James V. Kohl

Review of
The Biology of Love by Dr. Arthur Janov.
New York: Prometheus, 2000, 364 pages


Originally published in: Kohl, JV (2001) Anoxia: the Cause; and Primal Scream Therapy: the Cure-all
by Journal of Sex Research, 38 (4) Nov. 381-382
Reproduced here by permission of the author.


There is not enough biology and far too much psychobabble for this book to claim its title.

In his book introduction, Janov also introduces the reader to Primal Therapy. As the neuroanatomy of the brain is detailed for the lay audience, the focus becomes clear: anoxia at birth, and lack of love in early life probably contribute either solely or collectively to nearly every human malady. Primal Therapy is the cure. 

            Broad-based conclusions run rampant. For example: “Love produces an abundance of serotonin and other repressive brain hormones to help put down future pain.” Readers are then provided with information about the frontal cortex, as they are also led to believe that early trauma and lack of love cause hyperactivity. Animal experiments are offered to support linking important evidence that a “mother’s condition” during pregnancy affects her child “for a lifetime.” The “mother’s condition” is not detailed.

Most of the biological and psychological concepts presented are so vague as to allow links between anything and everything. Then, the first case study is presented! I was surprised, and I would be equally surprised to find a case study in any other book about the biology of anything. This is not a book about biology. Apparently, without thought, this case study is placed in the middle of the chapter titled, “The Frontal Cortex: The Thinking Man’s Brain.” However, this placement sets the stage for further promotional efforts to bring clients into Primal Therapy, which after one year of therapy normalizes cells in the thalamus—an interesting claim. Many more case studies are incorporated in the following chapters; and are offered as examples of how Primal Therapy can help.

Moving forward, anesthetized mothers may contribute to lack of optimism, and a father’s absence is linked to male homosexuality. “(More on this later.),” writes Janov. I couldn’t wait, and jumped to the short chapter “On Sexuality and Homosexuality.” After reading a surprising synopsis that misrepresented Dorner’s endocrine studies on human male homosexuals, I knew it would have been better to have waited to read more about father absence, and the addition of the tyrannical mother link to homosexuality. It became increasingly more difficult for me to continue reading for review, as a mother’s smoking habits were linked to her child’s low libido, and how circumcision “…played a role in one homosexual…” Janov treated (he has supposedly treated hundreds). A story about a patient’s anxiety attack is attached at chapter’s end.

Jump back. Lack of touch early in life is linked to compulsive sexual activity in men and in women. In the same paragraph, too much excitement is linked to the origin of frigidity. Reading more quickly now, this reviewer began focusing on such links. For example, lack of love in the first year or two of life might cause hypothalamic impairment and behavioral deficits. I began to realize how difficult it would be to write a cohesive review.

 Anoxia at birth was diagnosed during the therapy of many patients. Janov knows whether a patient is “faking it” during therapy. Clues are provided on how to make a realistic primal scream during Primal Therapy: the therapy of choice for nearly everything. An absent mother may cause male homosexuality, or lesbianism if a young girl feels good when another girl (mother substitute) touches her. Why wasn’t this included in the chapter on homosexuality? Reliving the birth experience may help. Without reliving the birth experience, how can one determine whether they were subjected to anoxia at birth? All these topics are very loosely connected. Advanced primal patients invariably have lower vital signs, according to a consulting physician.

Janov admits that “Some of what I discuss is of necessity speculation.” However, this statement comes after 117 pages of loose and very speculative links, and the ever-present case studies. Till now, readers have been led to believe that there is evidence for Janov’s claims. The speculation continues. It is claimed that after one year of Primal Therapy there is more balance between the hemispheres of the brain. Also, the reason prison inmates are on drugs before they enter prison, is emotional deprivation at birth and for the first two years of life. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s might be the late results of womblife trauma. At least the concept of “critical periods” is discussed, albeit only as a brief introduction to imprinting, even before birth.

I will fast-forward this review: lack of oxygen at birth equates with lack of love, and womb trauma may be linked to some kinds of cancer, according to Janov, who also admits that his writing “…does not follow prevailing psychological theories…” Anoxia is linked to tobacco addiction later in life. Rebirthers liberate themselves during Primal Therapy. “Patients reliving a birth sequence in my sessions have even shown forceps marks on the forehead.” What? Psychological trauma; physically manifest? This is a phenomenal phenomenon that should be documented on film. Men’s fixation with women’s breasts may be an attempt to recuperate lost oxytocin supplies from infancy. Unwantedness may make children more liable to schizophrenia.

The Biology of Love may attract readers who are interested in biology, but the content will repulse many who can neither follow, nor abide by, Janov’s links. I was repulsed. Then, just as I fought my way through the last chapter (i.e. promotion of Primal Therapy), I learned about a recent study by Dr. Christina Dalman. Her research suggests that newborns who are deprived of oxygen at birth have a four times greater risk of schizophrenia later in life than other children.  There may be something more to Janov’s speculation than meets this reviewer’s eyes; though I doubt it.  




Dalman, C., Allebeck, P., Cullberg. J., Grunewald, C., & Koster, M. (1999). Obstetric complications and the risk of schizophrenia: A longitudinal study of a national birth cohort. Archives of General Psychiatry, 56, 234-240.


Dorner, G. Schenk, B., Schmiedel, B., & Ahrens, L. (1983). Stressful events in prenatal life of bi- and homosexual men. Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology, 81, 83-87.


James V. Kohl, Clinical Laboratory Scientist, email: jvkohl@bellsouth.net