Training your brain to order your immune system to destroy its pathogen enemies?

Well, I’m back.

It’s been a long week away, and very enjoyable, although I must say that such long trips tend to drain one. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for something to restore lost energy and vigor, sucked out of me from long hours cramped on an airplane and holed up in airports, just trying to get to a vacation and then later to wend my way home. Of course, as a physician and skeptic, I know that just taking a rest, going to bed on time and getting up on time, and waiting for my body’s clock to reset to the new location and cure me of jet lag would work, but that’s just too slow. Besides, in the world of alt-med—cough, cough, excuse me, integrative medicine—we all know that wishing makes it so, and I wish to be back up to full capacity instantaneously upon touching down in my home city. Fortunately for me, I found a way to do just that. Well, not really, but it is fun to fantasize that something like Advanced Cell Training (ACT), which tells me that my body “can heal itself.”

Of course, every physician knows that the body can heal itself from an amazing array of injuries and illnesses. However, every physician also knows that, as amazing as the self-repair and renewal capabilities of human body are, there are definite limits to what it can heal itself of. Not for brave mavericks are such limits! Oh, no! For instance, the purveyors of ACT (formerly known as Immune Response Training) take the ridicule that flows their way for saying they can train you to cure yourself of almost anything by “training” a part of the brain that “governs” immune function and telling it to fix the body. Indeed, the sellers of this particular nostrum are even prepared with two quotes, one from Arthur Schopenhauer:

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Of course, whenever I see this quote, I know I’m dealing with some high grade woo, because not only is it unclear whether Schopenhauer ever said such a thing, the quote itself is so mind-bogglingly stupid and misguided that it still irritates me whenever I see. No wonder it’s so beloved of cranks, to whom it gives comfort that they are only in the first and second Schopenhauer stages but will soon achieve wide validation of their views and reach the third stage. Just you wait and see! Of course, one thing about this particular quote, even if you accept its validity, is that quackery never progresses past stage two, and rightly so, although in general I prefer stage one for most quacks.

The next quote comes from Albert Einstein himself:

Do you remember how electrical currents and “unseen waves” were laughed at? The knowledge about man is still in its infancy.

This, too, is a quote much beloved of cranks. Indeed, if you Google this quote, at least three quarters of the first few pages of hits are crank sites repeating this quote to justify woo. It is rather amusing, because Einstein was certainly not meaning to claim that just because scientists used to be very skeptical of ideas such as “unseen waves” means that any sort of pseudoscience should be taken seriously. After all, scientists came to accept the existence of electromagnetic waves after sufficient experimentation and evidence made it impossible not to. Somehow cranks never reach that level of evidence.

So what is ACT?

It begins with a blanket, general statement that Geneticists Determine Cellular Behavior As True Cause Of Human Disease (Exposure To Pathogen Not Guarantee Of Contraction):

The realization that sent the scientific community reeling (and got the research foundations funding expensive genetic research) was the observation that the human body is actually able to kill AIDS pathogen. They found that some people who used HIV infected needles did not contract the disease, although exposed. “What was the difference?” they asked. “Cellular behavior”, was the answer. So, the geneticists now hope to isolate the genetic coding responsible for proper immune behavior. They hope to transfer this information from those who are immune to those who suffer with HIV and other serious diseases as well.Prior to this discovery, it was believed that the cause of disease was simply exposure to pathogen. This belief supported the notion that the human body is not able to kill certain pathogen. The inability of the immune system has become an unspoken cultural belief and is reinforced every time we take a remedy for a cold, flu, or pneumonia. The implication is that “My body can’t fight off this disease, but the antibiotic can.” We know antibiotics do kill some pathogen. But according to geneticists, the body can kill all pathogen—including pathogen antibiotics can’t kill, like HIV! If you are sick, it is because your body is under-reacting. Your body can kill pathogen, but it is not “pulling the trigger.” The proper belief, if you are ill, is, “Though I am ill, I know my body can kill these pathogen. What do I need to do to improve its performance?”

Good question. Unfortunately Gary Blier, the man responsible for ACT, is more than happy to tell you. It doesn’t start well, unfortunately. Why do I say this? Because in multiple places Blier mentions Hulda Clark and her Zapper and Royal Rife and his device as examples of the sorts of interventions upon which his ACT is based. I’m sure you recall Hulda Clark and her Zapper. Clark was a woman who preached that cancer (not to mention AIDS and pretty much all other disease) is caused by a liver fluke and that she could cure cancer (not to mention AIDS and pretty much every other disease) by using what she called a “Zapper,” a device that looks, more than anything else, like a Scientology E-meter to me. Ironically enough, Clark ultimately died of cancer. Rife, on the other hand, was an inventor who claimed that he could use a special microscope to see microbes that caused cancer and invented a “beam ray” device that he further claimed could weaken or kill these organisms by vibrating them at what he called a “mortal oscillatory rate,” thus curing cancer.

Then, supposedly, ACT works like this, “skills” that Blier teaches you through teleconferences:

You must become your own ‘clinical diagnostician’ in that you must chart and record your own symptoms; when and where they occur, what makes them worse and better, etc. Secondly, as we listen to you during the Advanced Cell Training teleconference setting, we help you focus on the behavioral errors your body is making (ie:If you sneeze for pollen or if a doctor has found Lyme in your body we know the body is not performing properly). Then, we teach you how to train (Focus, Intent, Physical Meditation ) towards your body for enhanced immune performance. We simply get you to focus your attention on the area of cellular errors occurring and employ physical techniques to transfer knowledge from mind to body. In typing, you would focus your attention on the keyboard and practice with your hands to transfer knowledge from “mind to hands.” After a time, the body is able to incorporate new behavior with minimal mental involvement (ie:hopefully typing would be mastered, pollen would be tolerated, and malevolent organisms the Lyme Disease pathogen would be overcome).

One method by which Blier determines what’s wrong with you is through “muscle testing.” Whenever I hear “muscle testing,” I think applied kinesiology, because it’s pretty much the same thing. It basically involves giving a person something to hold that is either thought to be causing his problem or that might cure it, telling the person to keep his arm straight, and then pressing down on the arm. If the herb is something the patient needs, supposedly he’ll resist the downward pressure and hold the arm rigid. If it isn’t, he won’t. The same idea is used to test for allergies, thoughts, colors, sounds and emotions. Applied kinesiology is pure quackery invented by a chiropractor named George Goodheart. Oh, sure, proponents of muscle testing will claim that it’s not the same thing as applied kinesiology, even though if you look at both of them carefully you’ll be hard-pressed to find differences. It’s the same quackery with different glitter sprinkled on it.

Yet it’s what Blier uses:

This effort is about helping our clients change the behavior of their brains. How do we influence the function of the brain? Through communication. We have developed, through nine years of muscle testing, a “transitional language” we call “codes” that seem to reach the part of the brain which governs immune function. Just as the cognitive brain can be influenced by language, we have found the autonomic brain can be influenced by IRT codes. It is a way to identify under- reactions towards the Lyme pathogens, so the body can change immune behavior and thereby eradicate the infection.

Muscle testing, though controversial, has been pivotal in not only creating the codes, but also in developing this process. Those who know and understand this alternative technique may have more confidence in IRT. Those who know little to nothing about muscle testing need to determine if the results are real by contacting our Lyme clientele.

And what does Blier do with these codes? Silly one, he uses them to generate codes to fix what ails you:

Once the codes are read, participants then listen to a CD. This CD has more instructional codes embedded in music at a faster rate of speed. This locks in the intent of correction toward Lyme pathogen or other inflammatory agents. After the CD is heard, participants call in for an outside thought of intent which we call a “prayer.” Though controversial, many scientific studies have shown prayer to be effective for many serious illnesses. The NIH determined, through its study of complementary and alternative medicine, that 62% of 32,000 adults surveyed employed prayer as a healing modality. Then participants listen to the CD once more. They are asked to watch for symptom changes in the following days and chart those changes for future review with us.

So basically, Blier uses quack modalities like muscle testing, generates a code, and then embeds them in music at a higher rate of speed. One wonders why he doesn’t embed them backwards, like so many backward masked messages in Led Zeppelin albums. At least that’d be cooler. It’d be consistent with the whole prayer thing, you know, kind of like using the tools of the enemy against him.

But how does the brain do it? Not according to any mechanism known by science, but then that’s the appeal of ACT, isn’t it? According to Blier, ACT can somehow recognize pathogens and he can train you to think away the disease:

Once we understand that the brain is using a “current of electricity” to essentially electrocute pathogen, we can begin to understand why the human body can kill pathogen in cartilage. These brain generated frequencies are not dependent on blood for access to tissue. The brain is “hard wired” to the entirety of the human organism and therefore, able to penetrate cartilage and kill any and all pathogen. The antibiotic in the blood may not kill pathogen safely nestled in cartilage, but the brain, once properly activated, can. Advanced Cell Training™ has been proven effective to help the brain recognize and kill pathogen previously ignored within a person. The evidence for this is found within the notarized testimonials for those who state they are no longer victims of Lyme Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Ankylosing Spondylitis and other pathogenic diseases. Relatively little is known about the human brain, as scientists admit we use only about 2 to 3% of our capacity. Perhaps what science does not yet know about the brain can be utilized to restore health today.

Uh, no. It’s a myth that we use only 2% to 3% of our brain’s capacity. Also, Blier says his method has been “proven effective” to help the brain recognize and kill “previously ignored pathogens. But how does Blier know ACT works? How does any purveyor of woo “know” his treatment works? Certainly, it’s not randomized clinical trials. Note how he mentions “notarized testimonials.” Hint to Mr. Blier: This is not acceptable medical or scientific evidence, although he seems to think it is:

How can Lyme symptom reductions be verified without scientific study? Just as people are learning about and using other Lyme Disease therapies such as Rife, salt/c and ozone therapy. It is participants’ results with these therapies and not double-blind studies which demonstrate whether or not they work. Speaking with our post and present attendees would be one way to ascertain the effectiveness of IRT.

And, of course, there are lots of testimonials consistent with placebo and nonspecific effects.

All in all, ACT is a cornucopia of pseudoscience and mystical beliefs, as summarized in this little video:

There’s a lot on this website, and in particular on Blier’s YouTube channel, so much so that I might end up revisiting this topic. Basically, ACT appears to fuse muscle testing with “intent”-based therapy in which wishing makes it so and the patient can think away disease just by wanting it badly enough. It’s nothing more than faith healing gussied up to sound scientific. He even claims that his method, despite its apparently being based in prayer, is able to treat “people of no faith, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Bahai, Jehovah’s Witness, Quaker, and Agnostics.” And he promises to do it all for a mere $40 for materials and %55 per session. Righteous bucks if you do a teleconference with enough people, and you don’t even need a classroom or office.