Pleasure, Pain, Bonding & The Developing Brain
If we have pleasurable sensory stimulation then that’s the brain ingrams, the templates that will be stored and they will be images of pleasure. If they are painful they’re going to be images of pain and pain evokes violent responses. But there is something else that evokes violent responses and that’s the absence of pleasure. And that’s really different then the sensory experience of pain, and most people don’t really yet appreciate that distinction.
And in fact, more damage occurs with the sensory deprivation of pleasure than the actual experiencing of physical painful trauma, which in fact could be handled quite well in individuals who were brought up with a great deal of physical affectional bonding and pleasure which carries with it emotional trust and security.
So we really have to look at the trauma of sensory deprivation of physical pleasure and that translates into the separation experiences, the isolation experiences of the infant from the mother. That’s the beginning. So what constitutes sensory deprivation? If you live in a culture in which the cultural norm is you don’t get touched very much, people don’t perceive that as deprivation. It’s like the converse issue of circumcision or genital mutilation. That is so common place in our culture that most people don’t look at that as genital mutilation or as torture as mutilation. It’s the norm. So this is a very important question.
We have to go outside our own culture to get a different frame of reference, a different bearing, a different standard of what’s normal. And not only outside of our own culture but also outside of our own species. We are primates. If you take a look at how other primates mirror their infants, or even mammals with respect to mothers and their newborns, what do we see? We see an enormous amount of physical body contact. There’s no mammal that separates the newborn from its mother at birth, or any extended period after that except the human mammal. Yet we do that routinely and isolate them. That’s sensory deprivation. Let’s look at the primates. Look at any program involving primates in the wild and where do you see the infants? They’re attached to the body of their mother and they hang on for dear life as the mothers move around all the time.
Continuous body contact and that should tell us a lesson. Because that’s become the standard and the norm of what brings up we’re responsible for healthy infants. And we in fact have demonstrated that experimentally in the laboratory by taking the infants away from their mother’s, rear them in cages by themselves, where they can’t touch or have body contact with other animals, not the mother or any other animals. Even in the colony where they can have social relationships with the other animals by vision and hearing and smell but no body contact. No touch.
And those experimental studies involving infant separation of monkeys from their mothers was started by Dr. Harry Harlow Behavioral Primatologist Psychologist at the University of Wisconsin and Director of the Regional Primate Center there. He was attempting to develop a breeding colony for experimental research with these animals. So he, for whatever reason, decided that it was a good idea to separate the infants from the mothers and rear them in cages by themselves. It wasn’t until some time later that he noticed that these animals were engaged in a very emotionally, socially, abnormal, bizarre behaviors.
The single most important study in infrahuman primate mother-infant separation over the past fifty years was the study on artificial movement stimulation provided by a surrogate mother to the separated infant by Dr. William Mason (1968) and Drs William Mason and Gershon Berkson (1975).
Movement stimulation involved a surrogate mother (Clorox bottle wrapped in a fur rug bolted to a pie pan that permitted the infant to ride on and operated by a cam operated device) that created Motion in the horizontal plane and 3-6 inches in the vertical plane. This Motion (Vestibular-Cerebellar Stimulation) prevented all the pathological behaviors of maternal-infant separation from being developed, particularly depression and violence. Minor dysfunctions were reported such as thumb/toe sucking and can be seen at http://www.violence.de
This discovery led Prescott (1971, 1975) to formulate the Somatosensory Deprivation of Affectional Development, as the genesis of abnormal brain development and behaviors in the isolation reared infant and the variety of primate brain studies that ensued, which were related to depressive and violent behaviors in adolescence and adulthood. (Berman, Berman, Prescott, 1974; Heath, 1972,1975).
Berman, A.J., Berman, D. & Prescott, J.W. (1974). The effect of cerebellar lesions on emotional behavior in the rhesus monkey. In: The Cerebellum, Epilepsy and Behavior. (Cooper, I.S., Riklon, M.V. & Snider, R.S. (Eds) Plenum, NY http://www.violence.de/berman/article.html
Harlow, H.F. (1958). The nature of love. American Psychologist 13: 673-685.
Heath, R.G. (1972). Electroencephalographic studies in isolation raised monkeys with behavioral impairment. Diseases of the Nervous Systems, 33, 157-163
Heath, R. G. (l975): Maternal-social deprivation and abnormal brain development: Disorders of emotional and social behavior. In Brain Function and Malnutrition: :Neuropsychological Methods of Assessment (Prescott, J.W., Read, M.S., & Coursin, D.B., Eds). John Wiley New York. http://www.violence.de/heath/bfm/article.html
Mason, W.A. (1968). Early social deprivation in the non-human primates: Implications for human behavior. In: Environmental Influences. (D.E. Glass, Ed). The Rockefeller University Press and Russell Sage Foundation, New York.
Mason, W.A. and Berkson, G. (1975). Effects of Maternal Mobility on the Development of Rocking and Other Behaviors in Rhesus Monkeys: A Study with Artificial Mothers. Developmental Psychobiology, , 8, 197-221 http://www.violence.de/mason/mason74.pdf
Prescott, J.W. (1971a). Early somatosensory deprivation as an ontogenetic process in the abnormal development of the brain and behavior. In: Medical Primatology1970 (I.E. Goldsmith and J. Moor-Jankowski, Eds). S. Karger, Basel, New York http://www.violence.de/prescott/mp/article.html
Prescott, J.W. (1975) Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence. The Futurist April. Reprinted: The Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists (1975) November. http://www.violence.de/prescott/bulletin/article.html
Riesen, A.H., Dickerson, G.P. and Struble, R.G. (1977). Somatosensory Restriction and Behavioral Development in Stumptail Monkeys. Annals New York Academy of Science, 290, 285-294