496 – You Can’t Go Back: 03


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The Times of India reports that German researchers in Bonn (that was the long way around, eh?) have determined that people with the “TT” or “TC” version (mutation) of theΒ DARPP-32 gene are more prone to flying into relatively unprovoked fits of rage, while people with the normal, or “CC” version of the gene remain calm, cool, and collected. These individuals also display less gray matter (brainses) in theirΒ amygdalaΒ than normal. The amygdala is the part of the brain that regulates moods and unprovoked fits of rage.

In short, normal equals unmutated, larger brainses. Anger management types equal crazed, tiny brained, mutant freaks. This so explains my childhood.

12 Responses to 496 – You Can’t Go Back: 03

  1. Unfortunately, “prone to flying into relatively unprovoked fits of rage” describes me well. Once upon a time, people like me were called “cholerics”, a words going back to medieval doctrine of the Four Humours (red blood, yellow bile, black bile, and green phlegm) of the body, the balance or imbalance of which influenced not only health but also temperament: sanguine/passionate, choleric/short-tempered, melancholic/sad, phlegmatic/apathetic.

    Neurology underwent a great paradigm-change in the 1990s when new methods of scanning the living brain forced neurologists to throw out the the previous core belief that the brain was relatively static after the first few weeks of life, instead we now know that not only is the brain a dynamic organ, its synaptic wiring and receptivity of synaptic receptors for neurotransmitter molecules altering itself in response to internal and external influences such as altered hormonal levels, illnesses, depressions, chronic stress, traumata, chronic pain, happiness and even the food you eat.

    Interestingly, reduced size of the amygdala has also been found in cases of trauma and chronic depression. The good news is, it is reversible. From what I’ve read, geneticists have found certain gene variants (or merely an altered activity of certain genes) that seem to influence if someone is more or less prone to suffering chronic depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome. Neurologists had previously wondered why some people seemed to be able to shake off traumatic experiences quite quickly and return to normal without lasting effects, while in other people the level of stress hormones in the blood stayed high and they could not shake off the memories. “Nature” and “nurture” form us in equal parts.

    Anyway, this article is another well-deserved nail in the coffin of psychoanalysts trying to pretend that the human mind starts as a tabula rasa and that mood disorders have nothing to do with the brain whatsoever. I hope one day we will have accepted that mental illnesses as we define them now are really neurological disorders, and that behavioral problems and traumata can be treated more effectively that today. (Although we may still be forced to lock up uncurable psychopaths simply for the sake of protecting others from them.) Perhaps then, our definition of “insanity” will exclude neurological disorders but include ideological and religious wordviews that cause people to blatantly ignore reality in favour of whatever total fantasy is going on inside their minds.

    I must object though to the idea that the CC version of the gene is the “normal” one while the other two versions with slightly different DNA sequences (TC, TT) get slandered as “mutations” (a word with undeserved negative connotations). They’re all variations (called alleles) of the same gene, similar to eye colours. None is better than the other. It’s just that our society with its emphasis on emotional impuls control sees choleric anger as undesirable.

    On a related note, speaking as a Star Trek fan, now I wonder if the famous Vulcan emotional discipline is not merely caused by training of effective meditation techniques from childhood on, but also to cultural selection of traits. If the ancestors of what later became the Romulans took most of the “TT” and “TC” gene variants with them when they left Vulcan to settle on another planet, while Vulcans with the “CC” variant stayed behind, that would neatly explain how these two populations could diverge so quickly. πŸ˜‰

    • I wouldn’t be immediately prepared to buy that mental illnesses as a whole are really neurological disorders, but I would accept that some of the things we call mental illness may be, and that still other illnesses are more probable with certain types of neurological disorder. Unless therapy somehow treats the brain as well as the emotional state of the patient. (Which it could. Perhaps therapy is really about learning coping mechanisms to deal with your fucked-up brain.) I am interested in whether there is some particular imbalance that makes religious delusion more or less likely, and if it can be caused by external factors such as a lifelong brainwashing. They have already found that particularly fervent believers have different sorts of brains from non-believers, though I don’t remember what those differences were supposed to mean.

      As far as “normal” and “mutant” terminology goes, those were the words of the researchers, not mine. However, in fairness, I can certainly understand why they would consider a variation that hindered socialization aberrant, especially when it occurs in far smaller numbers.

      I would never presume to make a personal judgement, I don’t know you well enough… but my ex-dad is a person β€œprone to flying into relatively unprovoked fits of rage,” and I guarantee you that the amount of socialization and commentary and intelligence you continually display here would be entirely impossible for him. It’s not that he isn’t intelligent, he is. However, anything he sees that disagrees with his views makes him immediately angry, (he’s angry a lot) and instead of intelligent discourse, he just screams. That doesn’t seem to be you.

      I like the Vulcan/Romulan theory. Although I’ve never understood how the Romulans were able to progress so far with their science the way they did. The “Romulan” anger almost destroyed Vulcan, and it seems like every day that passes on Romulus without a world war would be an unnatural blessing. I always figured it’d be more likely that the Federation would have found them with skins and spears than cloaking devices and plasma torpedoes.

      • War is actually a great catalyst for science……granted, not for the best of reasons, but it does spur innovation.

        • “War is actually a great catalyst for science……granted, not for the best of reasons, but it does spur innovation.”
          Agreed. Although I think we could live well without war and still progress. You need periods of peace to stabilize what you built up.

          And as history has shown (history from an anthropological view is a bit of a hobby of mine) if a war goes on for too long and/or becomes too destructive to infrastructure, agriculture and society as a whole, if war becomes a state of mind so to speak, a lot more is lost than gained, be they technological or philosophical advances. War degrades. Just look at the Thirty Years War that engulfed Europe (1618-1648). Horrible. Even the contemporary sources mention that something monstrous and barbaric had been awoken. Afterwards, whole regions were devastated, those people who had not starved or been brutally tortured to death by roving bands of mercenaries were fleeing their cities and villages. Farmland was not been tilled, domestic animals had been stolen or slaughtered, epidemics were common. In some areas, so many people died or never returned that local lore and traditions were lost. Afterwards, villages were resettled by different people, speaking different dialects. Contemporary scholars collecting folk legends after the war noticed that many old folksongs were lost and the new ones all spoke of the war. The collective memory was deeply traumatised. Just looking at the territories of Prussia alone, it took society over a century to recover; Prussian king Friedrich the Great wrote that his coutnry still bore the scars of the Thirty Years War 150 years later.

          As for the topic of Romulans, they never struck me as quite as “macho-warrior culture” people as the Klingons. (Yes, I don’t like Klingons, stupid annoying Klingons, so sue me.) The Romulans of the “present” (meaning Captain Picard’s time) were aloof and ruthless, but also intelligent and sneaky, not prone of flying into blind foaming rages. They preferred poison, espionage and political assassinations over whacking each other with weapons like the Klingons did.

          In that regard, Romulan society reminds me of the Italian Renaissance city-states (Venice, Florence, Padua, Bologna, etc) who were also constantly at low-scale war with each other, a siege here, a battle there, while trade and diplomacy were going on at the same time. Heck, there are accounts of duels and battles between members of the various noble Houses and families of Florence, fought high above the streets on planks laid down between two neighboring family palazzi. And yet, culture, literature, the arts, invention and trade florished during the Renaissance.

          Remember, the Klingons bought their birds-of-prey and a lot of technology from the Romulans. It’s pretty clear who had the better weapons and technology. I also don’t remember the Romulans trying to enlarge their zone of influence through large scale wars, as the Dominion did. They seemed to be content at defending what was theirs.

          Therefore, although Vulcan history mentions terrible devastating wars fought before the Vulcans learned impulse control and became peaceful, after the exodus the proto-Romulans probably had their hands full colonizing a new planet and were smart enough to realize that wars of extinction would be a stupid idea when the survival of your newborn culture depends on a relatively small population.

  2. Only if you can cooperate enough, have a society stable enough, for all society to help science advance in a given way. Thus, while this is applicable to humans, and would be to vulcans and most SF species, it very well couldn’t apply to the romulans.

    As per the article, I’m wondering. Is the CC gene really the norm in children? πŸ˜†

  3. I love the way the conversation started out with psychology and ended up debating the innovations of war-torn planets in Star Trek. This is why I come back here day after day, as much as the great comic. It is true though, that war often inspires breakthroughs in science and technology. Most of the weapons and tactics we have currently got their start in WWII. Hell, we wouldn’t even have commercial airliners if someone didn’t decide planes were a good way to deliver death in WWI. And helicopters in Vietnam, etc…

    • The twin drivers of human technology are death and videogames. (Maybe death and simulated death?)

      Now I would bet you that the Romulans have some kick-ass first-person-shooter games.

      • I would suggest that it’s not so much death and video games, per se, as it is death and pleasure. Thanatos and Eros. Look at the sheer level of ingenuity that goes into sex toys. I mean, really, RealDolls are just scary levels of creative thought put into a toy, and then you’ve got all the neat robo-pets and tabletop RPGs and… And the list goes on. We’ve got as many ways to take our minds off of killing as we do to perform it. And come to think of it, war stimulates both, too. I agree with Christina that war is only useful in this fashion for limited durations before it starts to become its own end and stagnate the creative processes, but while it’s pushing innovation you need more and better ways to kill the other side, more and better ways to keep your own side from getting killed, and more and better ways to help the folks back home not have to think too hard about all that killing.

        But you’re right, the Rommie equivalent to Halo has got to rock.

        • “Look at the sheer level of ingenuity that goes into sex toys. (big snip)
          But you’re right, the Rommie equivalent to Halo has got to rock.”

          Dammit, now I’m trying to picture Romulan sex toys. 😯 :mrgreen:

  4. Misha left this message: “The Rommies have developed a way to combine the ‘toys and the killing. Not being much into that sort of thing, though, they sell these sex-toy weapons as “fully functional” combat simulations to the Klingons, mostly.”