Compenetration Weblog

fusion of inner and outher space

Financial crises- Blame it on Testosteron Inc.

foreignpolicy1

As in the Byron’s book   Testosterone Inc.: Tales of CEOs Gone Wild,  Scientific American found common ground for narcissistic, insane, exscentric  and tyrannic bosses’ and politics’ behaviour – testosterone.

Is testosterone to blame for the financial crisis?

 If you’ve been blaming reckless men for the collapse of America’s leading investment houses and the plunging markets, you may be on to something. High levels of testosterone are correlated with riskier financial behavior, new research suggests.

Overconfidence has long been noted by historians and political scientists as a major cause of war. However, the origins of such overconfidence, and sources of variation, remain poorly understood. Mounting empirical studies now show that mentally healthy people tend to exhibit psychological biases that encourage optimism, collectively known as ‘positive illusions’. Positive illusions are thought to have been adaptive in our evolutionary past because they served to cope with adversity, harden resolve, or bluff opponents. Today, however, positive illusions may contribute to costly conflicts and wars. Testosterone has been proposed as a proximate mediator of positive illusions, given its role in promoting dominance and challenge behaviour, particularly in men. To date, no studies have attempted to link overconfidence, decisions about war, gender, and testosterone. Here we report that, in experimental wargames: (i) people are overconfident about their expectations of success; (ii) those who are more overconfident are more likely to attack; (iii) overconfidence and attacks are more pronounced among males than females; and (iv) testosterone is related to expectations of success, but not within gender, so its influence on overconfidence cannot be distinguished from any other gender specific factor. Overall, these results constitute the first empirical support of recent theoretical work linking overconfidence and war.

High Testosteron

Narcissists work on a big scale and are drawn to risky decisions. They go for large spending and investment, and love a merger or acquisition. The financial results under their leadership, the study found, are more extreme.

 

November 24, 2008 Posted by | books, brain, mind, neurology, neuroscience, Politics, psychology, Science | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aspartame – sweet poison

Must see documentary Sweet misery- A poisoned world ( “Excellent documentary showing how dangerous artificial sweetner Aspartame is. From its history, to its effects this video is enough to shock anyone into really looking at there food labels next time they shop. Aspartame is a toxic food that came into the world as an investment By Donald Rumsfeld, while ignoring the deadly effects the tests showed. Take a good look at this video, it could save lives. ” and book Sweet poison about Artificial sweetener Aspartame, which despite so much harmful effects on health it is still in use in food industry. (The FDA Commissioner’s original team of scientific experts was against approval of aspartame because the brain tumor data was so “worrisome.” ).

The only think we can do is not to use it.  Interesting enough, the players are again the same. Donald Rumsfeld has been the CEO of the company G.D. Searle (see bellow) and he lobbied for FDA approval. G.D. Searle has been acquired by Monsanto, well known about its genetically modified food. Is this the way how to decrease the world population? Scarry!

Nutrasweet – A Look at the History of Deception Behind Its Marketing

In 1977, Donald Rumsfeld (a former member of the U.S. Congress and the Chief of Staff in the Gerald Ford Administration) was hired as President and CEO of G.D. Searle. Attorney James Turner, Esq. has alleged that G.D. Searle hired Rumsfeld to facilitate the aspartame approval difficulties that they were experiencing.

Rumsfeld’s first action was to hire John Robson as Executive Vice President. Robson was a former lawyer with Sidley and Austin (Searle’sLaw Firm) and had also served as chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board (then connected with the Department of Transportation). Rumsfeld also brought on Robert Shapiro as General Counsel. Shapiro had been Robson’s Special Assistant at the Department of Transportation. Rumsfeld’s next task was to hire William Greener, Jr., as Chief Spokesman. Greener was a former spokesman in the Gerald Ford White House.

At the time that Rumsfeld became President and CEO he was on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Tribune. Shortly after Rumsfeld became CEO of Searle he wrote an effusively positive article about the NutraSweet Company.

On January 10, 1977, it was recommended to the U.S. Attorney that a grand jury be set up to investigate G.D. Searle for violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, U.S.C. 331(e), and the False Reports to the Government Act, 18 U.S.C. 1001. G.D. Searle and Company and three of its responsible officers were investigated for willful and knowing failure to make reports to the Food and Drug Administration and for hiding pertinent facts and making false statements in reports of the animal studies that were conducted to establish the safety of the drug Aldactone and the food additive Aspartame.

There were two studies where the violations committed by G.D. Searle appeared to be especially grievous. The two studies investigated were the previously mentioned 52-week toxicity study on infant monkeys performed by Dr. Waisman (G.D. Searle withheld important information from the FDA) and a 46-week toxicity study of hamsters (G.D. Searle had taken blood from healthy animals at the 26th week and claimed that the tests had actually been performed at the 38th week). Apparently many of the animals from this study were dead by the 38th week.

On January 26, 1977, G.D. Searle’s law firm, Sidley & Austin, requested a meeting with the U.S. Attorney prior to a grand jury convening. A representative of Sidley & Austin who was present at that meeting was Newton Minow (also on the Board of Directors at the Chicago Tribune at that time).

On April 13, 1977, a memo from the U.S. Justice Department urged U.S. Attorney Samuel Skinner to proceed quickly with the grand jury investigations of G.D. Searle. The memo clearly shows that the Statute of limitations on prosecution was going to expire soon (October 10, 1977 for the Waisman study and December 8, 1977 for the other study).

On July 1, 1977, U.S. Attorney Samuel Skinner left his U.S. Attorney position to work for the G.D. Searle law firm of Sidley & Austin. Thomas Sullivan became Samuel Skinner’s successor. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Conlon convened a grand jury, but he allowed the Statute of Limitations to run out on the aspartame study charges.

Just over a year later, Conlon also accepted a job with G.D. Searle’s law firm, Sidley & Austin.
Robert McConnell was the Director of G.D. Searle’s Department of Pathology and Toxicology, the department that oversaw most of the aspartame research. Mr. McConnell was specifically named in the initial recommendation for investigation. According to McConnell’s attorney, his client was given a $15,000 bonus and it was requested he take a 3-year sabbatical (he received $60,000 for each year). He was deemed a “political liability.”

On January 21, 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States, G.D. Searle reapplied for the approval of aspartame. G.D. Searlesubmitted new studies along with their application. Reagan was expected to replace Jere Goyan, the FDA Commissioner. G.D. Searle President & CEO, Donald Rumsfeld’s connections to the Republican Party were also thought to be connected to Searle’s decision to reapply for aspartame’s approval at that time.

According to a former G.D. Searle salesperson, Donald Rumsfeld told his sales force that, if necessary, “he would call in all his markers and that no matter what, he would see to it that aspartame would be approved that year.”

Meanwhile, there were FDA scientists who were very concerned about specific problems linking aspartame with brain tumors, brain lesions, and general brain chemistry. Another concerned neuroscientist, Dr. John Olney studied aspartame extensively and he expressed his concern about the serious negative health effects aspartame consumption had on the human body.

The concerns of these top scientists were of no consequence to Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld made the decision to solve this problem politically – not scientifically.

On October 15, 1982, G.D. Searle petitioned the FDA for approval of aspartame use in soft drinks and children’s vitamins.

On October 1, 1982 an amendment was attached to the Orphan Drug Act. This act encourages the development of drugs for rare diseases. The amendment extended the patent on one product — aspartame — by 5 years, 10 months and 17 days. The amendment did not mention aspartame or G.D. Searle specifically and there was no debate or discussion on this amendment.

This amendment was proposed by Senator Howell Heflin, brought up for vote by Senator Robert Byrd, and pushed through by Representatives Henry Waxman and Orrin Hatch. G.D. Searle requested Senator Heflin sponsor the amendment. Heflin reportedly received $9,000 in campaign donations from G.D. Searle company executives shortly after this amendment was approved. Senator Byrd received a $1,000 campaign contribution from the CEO of G.D. Searle (Rumsfeld) before the amendment was proposed. Representative Waxman received a $1,500 campaign contribution from the soft drink political action committee. Senator Hatch also received $2,500 from the soft drink political action committee prior to his re-election and $1,000 each from Daniel Searle, Wesley Dixon (Daniel Searle’s brother-in-law), and William Searle. Senator Hatch has blocked hearings looking into the safety of aspartame many times.

In 1985, G.D. Searle was sold to the chemical company, Monsanto. Monsanto then created the NutraSweet Company as a separate subsidiary from G.D. Searle.

In 1992, NutraSweet signed agreements with the Coca-Cola and PepsiCo stipulating that The NutraSweet Company was their preferred supplier of aspartame. The patent for aspartame expired on December 14, 1992. This opened up the market to other companies.

In light of all of this information, it is not at all surprising that most health-conscious people now believe avoiding NutraSweet is a prudent practice. At some future point, if a scientific consensus finally concludes that aspartame puts most consumers at risk, it will be much too late. The best thing is to eat safely now.

Aspartame (NutraSweet) Formaldehyde Poisoning, Health Destruction, and Lawsuits

Some of the symptoms of aspartame poisong include:

    Headaches/Migraines, Dizziness, Seizures, Nausea, Numbness, Muscle spasms, Weight gain, Rashes, Depression, Fatigue, Irritability, Tachycardia, Insomnia, Vision Problems, Hearing Loss, Heart palpitations, Breathing difficulties, Anxiety attacks, Slurred Speech, Loss of taste, Tinnitus, Vertigo, Memory loss, Joint Pain

Because aspartame metabolizes into a poison and other dangerous chemicals (despite the claims of the manufacturer to the contrary), it is believed that it can trigger or worsen the following conditions:

    Brain tumors, Arthritis, Multiple sclerosis, Epilepsy, Chronic faigue syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Mental retardation, Lymphoma, Birth defects, Fibromyalgia, Diabetes, Thyroid Disorders

http://www.mpwhi.com/main.htm

September 5, 2008 Posted by | conspiracy, Documentary, food, neurology, Politics, Science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why some brains follow the rules and others don’t?

Have just read the article “Why the brain follows the rules? (see it bellow) and what really intrigued me was not exactly the question why the brain follows the rules but why  there are some differences among people…or say it differently….Why some brains don’t follow the rules?

It’s brought me back to the question of psychology of power   as influence of personal/genetic traits and the influence of enviroment(omnipresent corporate culture which declare itself as a person but without human traits) which shapes people’s mind through language/values and perception.

And here Niccolò Machiavelli comes on stage. To helps us figure out either opportunistic and selfish behaviour is indeed result of someones brain (dis)function or it could be simply acquired during socialization. The field is well studied but with no final answer. So i gonna speculate as well. Cos i did  extensive study for myself  to catch just the tail of the problem. The whole body of the problem is yet to be researched.

Take a minute to find your score on Machiavelli personality test . It’s fun and while doing it you can get pretty clear idea what it’s all about (and what i am talking in the rest of the post). To be socially successful in this world, you would mark the answers which are not really close to your true nature but you would definitely pass better at work or on social situation (not friends) if you behave lake that. Thinking about that is already opportunistic. And here is evident the whole problem. It is kind of adaption mechanism or survival strategy. But still…to which extent? We all do it. But than, why some of them can easily take the last exit of human morality and try to dominate other people. We all don’t do it. That’s clear. Some of us have different goals than money and dominance. Beauty of every moment, for example.

 And going further, for example, I can’t simply believe that all people from “elite” families are genetically  so the same that they follow the same Machiavelli’s rules. They’ve been taught, i guess. But the range of people who came to the position of manipulating and are not part of taught elite, could be so diverse. From psychopath traits to the ones who simply found out by chance how to come to the position of dominance and manipulation. Although they were just good, nice , ordinary people before. Did they hide those traits or did the system change them? As one research showed the level of serotonin rises as person comes to the higher position. The Standford experiment is great example for that. But unfortunately, the end result is  the same as it would be inherited case. Brain is very plastic, seems so. And it changes a lot during the life.

As some researches show, machiavellism and primary psychopathic traits are highly correlated, but the question remains: Was it there before or was it learned…Some researches show that correlation doesn’t exist.  That Machiavellians are just well adopted people with high survival instincts. Is it possible that their social status and wealth diminishes the treat of punishment and that’s why their brain shows all signs of disinhibition which is characteristic for psychopaths?

See bellow the traits of psychopaths, machievillists, correlations and what scans of the brain say about. One is sure. Orbitofrontal cortex is playing a great role. Was it that kind at their birth or was it changed during the life time as adaption strategy, is the real question to be answered.

The traits of  PSYCHOPATHS(Cleckley, 1941; http://www.rottenamerica.com/Psychopath/Signs%20of%20a%20Psychopath.htm ):

PRIMARY PSYCHOPATHS do not respond to punishment, apprehension, stress, or disapproval. They seem to be able to inhibit their antisocial impulses most of the time, not because of conscience, but because it suits their purpose at the time. Words do not seem to have the same meaning for them as they do for us. In fact, it’s unclear if they even grasp the meaning of their own words, a condition that Cleckley called “semantic aphasia.” They don’t follow any life plan, and it seems as if they are incapable of experiencing any genuine emotion.

SECONDARY PSYCHOPATHS are risk-takers, but are also more likely to be stress-reactive, worriers, and guilt-prone. They expose themselves to more stress than the average person, but they are as vulnerable to stress as the average person. (This suggests that they are not “fully psychopathic.” This may be due to distinctive genetic variations.)

They are daring, adventurous, unconventional people who began playing by their own rules early in life. They are strongly driven by a desire to escape or avoid pain, but are unable to resist temptation. As their anxiety increases toward some forbidden object, so does their attraction to it. They live their lives by the lure of temptation. Both primary and secondary psychopaths can be subdivided into:

DISTEMPERED PSYCHOPATHS are the kind that seem to fly into a rage or frenzy more easily and more often than other subtypes. Their frenzy will resemble an epileptic fit. They are also usually men with incredibly strong sex drives, capable of astonishing feats of sexual energy, and seemingly obsessed by sexual urges during a large part of their waking lives. Powerful cravings also seem to characterize them, as in drug addiction, kleptomania, pedophilia, any illicit or illegal indulgence. They like the endorphin “high” or “rush” off of excitement and risk-taking. The serial-rapist-murderer known as the Boston Strangler was such a psychopath.

CHARISMATIC PSYCHOPATHS are charming, attractive liars. They are usually gifted at some talent or another, and they use it to their advantage in manipulating others. They are usually fast-talkers, and possess an almost demonic ability to persuade others out of everything they own, even their lives. Leaders of religious sects or cults, for example, might be psychopaths if they lead their followers to their deaths. This subtype often comes to believe in their own fictions. They are irresistible.

Sociopaths have always existed in varying form and to various degrees. They have been known by various titles. They have been studied using various techniques, and through the years their ailment has been blamed on various causes. But one thing never varies: all sociopaths share three common characteristics. They are all very egocentric individuals with no empathy for others, and they are incapable of feeling remorse or guilt.  [The Sociopath Rebecca Horton (April 1999)]

 Bellow are some explanations what mechiavellisem means psychologicaly and MRI (brain scans) how it can be explained neurologically:

 Machiavellian intelligence

The term refers to Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513) and to the hypothesis that the techniques which lead to certain kinds of political success within large social groups are also applicable within smaller groups, including the family-unit. The term “everyday politics” was later introduced in reference to these various methods. These arguments are based on research by primatologists such as Nicholas Humphrey (1975).

Machiavelli’s teachings continue to influence all levels of Western society. Take for example a situation presented by Michael Walzer: An elementary school needs a new roof. Simple as it may seem, much of Machiavelli’s theories will be put to use. Money from a budget must be allocated by officials, each of them lobbying for what they think is most important. Even then, if money is allocated towards a new roof, a construction contractor must be hired. One must consistently consider, What is behind this lower estimate for the construction work? Why does this company want this small contract? Many questions must be asked in order to identify deception. In the end, all anyone can ever do is “strive to make an informed decision based on the best evidence, and then act accordingly, even though the best evidence will never guarantee certainty.”

Machiavellian intelligence may be demonstrated by behaviors including:

  • Making and breaking alliances
  • making and breaking promises
  • making and breaking rules;
  • lying and truth-telling;
  • blaming and forgiveness;
  • misleading and misdirection.

Machiavellianism

Machiavellianism is the term that some social and personality psychologists use to describe a person’s tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain. The concept is named after Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, who wrote Il Principe(The Prince). In the 1960s Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis developed a test for measuring a person’s level of Machiavellianism. This eventually became the MACH-IV test, a twenty-statement personality survey that is now the standard self-assessment tool of Machiavellianism. People scoring above 60 out of 100 on the MACH-IV are considered high Machs; that is, they endorsed statements such as, “Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so,” (No. 1) but not ones like, “Most people are basically good and kind” (No. 4). People scoring below 60 out of 100 on the MACH-IV are considered low Machs; they tend to believe, “There is no excuse for lying to someone else,” (No. 7) and, “Most people who get ahead in the world lead clean, moral lives” (No. 11). In a series of studies undertaken by Christie and Geis and Geis’s graduate assistant David Berger, the notion of machiavellianism was experimentally verified.

High Machs

High Machs tend to take a more detached, calculating approach in their interaction with other people. In terms of Big Five personality traits, Machiavellians tend to be low on agreeableness and high in conscientiousness.

Scholars and researchers have attempted to find a correlation between Machiavellianismand narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy. It could be understood that psychopaths and sociopathshave a similar disposition that could be identified with Machiavellianism, for sociopaths are known for manipulation and cunning. Psychopaths, however, generally have difficulty realizing or understanding the concepts of right and wrong, and tend not to have much regard for consequences. On the other hand, High Machs perhaps more or less view as Machiavelli did, and simply believe that while right and wrong have reality (at least to most people), that it is impractical to be ethical all the time, and that perhaps there is a difference between outright deception or exploitation, and subtle spins on the truth for the sake of what is seen (subjectively) as a more important cause that is not recognized by both parties. However, it may be difficult to distinguish between the two, because both types exhibit similar tendencies, often while considering it important to mask or misrepresent their motives. Furthermore, true High Machs (as opposed to sociopaths) tend to take consequences very seriously, and when dedicated to a course of action which may backfire, it is usually because the potential consequences have been weighed quite carefully and the High Mach is prepared to be responsible if blame cannot be deflected sufficiently.
Low Machs tend to take a more personal, empathic approach in their interaction with other people. They tend to be more trusting of others and more honest. They believe humans are essentially good natured. At the extreme, low Machs tend to be passive, submissive, highly agreeable, dependent and socially inept; in contrast with those who are more Machiavellian, they also tend to believe that everyone has a good and bad side.

Personality correlates of machiavellianism: v. machiavellianism, extraversion and toughmindedness in business

Previous research has demonstrated a relationship between Machiavellianism and a preference for business occupations. The present study tested the hypothesis that this Machiavellian-business connection is mediated by other personality characteristics. Support was obtained for predictions that, compared to Non-Business High Machs, Business High Machs would (i) differ little on Neuroticism (low) or Pchoticism (high), but (ii) score significantly higher on Extraversion, as measured by the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. The links between sociability (Extraversion), toughmindedness (Psychoticism) and skills in interpersonal manipulation (Machiavellianism) are discussed in terms of their complementary implications for effective business behaviour.

“Machiavellianism” and frontal dysfunction: Evidence from Parkinson’s disease

A framework exploring the effects of the Machiavellian disposition on the relationship between motivation and influence tactics

Machiavelli’s (1513/1902) work The Prince provided the basis of the Machiavellian personality type coined by Christie and Geis (1970). The traditional Machiavellian perspective advocates that the leader’s main goal is to be in power at all costs, whereby the end justifies the means as long as power is retained.

The Machiavellian personality type has been researched extensively. Initial research found individuals who were strong in the Machiavellian disposition to be controlling, manipulative, and ruthless (Christie & Geis, 1970). However, recent research has shown that individuals higher in the Machiavellian disposition are more flexible in their choices of influence tactics than individuals lower in the Machiavellian disposition (Grams & Rogers, 1989), and are more likely to exhibit self-monitoring behaviors (Snyder, 1974). The Machiavellian personality has been positively correlated with certain types of planning for communication in interpersonal situations, indicating that high Machiavellians give thought to how to influence others (Allen, 1990).

Those who score high on a Machiavellian assessment instrument would be more flexible in choosing influence tactics most likely to lead to follower compliance (Carpenter, 1990). Those scoring low on a Machiavellian assessment would be less likely to strategically alter their behavior. Another factor contributing to the high Machiavellian’s flexibility of behavior might be the ability to use self-monitoring to read and use environmental cues to determine behavior. Research has shown a strong relationship between Machiavellianism and self-monitoring (Leone, 1994; Snyder, 1974).

Under the situational model, a high Machiavellian disposition would affect the relationship between an individual’s motivation source and influence tactic choice, because he or she would be able to alter behavior according to the situation. By contrast, the dispositional model indicates that the low Machiavellian is less likely to alter behavior. Therefore, the situation does not become a factor in that individual’s influence behavior, demonstrating again that the individual’s motivation source has a direct relationship with his or her influence tactic choice.

Machiavellianism in Initial and Repeated Influence Attempts

Machiavellians display superb negotiation skills, and their ability to influence is impressive (Christie & Geis, 1970). Kets de Vries and Miller (1985) related narcissism to the Machiavellian personality when they described the self-deceptive variety of narcissism. Narcissistic individuals were said to display a lack of empathy and fear of failure and were considered “ideal-hungry,” preoccupied with their own needs, and strongly desirous of being loved, as well as having a transactional/instrumental orientation.

Grams and Rogers (1989) examined influence tactics and personality characteristics and found that the choice of influence tactic differs dramatically according to whether a person is high or low in the Machiavellian disposition. Individuals with a high Machiavellian disposition are more motivated to succeed, more assertive, and less manipulative. Additionally, resistance from the target changes the leader’s influence strategy. Those high in the Machiavellian disposition prefer to use indirect (emotion) and non-rational (reward) persuasion techniques. High Machiavellians display positive emotional techniques (flattery, friendliness) that aid in their influence attempts. Individuals high in Machiavellianism want to succeed by using the least obtrusive means possible but are willing to resort to stronger or harder tactics if necessary.

Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and Narcissism

Relations of the “Dark Triad” personality traits—Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and Narcissism—with the variables of the Five-Factor Model and the HEXACO model of personality structure

Why women really do love self-obsessed psychopaths

The dark triad of traits are the self-obsession of narcissism, the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of psychopaths and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism. “We have some evidence these traits may represent a successful evolutionary strategy,” Dr Jonason told New Scientist magazine.

It’s all in the behavioural-genetics

Why the brain follows the rules?

By Caroline Zink

People are incredibly social beings, and we rely heavily on our interactions with others to thrive, and even survive, in the world. To avoid chaos in these interactions, humans create social norms. These rules and regulations establish appropriate and acceptable ways for us to act and respond to each other. For instance, when waiting in line, we expect people also to wait their turn. As a result, we get upset when someone decides to cut in line: they violated a social norm.

But how are social norms maintained?  And what makes us comply with social norms? Primarily, the answer is that, if we don’t follow the rules, we might get in trouble. Numerous studies demonstrate that, when the threat of punishment is removed, people tend to disregard social norms. The neat and orderly line disintegrates.

It remains unclear, however, how the brain processes the threat of punishment when deciding whether or not to comply with a social norm. A recent study conducted by neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer and his colleagues at the University of Ulm in Germany and the University of Zurich in Switzerland tried to shed light on this mystery. The researchers put 24 healthy male students in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to see what parts of the brain were activated during a two-person social exchange with real monetary stakes.

In this game, a research participant (“Person A”) was given money, and had to decide how much he wanted to give to another person (“Person B”) and how much he wanted to keep. In one variation of the game—the “punishment threat condition”—Person B could punish Person A if he or she believed that Person A had divided the money unfairly, or violated the “fairness social norm.” In another situation, there was no punishment threat and Person A could act freely without worrying about the consequences. The researchers sought to find out how much more money Person A would give to Person B under the threat of punishment, and what brain circuits are associated with this change in behavior.

Not surprisingly, the threat of punishment made people act more fairly. In the “punishment threat condition” people split the money close to equally. However, when Person B had no recourse, the people given the money acted very differently and gave away, on average, less than 10 percent of the money.

One of the interesting things about social norm compliance, however, is that there is tremendous individual variation. Some people would never cut in line or act unfairly, whereas others don’t think twice about it. Using a questionnaire, the researchers measured each participant’s “Machiavellism,” a combination of selfishness and opportunism, which is often used to describe someone’s tendency to manipulate other people for personal gain. Sure enough, the people with high Machiavellism scores gave less money away when there was no punishment threat and were best at avoiding punishment when the threat of punishment was present. Therefore, these individuals earned the most money overall.

When the researchers looked at the brain activity of people playing this simple game, they found a consistent pattern. One region in the frontal lobes, the orbitofrontal cortex, seemed to be responsible for evaluating the potential for punishment. In other words, it figured out whether or not violating the social norm would get us in trouble. A second brain region, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, was responsible for inhibiting the natural tendency to keep most of the money (this would be the greedy thing to do) if this action might lead to future punishment. Interestingly, these brain areas only were activated when the threat of punishment came from a real person, and not a computer that was programmed to act like a real person.

Furthermore, just as Machiavellism personality traits influenced how people behave, these traits also relate to what is happening in the brain. The orbitofrontal cortex was most activated in the more self-interested, opportunistic people. This finding makes sense because, if the orbitofrontal cortex is helping people detect and evaluate threats, then it should be most active in people who are worried about getting punished. This study can also help us understand what might be happening in the brains of people who struggle to follow social norms, which is what happens in mental illnesses such as psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder.

Of course, many different variables not studied in this experiment can also affect social norm compliance. Even a norm as seemingly straightforward as “fairness” can get pretty complicated pretty quickly. The social norm of fairness, after all, does not always mean an equal distribution of goods. Someone may deserve more based on effort, talent or simply the feeling of entitlement that comes from social status. For instance, one could argue that in the non-punishment situation, Person A was put in a position of power, because he or she was given complete control of the money. On the other hand, when Person B is given the right to punish Person A, Person B is now put in a superior position of power. And accordingly, the social norm for Person A changes: it is no longer acceptable for him to keep all the money for himself. This adjustment suggests that the brain activity evident in the Spitzer study could, in part, be related to changes in power and status between the punishment and non-punishment condition. In fact, in a recent study, we found that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was more activated when interacting with a person who is in superior social position.

 Damage to the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) in humans has been associated with disinhibited or socially inappropriate behaviour and emotional changes. Some of the changes may be related to difficulty in responding correctly to rewards and punishers, in that these patients have difficulty in learning to correct their choice of a visual stimulus when it is no longer associated with reward. We extend this fundamental approach by investigating the relationship between frontal dysfunction and impulsive behaviour, the behavioural, emotional and personality changes seen in patients with prefrontal cortex damage, and thus in addition illuminate the cognitive and biological processes that are impaired in impulsive people. OFC patients (n = 23) performed more impulsively on both self-report and cognitive/behavioural tests of impulsivity, reported more inappropriate ‘frontal’ behaviours, and performed worse on a stimulus-reinforcement association reversal task, than non-OFC prefrontal cortex lesion control (n = 20) and normal control (n = 39) participants. Further, OFC patients experienced more subjective anger than non-OFC and normal participants, and less subjective happiness than normals; and had a faster subjective sense of time (overestimated and underproduced time intervals) than normal controls, while non-OFC patients did not differ from normals. Finally, both OFC and non-OFC patients were less open to experience than normal participants. There were no differences between OFC patients, non-OFC lesion patients and normal controls on all other personality traits, most notably extraversion. In a spatial working memory task, the non-OFC group, most of whom had dorsolateral prefrontal cortex lesions, were impaired in that they repeatedly returned to previously chosen empty locations (‘within errors’), whereas OFC patients were not impaired on this measure. Thus there is a dissociation between the effects of OFC damage which does not affect this measure of spatial working memory but does affect impulsive and inappropriate behaviour, reversal, personality, time perception and emotion; and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex damage which does affect this measure of spatial working memory, but not impulsive and inappropriate behaviour, reversal, personality, time perception and emotion. The effects of OFC damage on impulsive and related behaviours described here have implications for understanding impulsive behaviour.

Orbitofrontal Cortex and Social Behavior: Integrating Self-monitoring and Emotion–Cognition Interactions

By Jennifer S. Beer, Oliver P. John, Donatella Scabini and Robert T. Knight

The role of the orbitofrontal cortex in social behavior remains a puzzle. Various theories of the social functions of the orbitofrontalcortex focus on the role of this area in either emotional processing or its involvement in onlinemonitoring of behavior (i.e., self-monitoring). The present research attempts to integrate these two theories by examining whether improving the self-monitoring of patients with orbitofrontaldamage is associated with the generation of emotions needed to guide interpersonal behavior. Patients with orbitofrontal damage, patients with lateral prefrontal damage, and healthy controls took part in an interpersonal task. After completing the task, participants’ self-monitoring was increased by showing them a videotape of their task performance. In comparison to healthy controls and patients with lateral prefrontal damage, orbitofrontaldamage was associated with objectively inappropriate social behavior. Although patients with orbitofrontaldamage were aware of social norms of intimacy, they were unaware that their task performance violated these norms. The embarrassment typically associated with inappropriate social behavior was elicited in these patients only after their self-monitoring increased from viewing their videotaped performance. These findings suggest that damage to the orbitofrontalcortex impairs self-insight that may preclude the generation of helpful emotional information. The results highlight the role of the orbitofrontal cortex in the interplay of self-monitoring and emotional processing and suggest avenues for neurorehabilitation of patients with social deficits subsequent to orbitofrontal damage.

============================================================

Another trip hop  band i like a lot (they did some good stuff with Massive Attack)

Portishead – Mysterons

 

Inside your pretending
Crimes have been swept aside
Somewhere where they can forget

Divine upper reaches
Still holding on
This ocean will not be grasped
All for nothing

Did you really want

Refuse to surrender
Strung out until ripped apart
Who dares, dares to condemn
All for nothing

Did you really want

 

 

 

July 17, 2008 Posted by | brain, mind, neurology, neuroscience, Politics, psychology, Science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Matrix in Your Head – Memento

Watched Memento  by  Christopher Nolan.  Very intriguing movie, full of hidden messages, scenes in reverse order. See very good review in Salon.com.

Movie deals with tricking nature of two basic corner stones of our mind: memory and imagination. Invented past as anchor for future. But lately research shows that the same brain structures are responsible for memories and imagination. And that believing can be seeing – Context Dictates What We Believe We See. Pretty visionary movie though.

Ties Between Memories And The Imagination.

“You might look at it as mental time travel–the ability to take thoughts about ourselves and project them either into the past or into the future,” says Kathleen McDermott, Ph.D. and Washington University psychology professor. The team used “functional magnetic resonance imaging” — or fMRI — to “see” brain activity. They asked college students to recall past events and then envision themselves experiencing such an event in their future. The results? Similar areas of the brain “lit up” in both scenarios. 

Researchers say besides furthering their understanding of the brain — the findings may help research into amnesia, a curious psychiatric phenomenon. In addition to not being able to remember the past, most people who suffer from amnesia cannot envision or visualize what they’ll be doing in the future — even the next day.”

Another good article, posted in Scientific American Mind, uses Memento to explain the nature of memory.

The Matrix in Your Head

The discovery of place-tracking neurons called grid cells, our experts say, “changes everything”

 

By James J. Knierim

 

In the 2001 suspense thriller Memento, the lead character, Lenny, suffers a brain injury that makes him unable to remember events for longer than  a minute or so. This type of amnesia, known as anterograde amnesia, is well known to neurologists and neuropsychologists. Like Lenny, sufferers remember events from their life histories that occurred before their injuries, but they cannot form lasting memories of anything that occurs afterward. As far as they recall, their personal histories ended shortly before the onset of their disorders.

 

The cause of Lenny’s problem was probably damage to his hippocampus, a pair of small, deep-brain structures crucial to memory—and also important to some of today’s most exciting and consequential neuroscience research. Decades of research have made clear that the hippocampus and surrounding cortex do more than just place our life events in time. The hippocampus, along with a newly discovered set of cells known as grid cells in the nearby cortex, traces our movement through space as well. And by doing so, it supplies a rich array of information that provides a context in which to place our life’s events. The picture that is emerging is of historic importance and more than a little beauty.

Exactly how does the brain create and store autobiographical memories? Although that question has fascinated scientists, philosophers and writers for centuries, it was only 50 years ago that scientists identified a brain area clearly necessary for this task—the hippocampus. The structure’s role was made clear in 1953, when William Scoville, a Hartford, Conn., surgeon seeking to relieve the epileptic seizures that were threatening to kill a patient known as H.M., removed most of H.M.’s hippocampus and discovered he had rendered him unable to form new, conscious memories. Since then, the case of H.M., along with extensive animal research, has firmly established that the hippocampus acts as a kind of encoding mechanism for memory, recording the timeline of our lives.

 

In the 1970s another discovery inspired the theory that the hippocampus also encodes our movement through space. In 1971 John O’Keefe and Jonathan Dostrovsky, both then at University College London, found that neurons in the hippocampus displayed place-specific firing. That is, given “place cells,” as O’Keefe dubbed these hippocampal neurons, would briskly fire action potentials (the electrical impulses neurons use to communicate) whenever a rat occupied a specific location but would remain silent when the rat was elsewhere. Thus, each place cell fired for only one location, much as would a burglar alarm tied to a tile in a hallway. Similar findings have been reported subsequently in other species, including humans.

 

These remarkable findings led O’Keefe and Lynn Nadel, now at the University of Arizona, to propose that the hippocampus was the neural locus of a “cognitive map” of the environment. They argued that hippocampal place cells organize the various aspects of experience within the framework of the locations and contexts in which events occur and that this contextual framework encodes relations among an event’s different aspects in a way that allows later retrieval from memory. Yet a consensus is emerging that the hippocampus does somehow provide a spatial context that is vital to episodic memory. When you remember a past event, you remember not only the people, objects and other discrete components of the event but also the spatiotemporal context in which the event occurred, allowing you to distinguish this event from similar episodes with similar components. But How?

 

Despite intensive study, however, the precise mechanisms by which the hippocampus creates this contextual representation of memory have eluded scientists. A primary impediment was that we knew little about the brain areas that feed the hippocampus its information. Early work suggested that the entorhinal cortex, an area of cortex next to and just in front of the hippocampus, might encode spatial information in a manner similar to that of the hippocampus, though with less precision.

 

This view has now been turned upside down with the amazing discovery of a system of grid cells in the medial entorhinal cortex, described in a series of recent papers by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser and their colleagues. Unlike a place cell, which typically fires when a rat occupies a single, particular location, each grid cell will fire when the rat is in any one of many locations that are arranged in a stunningly uniform hexagonal grid—as if the cell were linked to a number of alarm tiles spaced at specific, regular distances. The locations that activate a given grid cell are arranged in a precise, repeating grid pattern composed of equilateral triangles that tessellate the floor of the environment.

 

Imagine arranging dozens of round dinner plates to cover a floor in their optimal packing density, such that every plate is surrounded by other, equidistant plates; this arrangement mimics the triggering pattern tied to any given grid cell. As the rat moves around the floor, a grid cell in its brain fires each time the rat steps near the center of a plate. Other grid cells, meanwhile, are associated with their own hexagonal gridworks, which overlap each other. Grids of neighboring cells are of similar dimensions but are slightlyoffset from one another.

 

These grid cells, conclude the Mosers and their co-workers, are likely to be key components of a brain mechanism that constantly updates the rat’s sense of its location, even in the absence of external sensory input. And they almost certainly constitute the basic spatial input that the hippocampus uses to create the highly specific, context-dependent spatial fi ring of its place cells.

This discovery is one of the most remarkable findings in the history of single-unit recordings of brain activity.

 

JAMES J. KNIERIM is associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, where he studies the role of the hippocampus and related brain structures in spatial learning

and memory.

 

 

=============================================================

DAVID BOWIE (end music from the movie)

 

FINAL SCENES OF THE MOVIE

June 24, 2008 Posted by | brain, mind, Movies, Music, neurology, neuroscience, psychology, Science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment