Minding the Social Brain by Jay Evans Harris

HarrisMinding the Social Brain.png
HarrisMinding the Social Brain.png

Minding the Social Brain by Jay Evans Harris

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Minding the Social Brain—Virtual Foundation Stone; for the initiative to fund a decade-long BRAIN ACTIVITY MAP—BAM as in OBAMA.

A generation of social neuroscientists uses acronyms to identify the structural neural networks revealed in the NIH Human Connectome Project. They know that a medial brain hub of nodal networks, the Default Mode (DM), uses most of the brain’s activation energy. Responding to the unexpected, it adapts the brain’s predictive capacity by learning—modifying its own synaptic structure. During syndrome formation in brain damage, depression, traumatic anxiety, or psychosis, the DM maintains familiar mental fantasy and reverie—even when its core networks should be processing new data for adaptive problem-solving. Alzheimer’s disease decimates all the nodes of this hub.

Just as industry alongside government generated our genome code, researchers worldwide in the private sector and government are already exploring how a brain’s emergent property unifies its mind. Alert to perspectives that determine their future, workers in the social field have to develop their own emergent learning. Dr. Harris here provides a Rosetta Stone for exploring neural networks, mental hubs, mind/brain synthesis—and institutions that externalize these structures. Extending Freud’s discovery of a person’s dynamic unconscious, he depicts a dynamic social unconscious mediating social, economic, and political policy. From this perspective he presents contemporary and historical social syndromes. Collective PTSD, for instance, manifests in global criminal economies, widespread poverty, media escapism, and political denial.

International Psychoanalytic Books and distributor Jason Aronson, Inc. are happy to present this compelling analysis of individual and collective syndromes that have their own emergent sources in both social process and brain process.

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“We might say that this, Freud’s indwelling social domain,  became the keeper of his Bildungsroman, the gift of his life story that is imbedded in psychoanalysis—and social neuropsychoanalysis.” Here are further quotes from the book. The thread that binds us socially is our reflective narration to one another of our survival devices. That is the art and science, the mythology and history, of civilized life.

The myth of meeting one’s double corresponds to the idea that one twin must die because both share self. Losing Julius set Freud on a course of becoming a social theorist to compensate for his loss, making his life… narrative of his own social development. Life-long… un-grieved loss is the prototype of narcissistic depression.

Raichle has been instrumental in shifting our paradigm of brain process from an anatomically organized structural brain to a socially organized mental brain…When its nodes are not engaged with the external world, the DMN [default domain] engages in reverie, worry, social daydreams… DMPFC and VMPFC nodes of the DMN are the source of executive consciousness… As our DMN guides our survival behavior, we can feel comfortable about resolving any distress in our bodies.

The combined VMPFC-self and DMPFC-other [social domain] deploy the overarching functions of our identity consciousness…when brain network equilibria between self and other fail, we cannot know self from other (psychosis); cannot know others (autism); cannot know self (PTSD); and cannot tell reflection from experience (dementia).

Geist, social spirit, seems an inevitable stepping-stone from individual to communal life.

When the hiatus between the individual’s social domain and the external social world is too great, our limbic system cannot reconcile it. We are left with a Durkheim syndrome of social dissonance: many… feel morally abandoned.

The limbic system is a comparator between the sensorimotor world and the inner world of the body’s interior. It triggers autonomic signals…Limbic cortex includes: 1) social risk-estimating OFC (orbital frontal cortex), 2) social identity-regulating ACC (anterior cingulate cortex), 3) interior body-feeling AIC (anterior insular cortex), 4) cognitive dissonance-regulating PCC, and 5) core identity-stabilizing HF (hippocampal formation). They comprise a signal system for conscious ego-functions.

Neuromodulatory drives are like scouts. They play a critical role in providing limbic cortex with prediction-measuring data as it is generated.

Seth, Suzuki, and Critchley (2012) conclude that agency and presence integrate ego qualities of identity consciousness… when the AIC is able to predict interoceptive data and link it to exteroceptive data in expectations of a match. The more anxiety we feel, the less does agency-self match self-representation…we may become detached strangers to our own self…in depersonalization and derealization, the AIC deactivates and identity dissociates.

Human autonomic balance between LB parasympathetic and RB sympathetic processing shunts from hemisphere to hemisphere every few hours, manifesting, I think, the equilibration necessary to restore the balance between metabolic needs and safety issues.   

Given the lateral hypofrontality of dreaming, the dreamer’s DMN forms associations and observes the dream process without the constrictions of LB logic or RB representation. Dodgson brings Alice from collapsed LB logic into concretized RB metaphor.   

Creative exploration is one way of using the unconscious to change one’s identity, rather than using it simply to evoke fear responses…Like a deep-sea diver in contact with life support on the surface…our mind’s eye follows neural exploration with intact psychological function. Adrienne Rich [the poet] explores this process in Diving Into the Wreck.

Psyche has to prove to Venus that she can join the gods (in their social domain) by demonstrating she can achieve feats of the gods. The tasks set for her are like those of working memory’s data selection… She needs the observant help of the gods to know how to predict the outcomes of her own actions… to deal with her narcissism, she has to enter the dynamic unconscious without fragmenting. Unable to do this on her own, she prepares to face a lethal plunge, but her missing self-observation is replaced by the voice of the gods directing her from the vantage of the social domain.

Shakespeare made his own mind/brain model. Hamlet brims with brain references that… bind individual and social functions. Contracted on the holy book of his brain, Hamlet swears to restore his father’s spirit by exposing Claudius’ theft of the King’s social self.  

The self is like a nexus, narrowing in a glass of time. The social world funnels down, sending urgent instructions to the brain. Turned over, from the bottom up the brain sends its responses through the self, back out to the social world. Experience is closer to the brain’s side; reflection is closer to the social world… the ventral self is closer to the ancient brain; the dorsal other is closer to the contemporary social world. Top-down plus bottom up make a moment of consciousness within the social domain’s hourglass of self. 

In childhood, the mental experience that I call ‘endogenous trauma’ accompanies massive neuronal death, making it too hard to go back.  

Freud and Piaget both describe the sea change that ends infancy: a functional corpus callosum triggers a storm of endogenous trauma–the wishful left brain of infancy confronts the young child’s right-brain reality processing. Freud said that in the anal stage transition to young childhood, when the infants supercharged wishes confront the reality that adults have their own world, the shattering response is always the same: raging defecation… If the trauma of passage to young childhood is too great, ambivalence may not effectively structure character development… the ego functions of agency and social representation may not lateralize in such a way that they can be functionally synthesized. That is what we mean psychologically by dissociation.

Internalizing his [Nietzsche’s] father’s headaches and suffering as a replacement persona for his  loss, hearing the church bells tolling everlasting despair, he searched for superman in himself–a new Godhead.

 …hybrid social perspectives fragment our moral sense. It becomes a question of whether we believe in one god or multiple gods…The DMPFC binds and unifies the sense of self-representation as a social being culled from multiple conflicting identifications. But one’s reputation is often placed like an ill-fitting coat on one’s social identity by strangers. When almost everyone feels ill-fitted, unbound aggression turns the social world into a dissonant, traumatizing place.

In ancient Egypt’s pyramidal structure, the god Osiris watched over the whole society with an eye that never closed…By 3,000 BC, priest-kings used ka, the hallucinated voice of the dead King predecessor as social identity, borrowed from Osiris for a life-time.  

Jeremy Bentham invented the Panopticon to extend social control over a person’s biological life… an inner Panopticon observer operating the top-down tower of our social domain…is known from personal experience as the observer in the mind’s eye [superego].