By Herb Wiggins, M.D.; Clinical Neurosciences; Discoverer/Creator of the Comparison Process/COMP Theory/Model; 14 Mar. 2014
As stated before in a previous article (The Praxis
the methods of fMRI, MEG (magnetoencephalogram), and Cortical Evoked Potentials, can be used to image and detect mental events, and the duration of the recognition response and where those are being processed, often in more than one place. For instance, the introspection center has been localized since about 2001 in the studies by Gusnard, et.al, to an area in the medial prefrontal cortex, and this area is also implicated in morals awareness, self-referential expression, and related tasks.
Gusnard, DA, et. al. “Medial prefrontal cortx and self-referential mental activity: relation to a default mode of brain function. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 98: 4259-64, 2001. Other studies have shown similar findings.
It is this examination of self, comparing our moral sense, or conscience which is related to our conscious awareness of whether or not we are behaving according to our society’s standards of moral and appropriate behaviors. When the frontal lobes are damaged, we see, clinically, very clearly that such appropriate social behaviors fail. the person becomes immoral, lacks a sense of cleanliness, or dressing properly and simply often does not even see it. Nor are they necessarily aware that they or others are behaving properly, either. Serious damage to the frontal lobes has shown this also in stroke patients, but is more often found in traumatic injuries to the brain, which are more globally damaging to the frontal lobes.
Under these circumstances, with these findings and observation, we can therefore pretty well localize the conscience function and structures to the frontal lobes. The brain neurophysiological dictum, that function follows structure and that therefore there can be no function without intact structure must be invoked. This Structure/Function relationship is key to any real understanding of the various functions of brain, not only speech, movement, sensation, but the higher functions of the cortex, such as language, music playing and appreciation, logical thinking, spatial tasks, and many other high level functions such as moral/social judgements, which subsume the conscience.
Therefore, if we are to study the conscience and inbuilt moral system, we must specifically invoke tasks in the individual which involve perceptions and recognition of moral/immoral actions, such as gift giving, or stealing, such as helping person, or harming them, and so forth. In this way, invoking these specific tasks through images of such activities, which are clearly and easily identified by the subject, the moral sense can be activated in the frontal lobes and then studied using normals. In this way, the cortical evoked response can be detected upon seeing a grossly immoral act, such as hitting a person without provocation, such as a man striking an elderly woman, or taking her purse away from her (stealing), and so forth. And in the same way, helping another person, or giving someone food, or another helpful act, such as an umbrella during a rainstorm, can clearly be perceived by most normals as beneficial and helpful While in other case, harming and hurting the individuals also be portrayed. Those which give in most subjects the highest definite, detectable response can be found by trial and error. And can be interposed with images of relatively neutral moral sights to act as controls. The contrast among these can then be studied on a fMRI system to see what frontal areas light up, compared to rest, as well as studied by a clase following MEG of the same sequence of images to see the recognition responses of the P-300, the CEP associated neurophysiogical event. In this way, the conscience and its activations in the frontal lobes can be detailedly studied by two corresponding and clear detection and recording systems. The conscience at work can thus be imaged. This is more of the fuller potential of combined fMRIO and MEG studies being done together, which synergistically enable more to be found, than either alone. And the findings of the one will not only compare, but show and confirm the reality of the conscience at work by the second.
The implications of these findings will be, clinically and legally, extremely important. Because where such activity is absent, it will indicate the person cannot perceive, that is, recognize moral or immoral activity. But where there is a detectable response, it can be and will be seen, recognized, and reported by the subject. With careful presentation of known stimuli, various kinds of moral recognitions or their absence can be detected and proven to a high degree of being present, or not. This will give a very good tool for objectively recognizing those who are unable to perceive immoral acts by themselves, that is functional sociopaths, and also detail using the MRI if there is structural damage there or not. This will differentiate necessarily between those who are brain damaged, versus those who are by experience and lack of moral training, more likely to respond to therapy, or not. Clearly, those lacking speech cortex will have disabilities in speech, while those whose area are intact, are far more likely to possess absence of normal speech due to training and socially related developmental problems. This kind of differentiation is critical to prognosis and response to treatments as well.
it will also allow better treatment of and the ability to detect any improvements or not as a result of those training sessions, which can also be combined with P-300 measures to see if the training is working. This would be a lot less expensive and easier method to use in operant conditioning and training methods. fMRI/MEG combination examinations can then be used in tandem to confirm improvements and actually measure the improvements in many cases. and no longer will a judge need to rely upon psychiatric, or his own impressions, both highly subjective and fraught with many examples of mistaken decisions, often with terrible or even lethal outcomes, to decide if a patient/prisoner is truly better enough to be released, versus those who are only good at acting. The P-300 cannot be faked. It can be interrupted and then lied about, but the recognition in such persons is almost always there, or not, and that cannot be faked, though its reporting by the subject can be. These are then more reliable and objective ways of studying, recognizing and treating such problems in conscience related brain/moral disorders.
The consequences of such findings and their utility can be extended to many areas. At age 14, many children begin to be aware of these moral and social duties, when self-awareness undergoes a marked improvement at that time. Children who do not have these adaptations and are developmentally delayed can get interventions before the personality becomes too stable and hard wired to allow improvement, and thus treat a good many developmentally and socially acquired sociopathies, and lack of insight into how they are mistreating others and how their perceptions are flawed, too.
Narcissists and spoiled children can also be detected before they get too old and if detected as young enough children, can be treated before this personality problem becomes too serious and stable to be easily corrected. Across the board, adults who are narcissistic and sociopathic are thus closely related by this lack of moral perceptions and lack of insight into their own actions and how those affect others, and damage their relationships with society and other persons, occasionally permanently. And those can be detected also by abnormalities in responses to testing. So it will permit therefore earlier detection and treatment, which often results in substantial cures if not improvements. The same can be used to ID those with encephalitis, brain trauma, stroke and other conditions to identify early and perhaps intervene to correct/improve such acquired problems, too.
In a neuroscientific, psychological sense, these studies will confirm what has been known for some time, that the conscience as an active function of the frontal lobes in most person is real and will allow its detection and study, to further enlighten us about how the brain works. By extending this model to the study of creativity, more can be learned, because the comparison process model also states that creativity is created, and is another form of recognition coming from the comparison process. In time, the activity of the comparitor in the cortical cell columns can also be identified and then studied as to how it works, providing the necessary physical detection to support the comparison process model and comparison methods which it both detects, creates and uses, actively.
The study of introspection can also be undertaken to examine the finer details of it, and thus learn more about our self-awareness. It can find the commonalities of human thought which we all share and thus can enlighten us more about how the higher level cortical functions of abstractions and abstracting work, as well, under the broader background of the comparison processing working in the cortical cell columns. And perhaps in time, begin the study of individual cortical cell columns and how they interact with others in processing information of all kinds. using the Point magnetic brain stimulater, as previously described in the “Praxis”, of a great deal higher resolution and specific information will also be found. because it will allow the conscience to be shut down, with repeated stimulation, not only to prove the conscience exists, but to interrupt the function of it, as well, thus providing a third and ever more convincing set of objective data showing that introspection, and moral awareness do indeed exist within a structural foundation in the brain. That the conscience and many elemnts of our mind are not figments of our mind, but in fact, thinking about thinking, the primary characteristic of recursivity, self-referentiality, repetitive and above all, universal nature of comparison process words and brain activities, generally.