Rock A Bye Baby
A Time Life Documentary (1970)
rocking his head and body
rocking its head and body
In 1966, I joined the newly formed NICHD where I created the Developmental Behavioral Biology Program (NICHD) to establish basic research programs on brain-behavioral development. During my tenure at the NICHD (1966-1980), I formulated a novel developmental brain-behavioral theory of emotional-social regulation to explain the pathological depression and violence that results from maternal-social deprivation or the social isolation rearing of infant animals. This theory involved the cerebellar-limbic-frontal lobe complex where I proposed that the cerebellum has a major role in the regulation of sensory-limbic (emotional) brain activity which also integrates (or not) this activity with higher brain processes (frontal-temporal cortex). I established a number of basic research programs to evaluate this theory and with other scientists documented that the failure of “mother love” results in developmental brain dysfunction and damage which underlies the depression, stereotypical movement disorders (e.g. rocking behaviors and self-mutilation), hyperreactivity to sensory stimulation, particularly touch with, paradoxically, impaired pain perception; social alienation, rage and pathological violence against other animals that have been commonly described in isolation reared monkeys and in other isolation reared animals….
Specifically, I redefined “maternal-social deprivation” as a special case of Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation (SAD) and identified somesthetic processes (body touch) and vestibular-cerebellar processes (body movement) as the two critical emotional senses that define the sensory neuropsychological foundations for maternal-infant affectional bonding. Sensory deprivation in the other sensory systems (vision, hearing, smell and taste) do not result in the maternal-social deprivation or SAD syndrome). I proposed and established with other scientists brain studies in isolation reared monkeys (maternal-infant separation) which documented structural and functional brain abnormalities in the limbic-frontal-cerebellar brain system of adult maternally deprived monkeys (loss of mother love) which are directly related–as a causative process–to the depression and pathological violence of these mother deprived monkeys (Prescott, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976)….
It is important to emphasize that in terms of SAD theory, the different sensory-emotional systems of the body provide the neuropsychological foundations for different psychological states. Specifically, the vestibular-cerebellar sensory system provides the primary neuropsychological foundation for “Basic Trust”; the somesthetic (touch) sensory system provides the primary neuropsychological foundation for “Affection”; and the olfactory (smell) sensory system provides the primary neuropsycholgical foundation for “Intimacy”. In normal development these emotional-sensory systems are combined in rich patterns of complex sensory stimulation which results in the development of a “neurointegrative” brain where “Basic Trust”, “Affection” and “Intimacy” are integrated with one another to form an emotional brain gestalt that can be called “Love”–long before the infant can understand the spoken or written word which is mediated by the auditory and visual cognitive senses.
All three emotional sensory systems, of course, are involved in the experiencing of “Pleasure” and “Bonding”. It is through the emotional senses that the infant knows when it is being loved or rejected and this is particularly true for the congenitally blind or deaf infant/child (Fraiberg and Friedman, 1964; Bowyer and Gillies (1972); Dokecki, 1973; Prescott, 1976); Smell, as the primitive emotional-sexual brain, has been a long neglected sensory system for understanding human sexuality, intimacy and bonding (Kohl and Francoeur, 1995). The failure to encode the infant’s developing brain with the smell of its mother’s body through breastfeeding can only have long-term adverse consequences for bonding and for the male-female sexual relationship.
The absence of any one of these three emotional senses in the development of the infant, e.g. failure to breast-feed, removes not only the primary neuropsychological foundation for “Intimacy” (smell–the primitive olfactory sexual brain) but also precludes the formation of the brain gestalt that can only be formed when all of the sensory elements are present….
The failure to integrate pleasure into the higher brain centers associated with “Consciousness” (frontal lobes) is the principal neuropsychological condition for the expression of violence, particularly sexual violence. Pleasure that is experienced only at the genital-spinal reflex level or limbic level of brain function does not result in the inhibition of sexually exploitative and violent behaviors. It is at these lower levels of brain processing of sexual pleasure where sado-masochism flourishes (Prescott, 1977; 1990)….
A fractured neurobiological/neuropsychological substrate which results from early sensory deprivation results in a “dissociative brain” which translates into dissociative behaviors–depression, alienation, rage, violence and chemical dependencies to self-medicate the effects of SAD….
The validation of my SAD theory which includes cerebellar regulation of limbic system activity that mediates emotional-social behaviors (Prescott, 1968, 1971, 1976, 1983) has been provided by a number of NICHD supported brain studies in isolation reared monkeys (Saltzberg, Lustick and Heath, 1971; Heath, 1972,1975; Floeter and Greenough, 1979; Riesen, Dickerson and Struble, 1977; Struble and Riesen, 1978; Bryan and Riesen, 1989). Abnormal brain electrical activity and abnormal neuroanatomy of brain cells (abnormal dendrites and dendritic spines) were found in somatosensory and motor cerebral neocortex and in cerebellar cortex.
Additionally, a neurosurgical study involving paleocerebellar decortication (removal of my hypothesized abnormal paleocerebellar cortical cells due to sensory deprivation) in a previously untouchable pathologically adult isolation reared monkey transformed that monkey into a very friendly, inquisitive and touchable monkey. This same brain surgery was also found to be effective in reducing approximately 80% of the autistic-like behaviors in isolation reared monkeys (reduction in stereotypical rocking behaviors; depression and tactile avoidance behaviors). (Berman, Berman and Prescott, 1974).
It was discovered that the isolation reared infant monkeys with cerebellar surgery began to socially interact and touch one another–behaviors not seen prior to surgery. These brain surgery studies were conducted to confirm the role of the cerebellum in the regulation of emotional-social and peaceful/violent behaviors–not to provide a remedy for violent, anti-social or autistic-like behaviors. (Berman, Berman and Prescott, 1974; Prescott, 1971, 1976).
In addition to the significant scientific breakthrough that the failure of “mother love” results in developmental brain dysfunction and damage, the specific finding of abnormal electrical storms called “spiking”–high voltage electrical discharges–in deep brain structures (limbic system and cerebellum) which are associated with uncontrolled outbursts of violent behavior was considered to hold particular promise for the development of a neurodiagnostic test of impaired brain function associated with “dangerousness”. In pursuing this suggestion (Prescott 1971), Saltzberg, Lustick and Heath (1971) and Saltzberg and Lustick (1975) made additional scientific breakthroughs by developing a computer signal processing algorithm that could detect the presence of these deep brain electrical storms (“spiking”) from ordinary scalp recorded brain electrical activity (EEG) which looked clinically normal. These studies and scientific breakthroughs were made possible by an NICHD contract research program which I established with these investigators at Tulane University Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Neurology in the mid-late 1960s.
Additional brain-behavioral studies involving platelet serotonin in isolation reared violent monkeys was initiated by the Developmental Behavioral Biology Program, NICHD and those findings were reported by Coleman (1971). Violent isolation reared monkeys had significantly lower platelet serotonin levels than normally reared monkeys. Based upon a variety of published studies (mostly in rodents) that early social isolation affects many neurotransmitters of the brain, particularly serotonin (Essman, 1971, Eichelman and Thoa, 1973), the study of platelet serotonin in isolation reared monkeys was initiated. The positive findings from this study antedated by several years the later findings of significantly reduced levels of 5-HIAA, a metabolite of serotonin, in the spinal fluid of violent individuals (Asberg, et al., 1976; Brown, et. al., 1979, 1982; Linnoila, et. al., 1983).
It remains to be seen how well the combined neuropsychological diagnostic criteria of sub-cortical “spiking” and reduced brain serotonin levels can identify the “dangerous” violent offender. These studies could have been completed a quarter of a century ago, if it were not for the lack of interest in violence research by NICDH/NIH officials and their later inexplicable, unconscionable and unlawful termination of NICHD’s agency responsibility to conduct further research on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect and the developmental origins of violence (See Appendix A).
Although, I was able to enlist the interest and support of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1978 to conduct an interfederal agency collaborative research program to test the validity and reliability of detecting sub-cortical spike discharges in known violent criminals compared to non-violent control subjects, these studies were blocked by the NICHD/NIH which ultimately withdrew its agency responsibility to support any further research on the developmental origins of violence and the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect. (More on this story later). I believe that a safe and non-invasive neuropsychological diagnostic test of impaired brain function could be developed to identify the “dangerous” violent offender which would translate into the savings of human life lost to such violent offenders who are prematurely released from protective custody and back into the community to commit more violent crimes….
It is beyond the scope of this paper to review in any detail the significant findings which link the use of obstetrical medications to later enhanced adult drug use and abuse (Jacobson, et al., 1988, 1990); and prenatal and perinatal trauma to later adolescent and adult violence (Salk, et al., 1985; Jacobson, et al., 1987; Raine, 1994). Suffice it to say that prenatal and perinatal traumas results in a significant percentage increase of adult substance abuse and violence that ranges from 56% to 500% increase when compared to normal controls.
Table 1 provides a summary of the results of the above cited studies. These findings clearly support the conclusion that adolescent-adult alcohol/drug abuse and addiction has significant roots in prenatal/perinatal traumatic experiences that are obviously beyond the control of such drug abusing/addicted persons. Equally clear is that such individuals cannot be held criminally responsible for their substance abuse behaviors which have their origins in prenatal and perinatal life experiences–a factor that defense attorneys should be addressing in their defense of drug abusers and addicts in the criminal courts of America.
In summary, the above described studies have confirmed that the sensory deprivation of mother love induces developmental brain abnormalities which results in a variety of pathological emotional-social behaviors, as observed and described in the mother deprived monkeys. Unfortunately, future studies planned by the Developmental Behavioral Biology Program, NICHD to identify similarly impaired brain function in abused and neglected children and in violent offenders with a history of child abuse and neglect were prevented by administrative actions of NICHD/NIH/DHHS officials. This tragic situation remains today where NICHD/NIH officials continue to deny their history of having supported research on child abuse and neglect or the developmental origins of violence (See Appendix A)….
CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES: CHILD REARING PRACTICES FOR PEACE OR VIOLENCE
Table 3 lists those social-behavioral characteristics of cultures that provide high infant physical affection. Physically affectional cultures do not inflict pain upon their infants; are highly nurturant to children with prolonged breast-feeding (2.5 years or longer); adult violence is low; and religious activity is low.
There is no other theory or data base that I am aware of that can predict with 100% accuracy the violence and non-violence of 49 primitive cultures distributed throughout the world and by specifying the specific sensory systems and brain mechanisms that mediate such effects. This prediction was made possible by the known effects of sensory deprivation upon brain development and behavior and the role of brain mechanisms that mediate pleasure in controlling and inhibiting depression and violent behaviors (Prescott, 1968, 1972, 1975; Heath, 1968)….
A detailed history of the NICHD/NIH research program on child abuse-neglect and the developmental origins of violence with NICHD’s subsequent abandonment of these research programs and obligations can be obtained by writing the Director, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892 and requesting a copy of the complete written and oral testimony of James W. Prescott, Ph. D. before the “Panel on NIH Research on Antisocial, Aggressive, and Violence-Related Behaviors and Their Consequences” (1993), specifically, the “Prescott Report: Parts I & II”.
Breast-feeding assumes special significance for maternal-infant affectional bonding because of its effects upon the developing infant brain. Absence of breast-feeding contributes to SAD (failure of affectional bonding) which results in abnormal development of the brain serotonergic system (among other brain abnormalities). Similarly, absence of breast milk also contributes to the abnormal development of the infant’s brain serotonergic system because of the induced nutritional deficiency of tryptophan which is richly present in colostrum and breast milk but absent in formula milk. Tryptophan is the critical precursor amino acid necessary for the development of brain serotonin. Deficits of brain serotonin hav ebreen strongly linked to depression, impulse dyscontrol and violence. The dual trauma of failure of breast feeding and affectional bonding that are prevalent in the American culture contributes to developmental brain dysfunction/damage which predisposes such children to depression, impulse dyscontrol and violence. These infant/child rearing practices which includes institutional day care during the breast-feeding years, tragically, contributes to generations of brain dysfunctional children and adults. It should be noted that UNICEF and WHO recommend breast-feeding for “two years and beyond” (Newman, 1995). …
And on and on and on… devotees of the “coincidence theory” of national collapse should explain why the high priests of health at the NIH chose to defund and then deny the existence of this revolutionary research into the precursors for human happiness and social cohesion. They could ask similar questions of the american medical association, the american pediatric association, the american college of obstetrics and gynecology, the american psychiatric association and all the other defenders of american medical dogma, the too-big-to-fail “health” monopolies that brutalize and exploit children for profit every day.
Can there be any doubt that satanic evil is afoot in the highest corridors of power in this country?
See the interviews with James Prescott in the podcast section.