Friday, December 17, 2010

Warrior Gene Aggression Not that Simple

Tags: Warrior Gene Alone Does Not Cause Aggression Prefrontal Cortex Amygdala Parents Contribute

Last night I watched the DVR recording of the Warrior Gene produced by National Geographic Channel. What they did with the help of experts in the field is to go to gangs with the most violent history and take blood samples and compare them with some Buddhist Monks who are thought to be very peaceful.

The star of the show had a very violent history and anger still permeates his personality and his look. Latino gang members which had the most violent history and violent motorcycle gang members were also picked.

They also looked at the childhood history and how parents treated them.

I think the show was not well done and may have left many viewers confused.

I agree that all of the above does have an effect on violence, but it left me with the impression that they left out some important other reasons why people become violent. Children who are raised in a violent family which punishes rather than loves confirms other studies show a strong correlation.

Most consider Special Forces members can be very violent and fearless and from what I have seen of their training on TV, I agree. Very few survive the training hurdles. The show had one special forces guy who had become a successful businessman. He said that only those who are fearless and disciplined make it.

"Phineas Gage is probably the most famous person to have survived severe damage to the brain. He is also the first patient from whom we learned something about the relation between personality and the function of the front parts of the brain.

As the first newspaper account of the accident, that appearing in the Free Soil Union (Ludlow, Vermont) the day after the accident, and here reproduced as it appeared in the Boston Post, reported, Phineas Gage was the foreman of a railway construction gang working for the contractors preparing the bed for the Rutland and Burlington Rail Road near Cavendish, Vermont. On 13th. September 1848, an accidental explosion of a charge he had set blew his tamping iron through his head. (Photo of newspaper article. Note that the Wikipedia account shows that history can be changed by historians. Jim)

The tamping iron was 3 feet 7 inches long and weighed 13 1/2 pounds. It was 1 1/4 inches in diameter at one end (notcircumference as in the newspaper report) and tapered over a distance of about 1-foot to a diameter of 1/4 inch at the other. The tamping iron went in point first under his left cheek bone and completely out through the top of his head, landing about 25 to 30 yards behind him. Phineas was knocked over but may not have lost consciousness even though most of the front part of the left side of his brain was destroyed. Dr. John Martyn Harlow, the young physician of Cavendish, treated him with such success that he returned home to Lebanon, New Hampshire 10 weeks later.

Some months after the accident, probably in about the middle of 1849, Phineas felt strong enough to resume work. But because his personality had changed so much, the contractors who had employed him would not give him his place again. Before the accident he had been their most capable and efficient foreman, one with a well-balanced mind, and who was looked on as a shrewd smart business man. He was now fitful, irreverent, and grossly profane, showing little deference for his fellows. He was also impatient and obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, unable to settle on any of the plans he devised for future action. His friends said he was "No longer Gage."

Another factor that may play a role is that it had been recently found that the Amygdala of psychopaths sociopaths is quite small and non-fuctioning. One of worst serial killers of all time excelled in business and was well thought of in the community. It was easy for him to fake being a good neighbor and good husband. Their lack of emotional response allows them do things that others cannot do without suffering psychological harm. Some CIA agents, CEOs, and criminals in general might fit this model.

People differ in the amount of all these functions of the brain which may influence their behavior. So we have a spectrum of behavior. As the article I wrote on Warrior Genes last indicates, people exposed to very stressful conditions such as a baby being left alone as the Romanian adoptees were, develop serious psychological problems. That is why the way many conservatives raise their babies and children may perpetuate their serious psychological problems in fitting into normal society.

The Special Forces guy who had the Warrior gene had very loving parents and family life which made it possible to become a successful and nice businessman. Wife beaters develop sons who also beat their wife. I am afraid our large disparity in income due to greed has increased the chance we are developing more criminals in our future. Welfare Reform by Clinton and the Republicans may have had an unintended consequence.

Jim Kawakami, Dec 17, 2010,

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