January 29, 2012

Young brains.

1. Does homosexuality reside at the biological brain level? "There is substantial evidence of various connections between genes, brain, hormones and sexual identity... But those do not amount to a simple picture that A leads to B." So gay people aren't born gay? "I honestly have no idea if I was born this way. My memory doesn’t stretch to the crib. But I know that from the moment I felt romantic stirrings, it was Timmy, not Tammy, who could have me walking on air or wallowing in torch songs and tubs of ice cream."

2. Do kids with ADD have a different kind of brain that makes stimulants like Ritalin have a mysterious opposite effect, calming them down? "Putting children on drugs does nothing to change the conditions that derail their development in the first place. Yet those conditions are receiving scant attention. Policy makers are so convinced that children with attention deficits have an organic disease that they have all but called off the search for a comprehensive understanding of the condition."

3. Are teenagers defective at the brain level? "Brain research is often taken to mean that adolescents are really just defective adults—grown-ups with a missing part. Public policy debates about teenagers thus often turn on the question of when, exactly, certain areas of the brain develop, and so at what age children should be allowed to drive or marry or vote—or be held fully responsible for crimes. But the new view of the adolescent brain isn't that the prefrontal lobes just fail to show up; it's that they aren't properly instructed and exercised.... Instead of simply giving adolescents more and more school experiences—those extra hours of after-school classes and homework—we could try to arrange more opportunities for apprenticeship. "


edutcher said...

Are teenagers defective at the brain level?

Most of us who have survived adolescence would say so.

Insurance actuaries tend to concur.

As for 2, I think ADD has been an easy out for teachers who don't want to discipline kids. Someone in the extended family has had a kid supposedly with Add. He was a smart, inquisitive, spoiled kid at 10. At 20, he's a fat, doped up, spoiled kid.


As for 1, I think there are a lot of people with axes to grind.

MadisonMan said...

Contemporary adolescents and pre-adolescents often don't do much of anything except go to school. Even the paper route and the baby-sitting job have largely disappeared.

I stopped reading here. No evidence presented to support this conclusion that directly contradicts my kids' (and their friends' lives).

I will infer that the author spends her time on the coasts.

madAsHell said...

My aunt had 5 boys. One of them was gay, and it was pretty obvious from about the time he turned 4.

The gay brother was painfully obvious when contrasted against the 4 other brothers. If he had been an only child, it might not have been as noticeable.

MadisonMan said...

(Mine was a comment on #3)

wild chicken said...

"all children, whether they had attention problems or not, responded to stimulant drugs the same way."

Okay, how were they able to find this out ethically? were they giving speed to normal kids?

Scrutineer said...

Does homosexuality reside at the biological brain level?

What aspect of personality doesn't "reside at the biological brain level?"

YoungHegelian said...


What aspect of personality doesn't "reside at the biological brain level?"

Yo! Smackdown on aisle 4!

None of those articles were exactly Scientific American articles, but #1 did seem to be particularly science free.

I ♥ Willard said...

None of those articles were exactly Scientific American articles, but #1 did seem to be particularly science free.

And thank goodness for that! One of the really great things about this blog is that it's science free.

Sue D'Nhym said...

"Policy makers are so convinced that children with attention deficits have an organic disease that they have all but called off the search for a comprehensive understanding of the condition.""

This is why policy makers should not be involved, at all. This is something the medical industry, including doctors, should be determining through their practices and companies.

However, there are sometimes real and true organic reasons for ADHD. My oldest is like that. We still have not nailed down all of what has been happening with him, but there is definitely something physical going on- that much has been proven. His ADHD medicine helped him get the best grades he's ever had (not even close) for the past 18 months.

And we had never considered that the physical issue we were tracking down the whole time could be causing the ADHD. That only became obvious in retrospect, when test results finally showed what was happening in his blood. All we don't know now is the "What's causing it"?

In the interim, ADHD medicine has him with a year of good grades under his belt and some good test scores. Without, he'd probably have had no chance of any decent further education.

Bender said...

Yes, yes. We ALL know that gayness is biological, genetic, etc. Gays are born that way.

But, just for the sake of the argument, just for kicks, let's suppose that gays did have freedom of choice.

If they did -- and, again, we all know that they do not have free will, they can't choose it, but if they did -- if they could choose, would the gay guy choose to have sex with women, or would he still like having sex with other men? Is there any gay guy out there willing to say that he would choose to have sex with women if he could so choose, or would he still choose men?

Phil 3:14 said...

If same sex sexual attraction is genetic someone will eventually identify the genetic "cause", and then what?

wv: hymen (well its safe here)

Chip Ahoy said...

Homo genes.

I know two guys from a family of five children all of whom are gay. Not the parents, of course, stop being silly. I asked them if their parents ever wondered out loud where they might have gone wrong in parenting, because of that oddity, and they both said, no, on the contrary, but they have congratulated themselves out loud on having done so well.

SunnyJ said...

Aristotle, " I think...therefore I am". Given that we all have the same body parts, the only unknown that makes us "us" is in the synaptic space...most like the virtual space we've created outside ourselves.

The self has programming in cell biology, the central/peripheral nervous systems and the brain. We add sensory input from experience, grow some cognitive ability to synthesize and wa laa...an individual.

It's our hierarchical drive to creat an algorithm that expains it all. However, our data reflects that regardless of all things being equal...that synaptic space will deliver all variations on the theme.

So draw conclusions all you like...sort, sift and winnow to your hearts content. Neuroplasticity exists to set us free...babies use to dial little phones, then they puched numbers, now they scroll. Brain mapping shows that what we thought was going on is not at all what was going on... it's just so damn amazing and always a step ahead...planned that way!

ricpic said...

Teenagers are defective at every level.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Renee said...

I think #3 is bogus. We baby young adults (teenagers). The transition from childhood to adult shouldn't take that long, Nothing wrong with teen brains, only thing wrong is what we do with them.

Renee said...

Argh.... #3 I agree with it. I stepped away in the middle of writing my comment, and switched how I was addressing the issue. Sorry.

Nomadic100 said...

I don't understand why my reply was not posted. It's up to you, of course, but it was not scatological or objectionable in any way.

I'll survive the disappointment, of course.

HT said...

Sue, so no regulations of drugs? Well, lots of people say the FDA is captured, anyway.

Lots of kids take stimulant drugs now because it helps them focus.

And, there's a whole industry and way of processing kids through school that has sprung up around so called hyperactivity.

Teaching the Restless was a very good book.

I liked the NYT article on Ritalin and other drugs very much. I'm pleasantly surprised to see it in the Times.

Bruce Hayden said...

Don't know about lesbians, but if you hook up straight and gay guys to electrodes and show them pictures of attractive naked bodies, it is apparently quite obvious what their sexual orientation is. Apparently both when their genitals are hooked up, and parts of their brains. Also, the brains of some gay males appear more female than straight male brains. Which all goes to say, that wiring of brains has a lot to do with sexual orientation.

The theory that I read awhile back, is that guys end up as gay, when there is insufficient testosterone at certain times of brain development during gestation. Also, not quite orthogonal to this is sexual approach - male/aggressive v. female/passive.

Some of this appears to be hereditary, and some environmental (possibly as a result of maternal stress). If it were completely hereditary, then "homosexual" genes are more likely than not to die out, in competition with "heterosexual" genes.

Bruce Hayden said...

Not sure if I would say that teenaged brains are defective, but, rather, not fully formed, with the last part to fully mature being judgment, which apparently happens in the mid twenties for males, and maybe a couple years earlier for females.

That said, it is interesting that a lot of the best work of some of our geniuses has been up through this time of final maturation, with novel insights dropping off considerably as they pass into their thirties and beyond.

Thomas W said...

Regarding ADHD, I've seen the nature of the testing used on my kids. I'd love to find a version I could try and see how it scores different behaviors. From what I can tell, anybody who gets bored or distracted could end up classed as ADHD.

That said, the ability to force oneself to do an undesired task (e.g. homework) and the tendency to be distracted by other things going on varies greatly between children (and adults). Some have trouble ignoring distractions or focusing on something uninteresting.

My limited experience is that each individual is different. Some can be taught how to work around a problems, some respond to dietetary changes, and others respond to drugs. There's too much desire for a "one size fits all" solution to ADHD (along with a lot of books with "the solution" to ADHD, likely enriching the author more than anybody else).

I'd make similar comments on homosexuality. Is is biological? Yes. Is it upbringing? Yes. Is it by choice? Yes. Each of these (and combinations) apply to some people. There are those born gay. There are others who make the choice (likely having a preexisting tendency). There are others born solidly heterosexual, and still others with more flexible desires.

Unfortunately, "biology only" or "choice only" are promoted depending on your political view, and neither side seems willing to admit the other has any merit.

DADvocate said...

The article on teenagers misses the point that what apprenticeships, and other experiences outside the academic settings, gave children and teenagers was social interaction. Interactions where they developed real relationships with adults, as well as other kids.

Relationships where they learned, not through instruction but through natural relationship development, to care about others, to work with others, to be part of a team. Today we try to replace that with didactic instruction and a technocratic approach.

Today I spent several hours riding with my 15 year old daughter, teaching her to drive. We talk about many things, we joke. She tells me about her life and her friends without me prying. I don't instruct her on how to act and behave, I just give her honest, caring responses to what she says.

We've become so separated from what is "natural" any more that even most of the nature lovers don't see humans as part of nature but as some form of alien invaders. We don't know how to be parents, teachers, or mentors in a natural way. It's not that hard. But, first we need to realize that human relations can't be defined and built using the rules of technology.

Most teenagers I know are great kids. It's the adults around them fucking everything up.

Paul said...

Love the Times artfully dodging the most interesting possibilities for this story. Namely that lesbians appear to have nothing in common with gay men other than sharing a protected class and the occasional bullhorn. Perhaps the Sports desk should send a cub reporter to Vietnam or Nepal to figure out why so many Asians/Pacific Islanders are starting on NFL teams.

Sue D'Nhym said...

Sue, so no regulations of drugs?

I do not subscribe to an all-or-nothing view of things.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Blogger Phil 3:14 said...

'If same sex sexual attraction is genetic someone will eventually identify the genetic "cause", and then what?'

That's when gay activists will become anti-abortion.

Putting them on the same side of the Catholic Church.

But what happens when someone figures out how to "treat" this genetic anomaly before or after birth?

Parents generally can allow medical treatment on their children to correct or prevent defects or malformation.

In the end, it may prove to have been a bad idea to insist on it being genetic.

Thomas W said...

Fr. Martin Fox: I've noticed that in a couple things I've read lately. Apparently gay men were at one point opposed to the argument "it's biological" because that makes it possible to look for a "cure". Today, the argument reversed to "it's biological" to again argue against a "cure".

This seems an example of wanting a particular political result (homosexuality accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality), the "cause" (biological or not) is secondary and used as needed to support the political result.

Fr Martin Fox said...



As I see it, it's really just flabby thinking.

There are really two questions beneath all this that matter:

1. Are we actually free (I'll prescind from the Augustinian question here, relating to grace assisting our freedom), or is our freedom an illusion arising from some complexity of biology and social evolution?

2. Is there an objective Good worth pursuing and conforming to?

Because if there is an objective Good, and if we are free, then we can seek to change ourselves--even if it means changing our biology.

Step back from sexual orientation; consider any other sort of feature of oneself not simply physical, such as ones nose or ears. If you don't like one of your habits or personality traits, you will have a hard time changing it; but not impossible.

Will we discover a genetic component to these? If so, so what? We then seek to discover a way to fix that. What is the problem?

Those who argue about gay identity, against traditional morality, frequently argue against my first proposition, and never really engage with the second; and resent like the devil when traditional moralists bring it up themselves.

But in the end, isn't that what matters? What is the Good?

We live in a time when many argue--or at least assume without much reflection--that a society can endure without a common understanding of the Good. But is this true?

Trying to bring that up and you will be shouted down by ironic chants of "hate" and "bigot."