardrums, even in the absence of any sounds… indicating that motion in the ears and the eyes are controlled by the same motor commands deep within the brain. “It’s like the brain is saying, ‘I’m going to move the eyes, I better tell the eardrums, too,’” said Jennifer Groh, neuroscience at Duke. –

preliminary study conducted by BAST measured the effects of sound therapy on the autonomous nervous system (ANS). Clients were connected to a machine that monitored stress responses (much like a lie detector). Each client demonstrated an overall decrease in arousal of the ANS compared to the control group, who were lying down relaxing.” –


“research has demonstrated the existence of a great complexity of memory systems within each individual, with multiple components, most of which are outside of conscious awareness.

“When people talk about memories, most of the time we refer to conscious or explicit memories. [today we have discussed a variety of forms of memory – implicit memory, many forms of memory outside of our conscious awareness. Moments of extreme stress/trauma are often recorded in the body in implicit ways.]

“the narratives of traumatic experiences from hundreds of traumatized children and adults over the past 20 years, we also keep hearing both adults and children describe how traumatic experiences initially are organized on a non‐verbal level…

`memories’ of the trauma tend to … be experienced as fragments of the sensory components of the event; as visual images, olfactory, auditory, or kinesthetic sensations, or intense waves of feelings

“… when people are under stress, they secrete … stress hormones that affect the strength of memory consolidation. Based on animal models it has been widely assumed that massive secretion of neurohormones at the time of the trauma plays a role in the ways that traumatic experiences are consolidated into long‐term memory. Mammals have memory storage mechanisms that modulate how strongly a memory is consolidated according to the strength of the accompanying hormonal stimulation. This capacity helps organisms evaluate the importance of sensory input in proportion to how strongly the associated memory traces are consolidated; emotionally significant material, consolidated in states of high arousal, is accessed more easily in subsequent states of high arousal.

[van der kolk notes,] “emotion itself can be a memory, and he advocates that emotion be treated as a memory process rather than as a process that simply influences memory.

“In traumatized organisms, the capacity to access relevant memories appears to have [goes] awry; they… `remember’ the trauma too easily, namely when it is irrelevant to current experience (Pitman etal., Black Hole of Trauma). …physiological arousal in general can trigger trauma‐related memories, while, conversely, trauma‐related memories [ignite] generalized physiological arousal.

– van der kolk –

[Notice the looping nature of sensory-memory here. As we talked about last week, PRACTICING to pay close attention to on-going sensation can help create a better-feeling feedback loop.]

[especially for those with a history of extreme stress/trauma] “people may become autonomically and hormonally activated before having been able to make a conscious appraisal of what they are reacting to. … For the survivor of a bike accident, the sight of a fast approaching truck resembling the one that crashed into them may cause the heart to race and skin to sweat. … “severe or prolonged stress can suppress hippocampal functioning, creating context-free fearful associations which are hard to locate in space and time. This results in amnesia for the specifics of traumatic experiences, but not the feelings associated with them (Sapolsky et al 1984” …

… emotional responses and sensory impressions that are based on fragments of information

[or memories of sensation, effect the way one perceives the present. In a way, this is similar for everyone – whatever you have experienced in your life, effects your current and future perceptions and reactions and so on.]

“speechless terror”…the experience cannot be organized on a linguistic level and this failure to arrange the memory in words and symbols leaves it to be organized on a somatosensory or iconic level: as somatic sensations, behavioral reenactments … the “alarm bell” of the CNS, which properly goes off only under situations of threat, but which, in traumatized people, is liable to respond to any number of triggering conditions akin to the saliva in Pavlov’s dogs. [when activated] it secretes noradrenaline, and, if rung repeatedly, endogenous opiods. …

once the memory tracts have been activated under conditions of severe stress, subsequent high intensity stimuli will preferentially travel along the same pathways, activating the memories that were laid down under similar conditions

… in a state of low arousal, animals tend to be curious and seek novelty. During high arousal they are frightened, avoid novelty, and perseverate in familiar behavior regardless of the outcome. Under ordinary circumstances, an animal will choose the most pleasant of two alternatives. When hyperaroused, it will seek the familiar, regardless of the intrinsic rewards. Thus, shocked animals returned to the box in which they were originally shocked in preference to less familiar locations not associated with punishment. Punished animls actually increased their exposure to shock as the trials continued …

“perceptual processing automatically activates pre-existing semantic memory structures corresponding to the features of the stimulus event, as well as related nodes [via] spreading activation. If some of these nodes correspond to the goals and conditions of various production systems, certain procedures will (automatically) be executed” (Kihlstrom 1989) without conscious awareness of the process involved. … In traumatized people, visual and motoric reliving experiences … seem to be preceded by physiological arousal. … “memories are reactivated when a person is exposed to a situation, or is in a somatic state, reminiscent of the one when the original memory was stored. –

“Conscious memories of trauma are encoded by various sites in the brain which process different aspects of experience. Explicit memories of trauma reflect the terror of the original experience and [are usually] less organized than memories acquired under less stressful conditions. …[BUT!]

“Memories are biological phenomena and as such are dynamic. Exposure to cues that trigger the recall or retrieval of traumatic memories activates the neural systems that are storing the memories. This includes electrical activation of the neural circuits, as well as underlying intracellular processes.

Reactivated memories are susceptible to modification.

[again, this is a place we can PRACTICE, use tools, which help influence the modification of past memory.] “The character and direction of this modification depends on the circumstances of the person recalling the memory. Retrieval of implicit or explicit traumatic memories is usually associated with high levels of stress. Stress hormones act on the activated brain circuits and may strengthen the original memory for trauma through a phenomenon known as memory reconsolidation.

[talk about this risk of further solidifying extreme memories during therapy/memory dipping – and the need for grounding tools, visualizations, physical activation, etc.]

… “Retrieval of traumatic memories under safe conditions, when levels of stress are relatively low and under control enables the individual to update or reorganize the trauma experience. – Jacek Debiec, Neuroscientist – The Conversation –

– The Intrusive past: the flexibility of memory and the engraving of trauma – van der kolk, onno van der hart –


Mapping self calm-vitality. Self holding, body position, pushing floor, vocalizing, etc. How to take care. Not so intense-memory dip.


“By focusing on just one of the multitude of contributing factors to health in isolation we are unlikely to ever produce successful … given the complexity of our… gene expression.

[by practising to NOTICE our sensations in general we can expand our conscious control into areas of ourselves typically outside of conscious control. (again, the example of the monks who are able to change their body temperature dramatically through practice). An important note: much of our system (and MEMORY) can shift outside of our conscious control. For example, ever notice the “therapeutic” effects of dancing yer booty off without being aware of anything?

I do not intend to propose a hard and clear binary distinction of what is in our out of conscious control within our system. Or that one form is better than another. Different forms (trance dance, TRE, mindful practices, etc) serve different people at different points in their life – according to their proclivities, interests, vulnerabilities, tendencies, prior habits.

I do mean to say, practices of paying attention to sensation are practices. As such, like all new skills, we can become better at this activity via doing it. When we play with these “paying attention to sensation” exercises during non-stressful moments, this helps us be better prepared to use this skill when stressful moments come along. It is a training.

In daily life, exploring with open curiosity, with softness and/or playfulness – however you explore your sensations – can be extremely beneficial to overall wellbeing.

How you spend your time exploring, whatever you practice – will have an impact, will influence your future growth – including what your systems prioritizes in terms of important memories.

Listen to the organic nature of your tissue. Listen for a quality of “right” feeling direction. Listen to what inspires your curiosity. Explore there.


Questions, Saying what you learned popcorn.


****** additional notes: check my website for FREE practice and science links –

Further class notes are linked there.

Gendlin’s Focusing –

FREE exercise online – Six Steps (and how to not follow instructions.)

EMDR – Great explanation from The Guardian –

On body posture and mood-cognition –