Body Pleasures and the Origins of Violence

A classic article, deserving a place in the Disinfo archives. James W. Prescott outlines the link between modern child-rearing practices and their impact on development, psychological well-being and adult behavior. He covers deprivation of loving touch, sexual repression, infant neglect, and the results to the adult psyche. Joseph Chilton Pearce started this conversation and Prescott fleshes it out. The discussion of these issues is still ongoing.

Via The Origins of Peace and Violence website:

The sensory environment in which an individual grows up has a major influence upon the development and functional organization of the brain. Sensory stimulation is a nutrient that the brain must have to develop and function normally. How the brain functions determines how a person behaves. At birth a human brain is extremely immature and new brain cells develop up to the age of two years. The complexity of brain cell development continues up to about 16 years of age. Herman Epstein of Brandeis University has evidence that growth spurts in the human brain occur at approximately 3, 7, 11, and 15 years of age. How early deprivations affect these growth spurts has yet to be determined; however, some data suggest that the final growth spurt may be abolished by early deprivation.

W. T. Greenough, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, has demonstrated that an enriched sensory environment produces a more complex brain cell in rats than an ordinary or impoverished sensory environment (see figure). His studies show that extreme sensory deprivation is not necessary to induce structural changes in the developing brain. Many other investigators have shown that rearing rats in isolation after they are weaned induces significant changes in the biochemistry of their brain cell functioning. Other investigators have shown abnormal electrical activity of brain cell functioning in monkeys reared in isolation. I have suggested that the cerebellum, a brain structure involved in the regulation of many brain processes, is rendered dysfunctional when an animal is reared in isolation and is implicated in violent-aggressive behaviors due to somatosensory deprivation. It has been shown that cerebellar neurosurgery can change the aggressive behaviors of isolation-reared monkeys to peaceful behavior. Predatory killing behavior in ordinary house cats can be provoked by stimulating the cerebellar fastigial nucleus, one of the deep brain nuclei of the cerebellum.

Abnormally low levels of platelet serotonin have been found in monkeys reared in isolation and also in institutionalized, highly aggressive children. These findings suggest that somatosensory deprivation during the formative periods of development significantly alters an important biochemical system in the body associated with highly aggressive behaviors. A number of other investigators have documented abnormalities in the adrenal cortical response system in rodents who were isolation-reared and who developed hyperactive, hyperreactive, and hyperaggressive behavior. Thus another important biochemical system associated with aggressiveness is known to be altered by somatosensory deprivation early in life.

It needs to be emphasized here that I advocate somatosensory pleasure stimulation as a therapeutic procedure to correct the abnormalities due to somatosensory pleasure deprivation. Such sensory stimulation can influence brain functioning…

Read more at The Origins of Peace and Violence website.