The nature of children's early environment has profound long-term consequences. We are beginning to understand the underlying molecular programming of the stress-response system, which may mediate the destructive long-term effects of cruelty to children, explain the evolutionary stability of cruelty, and provide opportunities for its reversal of early trauma.
The consideration of humans going through sensitive periods of life, such as childhood and the early postpartum, may be helpful in understanding the cognitive and evolutionary puzzle of human rituals. During such periods, certain brain systems may mediate an increased susceptibility to learn new behaviors, rational or irrational. (Published Online February 8 2007).
If connectionist computational models explain the acquisition of complex cognitive skills, errors in such models would also help explain unusual brain activity such as in creativity – as well as in mental illness, including childhood onset problems with social behaviors in autism, the inability to maintain focus in attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the lack of motivation of depression disorders.
While the prevalence of opioid use disorder among pregnant women has multiplied in the United States in the last decade, buprenorphine treatment for peripartum women with OUD has been administered to reduce risks of repeated cycles of craving and withdrawal. However, the maternal behavior and bonding in mothers with OUD may be altered as the underlying maternal behavior neurocircuit is opioid sensitive. In the regulation of rodent maternal behaviors such as licking and grooming, a series of opioid-sensitive brain regions are (...) functionally connected, including the ventral pallidum. In humans, these brain regions, interact with the supplementary motor area to regulate maternal behaviors and are functionally dysregulated by opioids. It is unclear how these brain regions respond to the emotions of their child for mothers receiving BT. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging pilot study in 22 mothers within the first postpartum year, including six mothers receiving BT and 16 non-OUD mothers as a comparison group, we devised a child face mirroring task in fMRI settings to assess maternal responses to pictures of facial expressions of own child and an unknown child in an empathic mirroring condition and a non-mirroring observation condition. In each condition, faces of neutral, ambiguous, distressed, and joyful expressions of each child were repeatedly displayed in a random order. The response of SMA during empathic mirroring vs. non-mirroring of own child was reduced among BT/OUD vs. CG. Within MBN, the left VP, critical for parental sensitivity, had a similar deficit. This study outlines potential mechanisms for investigating the risks of deficits in the neural responses to actual maternal sensitivity and parenting behavior in mothers with OUD, and potential targets for interventions that reduce stress and augment maternal behavior and child outcome. (shrink)
In accord with social neuroscience's progression to include interactive experimental paradigms, parents' brains have been activated by emotionally charged infant stimuli including baby cry and picture. More recent research includes the use of brief video clips and opportunities for maternal response. Among brain systems important to parenting are those involved in empathy. This research may inform recent studies of decreased societal empathy, offer mechanisms and solutions.
Parental brain responses to baby stimuli constitute a unique model to study brain-basis frameworks of emotion. Results for baby-cry and picture stimuli may fit with both locationist and psychological constructionist hypotheses. Furthermore, the utility of either model may depend on postpartum timing and relationship. Endocrine effects may also be critical for accurate models to assess mental health risk and treatment.
The parent-infant dyad, characterized by contingent social interactions that develop over the first three months postpartum, may depend heavily on parental brain responses to the infant, including the capacity to smile. A range of brain regions may subserve this social key function in parents and contribute to similar capacities in normal infants, capacities that may go awry in circumstances of reduced care.
Critically significant parental effects in behavioral genetics may be partly understood as a consequence of maternal brain structure and function of caregiving systems recently studied in humans as well as rodents. Key parental brain areas regulate emotions, motivation/reward, and decision making, as well as more complex social-cognitive circuits. Additional key environmental factors must include socioeconomic status and paternal brain physiology. These have implications for developmental and evolutionary biology as well as public policy.
After reviewing historical aspects of brain evolution, this accessible book provides an enjoyable overview of several general principles of brain evolution, culminating in discussions of mammalian and human brains and a framework for future research.
Parent-infant emotional expressions vary according to parent and infant gender. Such parent-infant interactions critically affect infant development. Neuroimaging research is exploring emotion-related brain function that varies according to gender, and regulates parenting thoughts and behaviors in the early postpartum. Through specific brain functions, parenting serves to program the infant brain for the next generation of sex-specific emotional expression.
As interpersonal, racial, social, and international conflicts intensify in the world, it is important to safeguard the mental health of individuals affected by them. According to a Buddhist notion “if you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want to be happy, practice compassion,” compassion practice is an intervention to cultivate conflict-proof well-being. Here, compassion practice refers to a form of concentrated meditation wherein a practitioner attunes to friend, enemy, and someone in between, thinking, “I’m going to help (...) them.” The compassion meditation is based on Buddhist philosophy that mental suffering is rooted in conceptual thoughts that give rise to generic mental images of self and others and subsequent biases to preserve one’s egoism, blocking the ultimate nature of mind. To contextualize compassion meditation scientifically, we adopted a Bayesian active inference framework to incorporate relevant Buddhist concepts, including mind, compassion, aggregates, suffering, reification, conceptual thoughts, and superimposition. In this framework, a person is considered a Bayesian Engine that actively constructs phenomena based on the aggregates of forms, sensations, discriminations, actions, and consciousness. When the person embodies rigid beliefs about self and others’ identities and the resulting ego-preserving bias, the person’s Bayesian Engine malfunctions, failing to use prediction errors to update prior beliefs. To counter this problem, after recognizing the causes of sufferings, a practitioner of the compassion meditation aims to attune to all others equally, friends and enemies alike, suspend identity-based conceptual thoughts, and eventually let go of any identity-grasping belief and ego-preserving bias that obscure reality. We present a brain model for the Bayesian Engine of three components: Relation-Modeling, Reality-Checking, and Conflict-Alarming, which are subserved by the Default-Mode Network, Frontoparietal Network and Ventral Attention Network, and Salience Network, respectively. Upon perceiving conflicts, the strengthening or weakening of ego-preserving bias will critically depend on whether the SN up-regulates the DMN or FPN/VAN, respectively. We propose that compassion meditation can strengthen brain regions that are conducive for suspending prior beliefs and enhancing the attunements to the counterparts in conflicts. (shrink)
The author of this fascinating book explores the problem of decision-making. As a basis, he uses hyperbolic discounting theory to discuss many basic assumptions related to self-control. In an accessible conversational tone, he succeeds in capturing many current problems in decision science and presents a rational framework for further work.
Benevolent intersubjectivity developed in parent–infant interactions and compassion toward friend and foe alike are non-violent interventions to group behavior in conflict. Based on a dyadic active inference framework rooted in specific parental brain mechanisms, we suggest that interventions promoting compassion and intersubjectivity can reduce stress, and that compassionate mediation may resolve conflicts.
Intersubjectivity refers to one person’s awareness in relation to another person’s awareness. It is key to well-being and human development. From infancy to adulthood, human interactions ceaselessly contribute to the flourishing or impairment of intersubjectivity. In this work, we first describe intersubjectivity as a hallmark of quality dyadic processes. Then, using parent-child relationship as an example, we propose a dyadic active inference model to elucidate an inverse relation between stress and intersubjectivity. We postulate that impaired intersubjectivity is a manifestation of (...) underlying problems of deficient relational benevolence, misattributing another person’s intentions, and neglecting the effects of one’s own actions on the other person. These problems can exacerbate stress due to excessive variational free energy in a person’s active inference engine when that person feels threatened and holds on to his/her invalid beliefs. In support of this dyadic model, we briefly describe relevant neuroimaging literature to elucidate brain networks underlying the effects of an intersubjectivity-oriented parenting intervention on parenting stress. Using the active inference dyadic model, we identified critical interventional strategies necessary to rectify these problems and hereby developed a coding system in reference to these strategies. In a theory-guided quantitative review, we used this coding system to code 35 clinical trials of parenting interventions published between 2016 and 2020, based on PubMed database, to predict their efficacy for reducing parenting stress. The results of this theory-guided analysis corroborated our hypothesis that parenting intervention can effectively reduce parenting stress if the intervention is designed to mitigate the problems of deficient relational benevolence, under-coupling, and over-mentalizing. We integrated our work with several dyadic concepts identified in the literature. Finally, inspired by Arya Nagarjuna’s Buddhist Madhyamaka Philosophy, we described abstract expressions of Dependent Origination as a relational worldview to reflect on the normality, impairment, and rehabilitation of intersubjectivity. (shrink)
In the dyadic and triadic sharing of emotions, intentions, and behaviors in families, interactive synchrony is important to the early life experiences that contribute to the development of cultural cognition. This synchrony likely depends on neurobiological circuits, currently under study with brain imaging, that involve attention, stress response, and memory.
In a recent symposium on Descartes' ontological argument, Norman Malcolm has restated a rather ingenious version of St Anse1m's ontological argument. 1 The purpose of the present paper is to assess the merits of this particular version of the ontological argument.
One of the contemporary results of Germany’s memorial conundrum is the rise of its “counter-monuments”: brazen, painfully self-conscious memorial spaces conceived to challenge the very premises of their being. On the former site of Hamburg’s greatest synagogue, at Bornplatz, Margrit Kahl has assembled an intricate mosaic tracing the complex lines of the synagogue’s roof construction: a palimpsest for a building and community that no longer exist. Norbert Radermacher bathes a guilty landscape in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood with the inscribed light of (...) its past. Alfred Hrdlicka began a monument in Hamburg to counter—and thereby neutralize—an indestructible Nazi monument nearby. In a suburb of Hamburg, Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz have erected a black pillar against fascism and for peace designed to disappear altogether over time. The very heart of Berlin, former site of the gestapo headquarters, remains a great, gaping wound as politicians, artists, and various committees forever debate the most appropriate memorial for this site.4 4. The long-burning debate surrounding projected memorials, to the Gestapo-Gelände in particular, continues to exemplify both the German memorial conundrum and the state’s painstaking attempts to articulate it. For an excellent documentation of the process, see Topographie des Terrors: Gestapo, SS und Reichssicherheitshauptamt auf dem “Prinz-Albrecht-Gelände,” ed. Reinhard Rürup . For a shorter account, see James E. Young, “The Topography of German Memory,” The Journal of Art 1 : 30. James E. Young is assistant professor of English and Judaic studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author of Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of Interpretation and The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning in Europe, Israel, and America , from which this essay is drawn. He is also the curator of “The Art of Memory,” an exhibition at the Jewish Museum of New York. (shrink)
The Alexandrian emphasis on smallness, elegance, and slightness at the expense of grand themes in major poetic genres was not preciosity for its own sake: although the poetry was written by and for scholars, it had much larger sources than the bibliothecal context in which it was composed. Since the time of the classical poets, much had changed. Earlier Greek poetry was an intimate part of the life of the city-state, written for its religious occasions and performed by its citizens. (...) But eh conquests of Alexander had altered the structure and the boundaries of the Greek world to an astonishing degree. Alexandria, the center of the poetic culture of the new age, was a city that had not even existed at the time of Euripides; it was in Egypt, not in Greece, and was a huge, polyglot community. As immigrants immersed in a new, impersonal, and bureaucratic society, the poets not unreasonably sought out what was small, intimate, and personal in their verses. The heroes of early Greek poetry are larger than life; those of Alexandrian poetry are life-size. They are human, like us; they have a childhood and an old age; they are afraid or in love or caught in a rainstorm. It was simply one way of reducing the world to more manageable dimensions. At the same time, the new world of Alexandria needed a new poetry. To continue writing epics about a mythology that seemed very far away was senseless; it was impossible to recapture either the style or the immediacy of Homer, lyric poetry, or Attic tragedy. The scholar-poets of Alexandria admired the literature of classical Greece; for them Homer was incomparable and inimitable, to be studied—but not to be copied. Far better, then, to find a new voice on a more manageable scale: instead of oral epic, erudite epyllion; instead of lyric, epigram; instead of tragedy, mime. The poets of an urban and unheroic world might long for but could never re-create the grandeur of the past. James E. G. Zetzel is associate professor of classics at Princeton University and editor of the Transactions of the American Philological Association. He is the author of Latin Textual Criticism in Antiquity and, with Anthony T. Grafton and Glenn W. Most, has translated Friedrich August Wolf’s Prolegomena ad Homerum. (shrink)