The effects of sensory deprivation or altered and abnormal sensory environments upon brain development and behavior are well documented. It is this mechanism of somatosensory trauma and deprivation which is proposed to be the mediating process of a variety of early traumatic events of obstetric drugs, genital pain, sensory deprivation and other stressors, including asphyxia that damages the affectional neuronal systems of the brain. It is this damage that compromises or prevents the development of affectional bonds of pleasure since the brain systems that mediate pleasure have been damaged by these early insults and injuries that began in utero. Thus, the presence of postnatal TLC or somatosensory affectional stimulation may not be assimilated by the infant because of prenatal/perinatal neuronal damage to the pleasure systems of the brain.This thesis constitutes the neuropsychological foundation of my SAD (Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation) theory of alienation, depression, addiction and violent behaviors.
It is for these reasons that SAD is proposed to be the process or mechanism which can account for the linkage between prenatal/perinatal trauma, obstetric drugs and suicides that have been reported by Salk, et al.(1985), and by Jacobson, et, al. (1987, 1988, 1990). It is emphasized that the first consequences of SAD are hyper-reactivity and depression which are the precursors to other forms of violence, particularly that of suicide. Unfortunately, neither the Salk, et al. nor Jacobson, et al studies have reported on the degree of infant isolation in incubators or the degree of post-natal somatosensory affectional deprivation of the infant/child who later became addicted or committed suicide. It is emphasized that these phenomena must be quantified in any future developmental studies of this kind, if the most valid and reliable assessment of early insults/injuries are to be assessed.
The SAD (Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation) theory is offered as an alternate explanatory mechanism to that of "imprinting" that has been offered by Jacobson, et al (1987, 1988, 1990) for the explanation of the consequences of adult drug addiction and suicide to perinatal trauma.
In further elaboration, Somatosenory Affectional Deprivation (SAD) theory is based on the nature of brain processes where it has been well established that activation of the pleasure circuits of the brain inhibit the activity of the violence circuits of the brain. This normative reciprocal relationship ceases to function when the neuronal circuits of the brain that mediate pleasure are insufficiently developed--a form of brain dysfunction/damage--due to sensory deprivation of physical affectional pleasure, specifically, somesthetic (touch) and vestibular (movement) sensory stimulation. Gentle touch and rocking of the infant are powerful sensory stimuli for pleasure, comfort and a sense of "basic trust" for the infant/child. When these sensory stimuli are absent and, in addition, are replaced by painful sensory stimulation, then the neurobiological foundation for depressive, addictive and violent behaviors is established.
In brief, the emotional pain of affectional deprivation--the failure of love--in the maternal-infant and parent-child relationships; and in our sexual relationships seeks relief through drugs, alcohol and violence--in the rage of our physical assaults against others; beatings, rape, homicide or assaults against our own bodies in self-mutilation and drug addiction where the final solution is suicide--one of the leading causes of death in our children and youth. Why should our children and youth be committing suicide in such great numbers--a 112% increase from l980 to l985 for children aged 10 to 14 years? Does genital mutilation in combination with SAD facilitate suicidal and assaultive behaviors?
A further correlate to the above relationships and why certain postnatal traumas are tolerated (genital mutilations) is to be found in our cultural mores that places a high moral value on pain, suffering, deprivation; and, conversely, immorality upon the physical pleasures of the body, particularly the sexual pleasures of the body. It is for these reasons that the pain of genital mutilations are tolerated and supported and why the pleasures of genital stimulation are commonly forbidden, e.g. masturbation--with all the developmental neuropsychological and moral consequences that such events have upon the individual and culture. These issues have been reviewed elsewhere and are mentioned herein, to indicate the developmental and cultural complexity of the phenomena to be studied, namely, the consequences of genital mutilation upon brain development and behavior (Prescott, 1989)
For all of the above reasons it is reasonable to pursue an exploratory study of the possible consequences to the developing brain from the sensory trauma inherent in genital mutilations. Positive findings would, necessarily, have a dramatic effect upon raising the level of human consciousness of the world that is permitting such damage through genital mutilations upon helpless newborns and children throughout the world.
In addition to providing scientific information to help end the torture and mutilation of children inherent in genital mutilations, these research findings would also provide a foundation for later studies that would examine the possible linkages of these early traumas upon the development of later violent and sado-masochistic behaviors, particularly its contribution to the various forms of sexual violence that are all too prevalent in those cultures that inflict genital mutilation upon infants and children. In this respect, the commentary of MacLean (1962) on the relationship between sexuality, fear and aggression is relevant:
Sexuality, fear and aggression: The foregoing considerations are germane to the close connection between sexuality and fear and aggression. As is well recognized, fighting is frequently a preliminary to both feeding and mating. One sees combative behavior even in the nursing babe which will angrily fight the breast if no milk if forthcoming, and at the same time develop penile erection. Proceeding caudally from the level the level of the anterior commissure, one can follow neural structures involved in fearful or angry, combative behavior lying proximal to those concerned with feeding and sexual responses. Within the space of a millimeter, one may pass from a point at which stimulation results in erection and an apparent state of placidity to one at which the electrical current elicits erection in conjunction with an angry or fearful ;type of vocalization and showing of fangs ((MacLean and Ploog, 1962). As one lowers the electrode a little deeper, one may obtain only fearful or angry-appearing manifestations during stimulation, yet see erection appear as a rebound phenomenon after stimulation is terminated. One is reminded of a statement in Freud's "Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex": "The sexually exciting influence of some painful affects such as fear, shuddering, and horror is felt by a great many people throughout life and readily explains why so many seek opportunities to experience such sensation..." (3, p.63). One thinks of pyromania, for example. (p.296). I would add other examples besides pyromania that may be more relevant to our cultural condition: the significant rise and predominance of horror films; "slasher" films, sexual violence in films and in real life (rape). It is not an excess of speculation to suggest that dysfunction in the basic neural systems of the brain that regulate sexuality, emotionality, social-sexual relationships and "Consciousness" may well underlie the prevalence of sexual sociopathy and psychopathy in our culture. And that genital mutilation and other forms of assault to the development of the pleasure/ affectionale systems of the brain would constitute significant contributions to those brain dysfunctions that, undoubtedly, underly these social-cultural disorders.
On the positive side and from an evolutionary perspective there are also significant implications on the role of the above discussed brain structures for the development of social and sexual altruism and the realization of the spiritual dimensions of human sexuality which must include an integration of the sexual systems of the limbic brain with the frontal lobes and cerebellum (Prescott, 1976ab,1990). It is here that the commentary of MacLean (1962) on sexuality and altruism is also of particular relevance:
Sexuality and altruism: Thus far we have considered neural and behavioral findings that would appear to shed some light on psychiatric observations that the acts of mastering, devouring and procreating seem to be inextricably tied to one another.
In concluding, we have yet to consider a subject that goes to the roots of man's idealism and altruism--namely, the close connection of feeding, sustaining and sexuality. A concern for the welfare and preservation of the species is based on sexuality. The mother when feeding her baby at breast experiences well-being and may have sensations associated with tumescence in the genital region. Subjective analyses have shown that there may be a comparable reaction in the feelings of those who find joy in helping and sustaining others. In giving the results of the stimulation studies we pointed out that penile erection was obtained by stimulating structures along the course of the mammillothalamic tract and in parts of the anterior and medial thalamic nuclei (MacLean and Ploog, 1962). Heretofore these structures have been looked upon as silent areas of the brain. The mammillothalamic pathway, the pathway numbered three in Figure 2, is, as LeGros Clark and Meyer emphasized, not found in the reptilian brain but appears for the first time in the mammal (Clark and Meyer, 1950). It is possibly pertinent to the increasingly complicated sociosexual behavior that one finds in ascending the phylogenetic scale of the mammal, that this pathway and its related nuclei attain their greatest size in man. Thus there seems to be support for the assumption that Nature did not stop at the primitive level of the hypothalamus, but endowed us with considerable brain stem and cortex with which to promote the preservation of the species. It may be particularly significant that the medial dorsal nucleus which projects to the orbital and prefrontal cortex develops in association with the anterior group of nuclei and literally embraces them. As pointed out, the ancient midline portion of the medial dorsal nucleus is implicated in penile erection. Indeed, it is such a potent point that stimulation here may elicit close to full erection even under deep anesthesia (MacLean and Ploog, 1962).