Open forum: Examining our national brain | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Open forum: Examining our national brain

Posted: February 10, 2011 - 7:16pm

Researchers are learning more about how the human brain grows and functions, helping us understand some of the bizarre behaviors we find among us all.

For example, the part that helps us understand future consequences of current actions, located in the pre-frontal cortex (the front part of the brain), is the last to develop. Full development may take until age 25 (sometimes never). A teen may occasionally do something outlandish, such as setting fire to the bathroom, causing her parents to exclaim, “What were you thinking!” To which the teen may honestly reply, “I don’t know.”

This lack of connection between current action and future consequence is shamelessly exploited by armies, who like to engage 18-year-olds. At that age they’re easily manipulated into doing something that later in life they’d refuse to do. It helps explain the un-Christian atrocities in Iraq committed by those from a supposedly Christian nation.

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker, “This is America. Speak English.” I realized there must be at least two people who felt that way, or just thought it was cute: the person who made it, and the person who bought it. Maybe they were both under 25.

In this neck of the woods, unless someone is Ojibwe or Dakota, they have no business saying how anyone else should speak.

There’s another part of the brain (I forget what it’s called) buried in the middle, that controls and generates empathy. Researchers found when that part of the brain is missing or dysfunctional, those people have reduced or no empathy for others. It’s why some people can become “cold-blooded killers”, or why some can torture with no apparent empathy, explaining overseas U.S. engagement the past few years.

Perhaps parts of our national brain have become damaged, or missing.

A. Martin

Merrifield