Brain, Attachment, Personality: An Introduction to Neuroaffective Development

Views: 677
Ratings: (0)

This book is intended as an inspiration and as an introduction to what Susan Hart has called neuroaffective developmental psychology. As an underlying theme throughout the book, she seeks to emphasize the importance of attachment for the formation of personality in all its diversity. This book presents a merger of systems that are not normally brought together in a structured psychodynamic context. Thus it operates on three levels: a neurobiological level, an intrapsychological level, and an interpersonal level. It also focuses on the brain structures that are essential for the formation of relationships, personality development, and emotions. It attempts to provide an understanding of the way that the uniquely human nervous system develops capacities for empathy, mentalization, and reflection that enable us to address such aspects as: past and present, interpersonal relations, ethics, art, and aesthetics. Susan Hart has endeavoured to make the text meaningful and comprehensible in order to make the topic interesting and inspiring to the reader, and to spark an interest in further studies. It is written in a manner that both professional and lay readers will find accessible as well as informative. Psychotherapists, researchers, and interested others will find Brain, Attachment, Personality a compelling and worthwhile read.

List price: $37.99

Your Price: $30.39

You Save: 20%

 

8 Slices

Format Buy Remix

Copyright

ePub

 

CHAPTER ONE: The dynamic brain in a dynamic environment: an epigenetic understanding

ePub

Just as everything about our minds is caused by our brains, everything about our brains is ultimately caused by our evolutionary history. For human beings, nurture is our nature. The capacity for culture is part of our biology, and the drive to learn is our most important and central instinct

(Gopnik, Meltzoff, & Kuhl, 1999, p. 8)

From the moment of conception there is a dynamic interaction between our genetic and hereditary properties and our environment. From birth, infants are predisposed to establish attachment and to engage in interactions with their care-givers. They initiate and control interactive situations and have an intuitive basis for sharing other people’s feelings and grasping their intentions. Three-week-old infants are able to imitate other people’s facial expressions, and two-day-old infants are able to reliably imitate a face that smiles, frowns, or looks surprised (Field, Woodson, Greenberg, & Cohen, 1982; Meltzoff & Moore, 1977; Stern, 1985).

The discussion of nature vs. nurture seems never-ending and is, in many respects, meaningless, since nature and nurture can be only expressed through intimate interaction. Nature and nurture are expressed at the moment of conception, throughout gestation, during childhood and youth, and in adulthood. A mother, father, or other primary care-giver affects the development of the infant’s affect-regulating system, which is neurally conditioned, and which later helps regulate other attachment functions. John Bowlby viewed attachment as the part of human biology through which social bonds are enacted. The attachment process enables the development of complex mental functions through complex actions from the primary care-giver. Many of these mental functions are uniquely human (Fonagy Gergely Jurist, & Target, 2002).

 

CHAPTER THREE: The brain: a complex and dynamic structure

ePub

In short, the brain is a system of systems. Each system is composed of an elaborate interconnection of small but macroscopic cortical regions and subcortical nuclei, which are made of microscopic local circuits, which are made of neurons, all of which are connected by synapses.

(Damasio, 1999, p. 331)

The human brain is an amazing structure, the result of previous evolutionary developments and adjustments. The nervous system developed from a primitive neural tube, as nerve connections were formed between remote parts of the body and a central structure that eventually gained overall control. In an evolutionary process, the nerves slowly developed into specialized modules, which made up what MacLean later called the reptilian brain, a reflexive structure without consciousness. On top of this system, a number of modules developed, including structures that enabled the simultaneous use of various senses, structures that made up a primitive memory, and structures that enabled the organism to respond to internal stimuli. The areas that underwent the greatest development in humans are the ones related to thinking, planning, organization, and communication. In order to give an impression of the brain’s plasticity and complexity and describe the “landscape” that this book addresses, this chapter is dedicated to a very general review of the complex structure of the brain with an emphasis on understanding the brain’s ability to connect different structures through a maturation process based on psychological processes.

 

CHAPTER SIX: The basic body-sensing and affect-regulating brain: brainstem and cerebellum

ePub

“The reticular formation was understood to constitute an activating system, which became known as the ‘ascending reticular activating system’. The job of the system was to maintain the cerebral cortex in an awake and alert state . .. The reticular formation exerted a powerful influence on virtually all the sectors of the nervous system located above it, but especially on the cerebral cortex . . . Damage to the reticular formation would put the cerebral cortex to sleep, turn off the light on perception and thought, as it were, and preclude the execution of planned action”

(Damasio, 1999, p. 248)

“Those patterns correspond best to the tail of the process of consciousness . . . (the reticular nuclei) are a part of the innate machinery with which the brain regulates homeostasis and are, in order to do so, the recipients of signals that represent the state of the organism moment by moment”

(ibid., p. 251)

The brainstem is a small region at the base of the central nervous system (see Figure 6.1) corresponding to the area that MacLean called the reptilian brain, or the protomental area. It is densely packed with nuclei and circuits that are involved in various vital functions. Most basic affect-regulating functions take place in the brainstem, which forms a very small part of the central nervous system. It is the brainstem that synthesizes most of the components in the affective system.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: The brain of motor systems and emotions: the diencephalon and the limbic system

ePub

“Primate research demonstrates that social attachment is not only a psychological event: it is related to the development of core neurobiological functions in the primate brain . .. the limbic system controls the emotions that stimulate the behaviour necessary for self-preservation and survival of the species . . . the limbic system is also responsible for free-floating feelings of what is real, true, and meaningful”

(van der Kolk, 1987, pp. 39-40)

When Paul MacLean developed his theory of the triune brain, he was inspired by an earlier neuroscientist, James Papez, who, in 1937, claimed that particular brain circuits were dedicated to emotional experiences and expressions. As early as the 1850s, neuroscientist Poul Broca had used the term “limbic lobe” to refer to a part of the cortex. He found that the area was clearly defined, and gave it the Latin designation limbus, which means ring, edge, or border. Papez was the first to consider whether the limbic lobe was related to emotions. Papez found that the removal of a large section of both temporal lobes in monkeys led to bizarre behaviour where the affected monkeys put objects into their mouths indiscriminately, were hyperactive and hypersexual, and sought to have physical contact with everybody. Even monkeys that had been hostile and frightening prior to the operation were tame immediately after the surgical procedure (Purves et al., 2001). Affects at the brainstem level, the lowest level of the triune brain, consist mainly of sensations that register comfort and discomfort. The top layer of the reptilian brain and the middle layer of the triune brain (i.e., the diencephalon and the limbic system) further process the affects and add subtlety, and at this level it is possible to distinguish between different emotional categories, for example fear, anger, joy, grief, etc. (Figure 7.1). In this chapter, I describe structures in the diencephalon and in the limbic system that are involved in regulating affect and adding subtlety. MacLean described the limbic system as the area of emotomentation.

 

CHAPTER NINE: Neurotransmitters, peptides, and hormones: the messengers of the brain

ePub

“The neurochemical regulators of brains in higher animals have evolved to control and respond to social influences. In social mammals, brain development comes under control of signals that direct the motives of all individuals in a social group, with particularly strong effects on the young ... In humans, this strategy is elaborated for the transmission of culture”

(Trevarthen, 1990, p. 341)

Any discussion of brain functions would be incomplete without a look at the messengers of the brain: the neurotransmitters. As mentioned in Chapter Three, the contact points between the neurons are called synapses. Neurons use chemical messengers, neurotransmitters, to jump the synaptic gap. In order for the electrical current to jump this gap, a chemical or electrical signal is released when the neuron fires. All neurons generate neurotransmitters, which are released from the neuronal terminals into the synapse. Catecholamines (see Table 9.1) are synthesized in the brainstem and distributed via modulator neurons throughout large parts of the cortex. This means that many of the neurons that produce and regulate arousal-regulating substances are located within the reticular activation system in the brainstem. Of the total number of neurons in the brain, less than one per cent produce catecholamines, but they are hugely important for the function of billions of neurons within the brain (Schore, 1994). They send out axons to thousands of structures on every level, and one single neuron is capable of projecting neural pathways from the brainstem all the way up to the prefrontal cortex (ibid.).

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Girls, boys, men, and women: the impact of sex hormone and environment on differences between the sexes

ePub

“One might speculate that the contribution of genetic influences, relative levels of estrogen and testosterone, or differences in interaction with the maternal caregiver based on gender expectations from the moment of birth could contribute to gender specific vulnerability”

(Scaer, 2001, p. 91)

For many thousands of years, people lived in relatively small hunter-gatherer societies, where the division of tasks between the sexes was clear, as, in fact, it continues to be in most modern societies. The men hunted the big game, which often required them to travel long distances, and they were responsible for defending the group against predators and enemies. Usually, the men produced the weapons. The women probably gathered food close to the dwelling, prepared the food, took care of clothing, and cared for the children. This specialization placed different evolutionary pressures on men and women. Men had to be able to navigate over long distances and tell different routes apart. They needed target-shooting skills for killing their prey. Women had to be able to navigate short distances and needed fine motor skills. They had to be able to direct their attention towards many things at the same time (multi-tasking) and had to master emotional communication and verbalization with their babies (Kimura, 1999a).

 

CHAPTER TWELVE: The lateralized brain: right and left hemisphere

ePub

“The distribution of white matter to grey is not even throughout the brain—the right hemisphere has relatively more white matter, while the left has more grey. This microscopic distinction is significant because it means that the axons in the right brain are longer than in the left and this means they connect neurons that are, on average, further away from each other . . . this suggests that the right brain is better equipped than the left to draw on several different brain modules at the same time . . . The left brain, in contrast, is more densely woven. The close-packed, tightly connected neurons are better equipped to do intense, detailed work that depends on close and quick cooperation between similarly dedicated brain cells.

(Carter, 1998, p. 38)

The human brain is not only hierarchical in nature, it is also characterized by functional asymmetry. All motor pathways from the central nervous system that continue down the spinal cord must cross the mid-line in the brainstem, which means that the right brain hemisphere controls the left side of the body, and vice versa. The hemispheric asymmetry develops at an early foetal stage, long before the differentiation of the neocortex, and the cortical asymmetry between left and right hemisphere springs from the modulation of functions all the way from the reticular activation system, which is similarly lateralized (divided into a left and right hemisphere). All structures (except for the pineal gland) occur in both brain hemispheres. Similarly, as mentioned in the previous chapter, the two hemispheres are connected on different levels by the corpus callosum, which connects the hemispheres on the neocortical level, and the anterior and posterior commissures, which connect the hemispheres on a subcortical level. Even the two hemispheres of the cerebellum are connected (Porges, 1995; Siegel, 1999; Trevarthen, 1990).

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781780494029
Isbn
9781780494029
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata