February 6, 2007

"Lust and disgust, pride and humiliation, guilt and atonement... moral intuition, empathy..."

It's all there in your insula. Now, if we could just learn how to tweak it.... it would be great... or not.

14 comments:

Peter Palladas said...

John Donne - "No man is an island."

Frank Zappa - "He's a peninsula."

Women - "Men think with their penises."

Science - "You think you fancy that woman? Forget it, it was just your insula talking."

Descartes - "I insulate, therefore I am."

Me - "No ta."

bearbee said...

Alerted to danger they flee with insula still in tact, but then later Kevin is horrified to discover the de-insulated Dana!

Goesh said...

-a knock to the noggin can throw us half a bubble off, so it stands to reason another knock can make things right too. It all seems a bit too simple. It could save on couple counseling expenses however - partners could simply disconnect a spark plug wire from their car and give each other jolts on top of the head.

johnstodder said...

I hope everyone I know and care about is long dead and buried before they figure out how to control the insula.

Brr.

vbspurs said...

it.... it would be great... or not.

Right, I was thinking the same thing.

Where some may think, fantastic! now we can cure fatties of being foodies, junkies of being addicted, and cigarette smokers, alcholics or even the sexually frigid of everything that ails them PSYCHOLOGICALLY.

On paper, it's like tapping into the mind of God.

But if the insula also controls pain, if it allows you to distinguish rotten food from edible food, if it determines your cravings for power, lust, and sex, or just a good bottle of wine, then can you imagine if some evil person were to tweak the insula in humans?

I understand that our worst imaginings about the "what if"s are a symptom of the modern obsession, those nightmares which Mary Shelley tapped into with Frankenstein (not the least of which is that man is getting above himself...because he now can), but you have to take this power into account when ascribing to the insula beneficent powers.

Conceivably, a horrible outcome of controlling the insula could be people who are fed less than appetising food, which is better than starving to death (Ethiopia, Sudan). Of making pro-athletes withstand even more pain, which would make the Balco phenomenon a joke in comparison. Of producing alcholics, rather than reducing them, for whomever's nefarious ends.

The nightmarish scenarios are endless.

It's the Frankenstein that we can create that we fear, and yet find so so compelled to produce.

I learnt very little of the insula at Med School. Vaguely I recall that what makes it important is the sense of anticipation.

Anticipation controls our desires. You anticipate the needle going into you, you anticipate the cigarette in your nostrils, you anticipate the warmth of your body during sex.

And it feels good. You want that again, and how much you want it, determines your addictive level.

Right now, my insula is telling me that a donut would go well with some ice cold milk.

Yes, master.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Descartes - "I insulate, therefore I am."

Heh. Who knew Descartes was really Bob Vila.

I recall reading that Isadora Duncan had a young, good-looking Russian poet boyfriend in the 20s, just before she broke her neck in that car.

When someone asked her, do you believe in God?, she pointed to their bed, and said,

"That is God"

Today, the modern equivalent would be pointing to our insular cortex.

Not quite as sexy.

Cheers,
Victoria

Pastor_Jeff said...

Wow. Shades of Clockwork Orange, anyone?

I realize there's a profound philosophical discussion to be had, but all this scientific and biological determinism really strikes me as dehumanizing. "It's not me; it's my insula."

Of course physiology is inherently wrapped up in what it means to be human; but we are more than our chemicals and genes.

Let's boil down the opening sentence:

"Some people ... were able to give up cigarettes."

Okay, then.

Revenant said...

Of course physiology is inherently wrapped up in what it means to be human; but we are more than our chemicals and genes.

That's one theory. If that theory is correct, then there's no cause for concern. It is only necessary to worry about people altering our personalities by altering our brains if you suspect that we *aren't* more than our chemicals and genes.

Personally I don't see any particular reason to worry either way. Brain control would let evil people either (a) do bad things to me without me realizing it or (b) make me think they're doing bad things when they aren't. Right now they inflict real harm accompanied by real pain. Real pain with fake harm, or no pain from real harm, are both better options to me. I'd rather THINK I'd been fed into a wood chipper than ACTUALLY be fed into a wood chipper.

bearbee said...

I assume the insula could be manipulated through drug use. Isn't that what Eli Lilly and the rest of the gang now do when they develop drugs for ADHD, for bi-polars, for cognitive enhancement? Aren't they tinkering around with the brain when a pill is prescribed to suppress, depress or energize?

Pogo said...

I'd love to see a functional MRI comparing sociopaths with normal folk. Lacking empathy and guilt, the former might be detectable by a few simple images, where the lack of the expanded right insula equates to an animal brain, and no conscience at all.

What then?

Peter Palladas said...

What then?

'Minority Report' pre-cogs of course. Only per-lease don't let it be Tom Cruise who offs me in society's name.

How bad is that to die at the hands of a know-zip Scientologist?

"Hey Tom, see I got the tin-cans in my hand. Look at my frigging tones - they're 25 and rising. You can't zap me. I may look like a dumbass pre-clear to you, but I'm true son of Xenu."

...you know what? Suddenly the insula sounds all right to me. Beats some of the alternatives.

Simon said...

Who's in for a sweepstake on how long it takes for the first criminal defense to be raised on these grounds...

bearbee said...

Suddenly the insula sounds all right to me

Welcome brave new world...

Channel surfing lead me to a somewhat fragmented viewing of Boston Legal in which a teen-aged girl who had been sexually assaulted (body rubbing, I think), sued her parents (mother only?) to be allowed to take a new 'amnesia' pill in an effort to dull her memory of the event. The mother maintained that all life's experiences are what makes us who we become. The defense lawyer pretty much argued the same thing with the mention that Tennyson who grievously suffered the loss of a loved one, without that memory would not have written 'In Memoriam. '

I thought of this thread.

Revenant said...

The mother maintained that all life's experiences are what makes us who we become. The defense lawyer pretty much argued the same thing with the mention that Tennyson who grievously suffered the loss of a loved one, without that memory would not have written 'In Memoriam. '

Statistically speaking, victims of child molestation are more likely to be turned into child molesters by the experience than they are to be turned into famous poets. Our experiences are, indeed, part of who we are, and that means that horrible experiences can make us horrible people. Some of our experiences are better off unremembered.

Bluntly put, the notion that all of our experiences are valuable is empty-headed hippie bullshit.