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FRIDAY, June 25, 2004

Session 5: Neuroscience, Brain, and Behavior IV: Brain Imaging (Case Study)

Staff Working Paper, "Neuroimaging and Antisocial Personality Disorder Case Study"

Today we bring forth two areas, none of them burning questions at the moment, but things visible already here and on the horizon, two areas that are fraught with some serious ethical questions, one having to do with the knowledge gained from neuroimaging, the other the uses of brain stimulation and the treatment of psychological and behavioral disorder, and we've divided the morning sessions exactly along those lines, one having to do with the ethical questions arising from the acquisition of new information about the brain and new kinds of knowledge about the brain through neuroimaging and the other questions having to do with the possibilities of intervention in relation to behavioral disorder.

I think that we start from — just to speak in a very crude way, I think a lot of public interest in this topic has to do with the recognition that working on the brain one is somehow working on the mind, working on the person, or working on the soul, and that there are large philosophical questions that surface here from time to time, but as Dan Foster pointed out, I think, the last time, this is ancient conundrum, and this Council is not going to settle that kind of question.

But whatever might be the ultimate truth about the connection between the brain, its activities, and things called person, mind or soul, certainly in various practical situations people will wonder about whether the brain is different and whether approaches to various human phenomena through the brain raise different kinds of questions.

How would the biological approach to behavioral problems or questions having to do with moral content differ from biological approaches to diabetes, which is a non-brain matter, or biological approaches to those brain matters known as dementia and dyslexia, to dysfunctions of cognition or Parkinson's disease or epilepsy, permanent and episodic disorders of motor function?

Are there other kinds of brain disorders or brain abnormalities that would explain aberrant behavior?  And if so, does that open the way for direct and interventive treatment for aberrant behavior, not through counseling, moral exhortation, not through pharmacology even, but through direct actions on the brain?

I think these are the kinds of questions.

To get this conversation going, the staff has prepared by modifying a case study that was first presented at a conference sponsored by the Lasker Foundation, a case study that would enable us to think about the ethical questions raised by gaining new kinds of knowledge of a particular behavioral disorder.

And here the questions have to do with the use of knowledge to identify and diagnose the condition, the use of that kind of knowledge to predict possible future behavior, use of that knowledge to control the propensity for such behavior by recommending various kinds of intervention and monitoring its efficacy, and finally, should that predicted behavior occur, to explain it and perhaps excuse it should it be brought forth as a ground of moral and legal culpability.

And so keeping in mind, I think, the differences between interventions and knowledge having to do with cognitive dysfunction, interventions having to do and knowledge having to do with motor disorders, we've produced a case that purports to show neurological correlates of abnormal behavior, in this case anti-social personality disorder.

I think all of you have read the case.  This is a young man given to bouts of uncontrollable rage.  Psychiatric work-ups suggest that he might fit the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, as described in the DSM.

Functional neuroimaging using simulated films reveal — and the case study assumes that there has been enough study done on this to show that this kind of correlation is at least reliable; that there is as expected high activity in the amygdala, unusual and abnormal activity in the orbital frontal cortex, thought to be an area that has something to do with the control of anger and other behavior.

There are lots of technical questions that we could raise about the case and we could raise side ethical questions about the legitimacy of producing simulated pictures and simulated cases involving the family pictures and the like, but I think we should try for our purposes to focus on the questions that have been posed by the staff in the working paper, and these questions have something to do with the reliance on this kind of information in making a kind of diagnosis, questions having to do with what patients should be told and whether patients are under an obligation to accept interventive treatment on the basis of this.

And finally whether such people would be held morally and legally responsible for acts of violence down the road following the availability of this kind of knowledge.

Is that okay?  I would like to try in the discussion to keep us talking about one question at a time, and I'll try to move us through the sequence of questions.

Let me begin with a question on page 5.  It's very clear that the imaging is fairly crude and is nowhere near offering a causal explanation of these matters, but let's say you do have these studies showing a kind of high degree of correlation between these patterns and people who have been given this diagnosis.  Just as a general matter, what do we think about relying on neuroimaging to assess antisocial personality disorder?  Does this strike you as different from relying on it to assess dyslexia or dementia or is this simply a similar case?

Mike, that's why you're here.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  Finally, I found out.


DR. GAZZANIGA:  The problem is that many of these braining imaging studies are averages of several patients, and the brains are averaged, ten, 12, 15, 20, 50 patients, and you get this virtual image of averaged brain areas active during a particular kind of stimulation, cognitive stimulation.   The problem is if you go back to the individual scans, you will see wide variation in the part of the brain that's activated, and moreover, that is a reliable pattern because you then take a particular subject back into the scanner six months later and show him the same set of pictures, and a similar pattern is established.

So I think if you look at a particular patient's image, you might find a pattern that was consistent with some idealized view of what structures are involved in a disease, but in any court of law, any lawyer would be quick to point out that that is a pattern that is consistent, but certainly you couldn't claim it was causal because the next patient would have a completely different kind of pattern, and consistent within the next patient, but not like the first patient.

So you're going to have all of this wide variety of patterns, and therefore I think to seize upon one and say, "Look.  Those are the pixels that are responsible for this particular kind of behavior, I just think it's going to be a hard time to establish that in a court of law.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Well, if we don't talk about the law first, let's simply ask, and people have done and I think we have referenced here studies that have done very recently, published studies on dyslexia in which in individual cases a similar kind of pattern has been shown compared to a control group, an abnormal neuroimaging pattern, and that this pattern has been reversed as a result of successful interventions and an improvement of reading.

The case study assumes that similar kinds of patterns provoked by patient specific stimulation produces some reliable difference between the people the psychiatrist say have this disorder and a normal control group, and the question is, leaving the courts of it for now, but simply thinking about how we go about diagnosing people who have various behavioral disorders, are there any issues connected with just using this as a mode of identifying people with difficulties?

Doesn't the fact that we've got an antisocial personality disorder rather than, let's say, dyslexia or epilepsy raise any different kinds of questions here or is this just now we're getting more sophisticated?  Instead of having DSM, we now can move to some kind of imaging that will give us the behavioral diagnoses on which we should then start to rely?

That is, I think, the first question.  Paul, what would you say?

DR. McHUGH:  Well, first of all, it's important to know that even the words "antisocial personality disorder" don't represent, despite the fact that there is lists of category or criteria you've included here, don't represent a pure and clear category.  Remember DSM-IV and DSM-III should be looked at like a naturalist field guide, like, for example, Roger Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds.  It's important to have that because we couldn't ever agree about what's out there.

But just as ornithology doesn't depend on the Field Guide alone for its progress, but begins to employ concepts of evolutionary pressures, environmental niches, ultimately responses, and begins to see which ones of these so-called species are really independent of one another, and which ones are really fundamentally blurred into one another, there's an argument, for example, even believe it or not about the Baltimore oriole, you know, whether it really exists as something special.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Fifth place.

DR. McHUGH:  Yeah.  Now, the DSM-IV and DSM-III were very necessary at a particular stage in psychiatric scientific evolution.  We had to at least know what we were calling — what the words we were using were going to be across the nation.  Once again, you had to tell the difference between a yellow warbler and a Prothonotary warbler even though some people might think that those distinctions weren't important.

Now, when it comes to the so-called Axis II groups in DSM-III and IV, which include the compulsive personality, the narcissistic personality, the antisocial personality, those are to be looked at not as separate categories, such as you'd look at dementia, as clear, cookie-cutter-like replicas of patterns, from patient to patient, but should be looked at as tendencies, issues of themes within the life of the person that they have more or less of, much in the same way as you look at mental retardation.

So when you come to something like antisocial personality, what you're saying is this individual has a temperament in which he or she is more emotionally responsive to the situation at the moment and less likely to feel for the other person on the other side, but it's not an absolute, and the decision as to where you say this person meets the criteria or this person just has antisocial qualities is always argued.

Should you say somebody has an IQ of 80 has mental retardation or they have to have two standard deviations from the mean to have it, like 70?

I'm sorry, gang, to carry you into this long thing, but to some extent getting to the heart of this, the question you're asking, really does depend upon what you're trying to explain.  If you have a clear faculty loss, like the inability to read or the inability to see, then aspects of finding something relatively clear cut in the brain is probably more likely than when you're saying, well, this person has a tendency to do this.  Maybe he has a strong tendency, but would you necessarily turn to the brain area to get the diagnosis rather than continue in the psychological realm?

This is a long way around to say that before we can use the brain pictures to take the place of the psychological elements, we've got to be absolutely sure about what psychological elements and what fixed psychological elements we're trying to describe.

Now, I believe with Steven Rose that the best way to look at the emerging neuroscience and its linkages to the psychological realm is to see it like the Rosetta stone, that we have several languages.  One language, you know, we've got the hieroglyphics and the Demotic Greek and things of that  sort, but the same message is in each of the languages, and we don't know the translation rules from one language to another.

Although we can perhaps expect that we'll find how to do them, we'll probably also expect to find the same questions get asked at this level will get asked at that level.

Now, let me just tell you what the question is about, the antisocial personality, and even our patient here when you show them something and they explode with emotion.  The emotion may or may not express itself in behaviors that you and I find reprehensible, like striking out at somebody or hitting them.

And the psychiatrist again and again at the level of antisocial personality are faced with people who say, "I couldn't help it, Doc.  I couldn't help it.  I couldn't."

And we always, "Well, we don't know the difference between whether you couldn't help it or you wouldn't help it.  You punched that guy."

"Well, I couldn't help it.  He made me so angry, and you know, Doc, I'm just that kind of fellow.  I have a hair trigger, and I go off quickly."

And then somebody will say, "Well, you've got to understand him.  That's the way it is."

And I say, "Well, we're happy to try to do what we can," but the real question is whether the society should have something to say in this, too, not just us.

Finally, some wise psychiatrist will say to the person or to us that, "Well, look, if there's a policeman standing at his side, would he still punch him?"

And then the answer always is, "No, he wouldn't."

Okay.  Well, yes, he has intense emotions.  Yes, his emotions explode quickly when he's thwarted, but certain additions to the situation would change whether we would express it one way or another.  Then the treatment becomes how can we put a figurative policeman at his side all the time.

And somebody says, "Well, you know, you can't."

Well, then maybe you have to do something with him such that he begins to see that that's there for him.  Now, I don't think cutting his brain is going to do it, but other forms of restriction of his freedom and ultimately getting him to see that there are real consequences that he can lead to control himself.

So ultimately it comes back to the question can you replace yet the language of brain with the language of psychology.  I say we had better know the language of psychology if you're trying to do that.  I do believe you will find at the level of the brain much the same things as you will find at the level of psychology, although probably at psychology you will add more things, more appropriate things that come from a culture and our understanding of each other.

That's a long way around to answering your question, Leon.  Can we —

CHAIRMAN KASS:  You answered them all, actually.

DR. McHUGH:  Yeah.


DR. McHUGH:  But, you know, I defer to my friend Michael Gazzaniga here because I might be — or Ben — I may be still at sea as I'm trying to understand the Rosetta stone, as it were.  We have a richer vocabulary at the level of psychology, even though it's still problematic in our categorization and our diagnosis than we have at the level of — at the step-down, the Demotic Greek, if you would,  with neuroscience, but the neuroscience is coming on and bringing wonderful things to bear.

I don't think it's going to really change our moral attitude towards people psychologically in the realm of social personality.  It's certainly going to change and let us understand a lot more perhaps about the dementias, things of that sort, where faculties are lost.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Michael, to this?

PROF. SANDEL:  This is really to put a question to Ben and Michael and Paul, and to maybe just begin by not asking the big questions about moral responsibility, but to start at a simpler level and to clear away the uncertainties about the science just to clarify the question.

Suppose the brain imaging became sophisticated enough so that for every psychological syndrome that might take someone to Paul's office, you could put that person in an imaging machine and maybe show them the video or whatever it would be, and you could find a certain place where their brain, the pixels lit up, and that you could identify that with some regularity so that you could get a reliable correlation between some event in the brain and the tendency to or the inability to control anger, or whatever the syndrome would be.

Suppose you could do that.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  That's the assumption of the case, in fact, the exact assumption in the case.

PROF. SANDEL:  And here's my simple question, even before we get to moral responsibility and what society should do.  Would that be interesting to you?  And if it would be interesting — put aside even whether we have some intervention that can go in and fix that thing.  Put that even aside.

But would it be interesting?  And I think it would be interesting.  And why?

DR. CARSON:  Well, it actually gets at the root of a continuum here because if you go back many years ago, you know, people may act in an abnormal way.  We didn't have all of the imaging modalities, but sometimes, you know, maybe there's a meningioma going through their skull and we could see that.

And then later on we got to the point where we had plain X-rays and we began to see more and we began to make more assumptions, and then we had CAT scans and we could see even more.

There was a time when people with epilepsy were thought to be crazy or demon possessed or having some kind of behavioral disorder.  Certain types of epilepsy, then we began to do CT scans and we could see the medial portion of the temporal lobe was small, was sclerotic, and we started diagnosing mesial temporal sclerosis, and then we found out if we went in and we resected that the seizures would go away.

PROF. SANDEL:  By the way, could I ask you did that lay to rest the explanation that they were possessed by a demon or not necessarily?

DR. CARSON:  Yes, it did.

PROF. SANDEL:  Why did it?  Why did it?

DR. CARSON:  Well, unless demons caused mesial temporal sclerosis.


DR. CARSON:  Well, maybe they do.  I don't know.  So it hasn't definitely laid it to rest, but at least we have an explanation now.

PROF. SANDEL:  Well, maybe we have two explanations.  Why do we assume that one displaces the other?  That's my puzzle.

DR. CARSON:  But let me continue.  But let me continue with the continuum. 


DR. CARSON:  Because then we developed MRIs, and we could see even more and we began to make even more associations.  We began to look at people's hypothalamus and saying, you know, homosexuals have different shape and size hypothalami, and things like that.

And then functional MRI.  We began to look at things even at a cellular level and pretty soon at a molecular level and pretty soon at a subatomic level.

There's no question that we will begin to find more and more things that are wrong as we become more and more sophisticated, and I guess the real question becomes what do we do with that information because as we find these things, as we did with temporal lobe, medial temporal sclerosis, we were able to accurately correlate them, and we were able to do accurate intervention, and we are able at an 80 percent level to cure that disease process.

So I actually believe as we apply science to these observations and are objective, we will, in fact, be able to change things.  Now, you —

PROF. SANDEL:  Could I press my earlier question?

DR. CARSON:  Okay.

PROF. SANDEL:  Let's say we've got this whole explanation.  The person is possessed by a demon.  Then we discover another explanation.  There is this thing that you've described in the brain.  Why do we tend to think and is it right to think that the new explanation is inconsistent with —

DR. CARSON:  supersedes.

PROF. SANDEL:   — or supersedes the other one?  Why is that?

DR. CARSON:  I'll defer.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  It is absolutely prejudiced against demons, you know.  It's pejorative in every sense.  But you know, the real problem with the example is that neuroscientists would flip through hoops if they actually could find a pixel illuminated in the brain that caused a set of behaviors in an absolute ironclad way.  We're just not there.

And the real fact of the matter is that you take any clinical group, whether they be schizophrenics, whether they  be people with horrible frontal lesions and what have you, and where because of their disease state, they are told that they are exculpable for a particular behavior because they had a violent act or something like that.

The problem is that their rate of violence with this disease is no greater than the rate of violence in the normal population for almost all of these examples you read about time and time and time again.

Now, you can take the case of schizophrenia.  The rate of violence isn't higher than in the normal population, but the jails are full of more schizophrenics.  How could that be?  There must be something.

Well, they're full of more schizophrenics because of drug abuse, not because of their violent behavior.  And the orbital frontal lesions are the same.  You're supposed to get release from inhibition and you tend to engage in more violent behavior, but the wards are full of people with orbital frontal lesions that don't do that, and so there's this problem that always captures you that these oversimplified models of cause and effect of the lesion, therefore the behavior are of interest, and they're certainly tantalizing, but they're not — it's just not a set piece, and so to get to this idealized case, there's always other reality in the way that whole thing —

CHAIRMAN KASS:  But I'm sort of puzzled.  Paul begins by saying, "Look.  This is just a list of symptoms." It's kind of an empirical thing to sort of know what the words mean, and you could say, by the way, dyslexia is just simply a name.  It's not a disease.  It simply means trouble reading.

If it turns out that you find, for example, not knowing causation yet, but certain kinds of unique patterns on imaging that correlate with difficulty in reading, let's say, in 80 percent of the dyslexic cases, I would think that you know you now begin to think you have some kind of organic foundation for these kinds of cognitive disturbances.

Similarly, if you've got a group of people that you've been classifying for years on this symptomatological basis and the neuroscientists now say, look, in 97 percent of these cases — I'm not talking about causation — but there is an imaging picture which seems to correlate with this and not with other things, and never mind that there might be other kinds of violent people who act out for different reasons.

I would like to think that one would say, "Look.  This helps us.  This helps us identify.  This helps us diagnose.  This helps us point us in the direction of what the underlying foundation of this, even if we don't yet know cause."

And we're not talking about exculpation.  We're simply talking about getting a new appreciation that this is something which is brain related.

PROF. SANDEL:  Why do you say, by the way, underlying foundation?  Why don't you just say a description from another point of view that turns out to be accurate?  Why are you privileging it by that language of underlying foundation?


PROF. SANDEL:  You're sounding here like Steve Pinker.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Well, this is the question.  Don't you think that the discovery of the presence of scar tissue in the brain at places or tumors in the brain in the places you'd expect when you see epileptic seizures is a better explanation than demonic possession?  Really.

PROF. SANDEL:  Well, I think that's a practical question.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  No, no, no.  I think it's .-

PROF. SANDEL:  No, I don't think it's — it's better if it turns out it provides ways of treating the problem that wouldn't have occurred to us otherwise, but to take the example of the dyslexia and the inability to read and you find some correlations in the brain, that suggests two possibilities for treatment.  One is it might be if you could intervene in the brain you could change the ability to read, or if you teach the person to read, you might find when you do the next scan that those physical characteristics will have changed.

So it's a practical question whether we, given the two descriptions can find practical interventions from one direction or from another direction. 

So which explanation is better?  I wouldn't say one is more foundational a priori.  I would say the better explanation is the one that helps us devise a way of intervening that's effective, but I wouldn't say necessarily that because we find a physical correlate that the best intervention always will be the physical one.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  We're not talking about the intervention yet.

PROF. SANDEL:  But that's the only test of better explanation here.

PROF. MEILAENDER:  Could I just ask a question here?  I'm not unsympathetic to the position you're pressing, Michael, but it seems a little bit less persuasive to me when I think of the case of dementia.

Would you try to run that argument through in that case?  Do you think it will work as well?

The dyslexia one isn't bad.  How about dementia?

PROF. SANDEL:  I know nothing whatsoever about it.  I meant that would qualify me to answer, but I would say what I would look for to try to fit an account that would match the one here we would have to know more about the reflexive character of the understanding.  So the interesting thing to explore, if you want to work from both ends, obviously we would look to try to intervene at the purely physical level, but we would also, I think, want to experiment and see whether making the person aware of the new description would in some ways open up possibilities of using that reflexive understanding to find ways of intervening.

So I would try from both directions.  And I don't know enough about it to know what would succeed or if either would succeed.

DR. McHUGH:  I'd like to jump in there because this is the key to that argument we had before with Michael or with Bob Michaels when I said this approach to the brain-mind issue was a fairy tale.

I said, and I'm with Michael Sandel on this, that we don't know how the brain produces the mind and, therefore, we don't know how the mind affects the brain.  We do know that you can't have a mind without a brain, but we also know that things which happen in the mind will affect the brain, just like things which will happen in the brain will affect the mind.

Now, the brain is an organ like any other.  You can expect it to suffer disease and damage and have that reflected in the mind, but the mind is also an active agent that can affect the brain in every kind of way that we know, and our problem always is this one.  We don't want to buy into the fairy tale that as we know the brain, we are ultimately going to see absolutely new things in the mind.

I think it works both ways, bottom up, top down.  You've got to find out which way is the most effective way to illuminate the problem, predict the future, and intervene properly.  Sometimes it works one way and the other.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  We agreed we were not going to settle the large philosophical question that .-

PROF. SANDEL:  I think we just have.


CHAIRMAN KASS:  But as a psychiatrist, are you indifferent to discovering brain correlations that would give you an increased sense of confidence that you're dealing with — that you have somehow correctly identified a certain kind of problem?

In other words, are you indifferent to learning about the brains of your disturbed patients?

DR. McHUGH:  Absolutely not.  No, I'm very interested in learning.  I want to learn all I can about it, just like I want to know the Demotic Greek to understand the hieroglyphics and the hieroglyphics vise versa.  Without that, Champollion wouldn't have understood this.  I'm very interested in the fact that the reading brain is correlated with the reading mind and vice versa.

But I don't want to privilege one over the other.  I don't want to go so far as to think that I'm going to introduce demons back in because we've gotten into a lot of trouble.  The reason that we don't do the demons is, you know, we got into witch burning that way and all kinds of stuff.

But, on the other hand, I don't want to give up the fact that the human mind, in particular, is a marvelously active agent that relates to the brain in ways that are totally mysterious to us.  We don't have a clue how it does it.  Okay?

And just getting one language doesn't immediately let you know how it links.

PROF. SANDEL:  I agree entirely with what Paul has said, but take the case we have here in the scenario.  If the guy went into the MRI, saw the video, had the scan, he presumably would be interested.  You or I, suppose we were in that situation, wouldn't we be interested to know, well, how did it come out?  We'd like to have had that scan.  We'd like to see the scan.

It wouldn't be just the doctor reading the scan, figuring out, well, can I intervene and tweak it, and then if the doctor explained to us, well, actually this is the event in your brain that fired, that lit up when you saw that video.  Here's a possible explanation of the link between the two, and you would get into a discussion, an interpretation with the patient about that.  Then that would be interesting and potentially a source of intervention.

So there might be a continuity between the brain imaging and Paul's line of work.  You would actually use that data as an ingredient and an interpretation that the patient would share and maybe you could work something.  Maybe it would lead to some deeper understanding that could liberate him from the grip of this anger mechanism.

PROF. MEILAENDER:  Just a quick comment.  As I said, I agree in large measure with the direction.  The two-way movement Paul is describing makes sense to me.

I have to say though, and again only within the limits of my own knowledge which are considerable, that in the case of dementia language like organic foundation makes more sense to me, and it's harder for me to imagine what the form of intervention at the behavioral level would be that might actually — you know, so that I think the dementia case is a harder one for the line that Paul has been pushing.  The dyslexia or the behavioral disorder, I find it actually pretty persuasive, but I'm less sure that organic foundation doesn't look to me as if it works in a dementia case.


DR. GÓMEZ-LOBO:  First, with regard to the demons, I had a sense of de javu because the matter was vigorously discussed in Greece in the Fifth Century, B.C.  In fact, there is a treatise by Hippocrates on the same disease.

And I won't repeat the arguments, but basically what happens is that in the naturalistic interpretation, you have a number of criteria of consistency, prediction, et cetera, that you don't have with the demons.  The demons are very hard to fasten upon, and actually it's, I would say, that little treatise together with the treatise on ancient medicine that is the foundation for medicine even today.  Physicians look for natural causes.  They don't look for demons in Western medicine.

But I don't want to discuss that.  I would like to add to some really questions or maybe a slight countersuggestion, and it's this.  When Bob Michaels was here, he said we can read brains, but we cannot read minds.  I don't know if you remember that remark.

And my first reaction was, gee, this is fascinating, but then when I went home I started thinking, well, is that true.  I'm sorry?

DR. McHUGH:  The answer is no.

DR. GÓMEZ-LOBO:  Okay, but that's exactly the point I want to get to.  If that's wrong, then the Rosetta stone analogy is also wrong, and the reason is this, is that from what I've seen here, what a neurologist does is to observe and observe phenomena, and everything that Mike tells us is that, of course, we observe lighting up and functioning of neurons, et cetera, et cetera.

Now, the process of reading is a symbolic process.  To read you have to take, for instance a physical reality, a sign, and interpret it as pointing to something else, and any reading is symbolic.  For instance, I cannot read Chinese because I don't understand the Chinese symbols.  I could write, you know, Spanish with a Greek alphabet, for instance.  It's perfectly possible because then I can understand the symbols.

So the assumption of the Rosetta stone, of course was that you had the same text in three different sets of symbols, and that's why it allowed Champollion to decipher.

The problem we're facing here is that when we talk about correlation, we're talking about correlating things or phenomena that have drastically different properties.  Lighting up is one thing.  Choosing to take revenge on someone is a symbolic action.  You cannot understand it by sheer observation. 

Even if you had, which Mike Gazzaniga tells us we don't, but even if we had a perfect correlation, we would still be lacking a key understanding of what's going on at the level of the mind.

Now, of course, I wouldn't doubt for a second that the brain is a I don't know whether you'd call it condition or I don't want to commit myself on that, but it's certainly the case that it's an organ that is intimately connected to all of these functions.

My only word of caution here is that any effort to correlate the two has to take into consideration the fact that these two things have drastically different properties, one, and second, that, therefore, our observations of those properties have to go on radically different tracks.  We're just not going to understand choice, for instance, by seeing whether certain regions of the brain light up or not.  I'm very, very doubtful that that is going to happen.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Could I move us and maybe try to refocus the question again, since Michael has given us the suggestion that the patient actually might want to know something about this?

And let's keep this case and its assumptions in mind and also keep the related case of epilepsy in mind, just these two things.  Let's assume that for better or for worse as part of the standard work-up for suspected antisocial personality disorder brain scanning, fMRIs, becomes routine and you do this study and you're now the physician or you're the patient.

What should Jones be told and why?  And if you're Jones, what do you want to know and why?

And keep in mind as a parallel I'm assuming that he had had a seizure, and we'd had loss of comparable kinds of things.

Is this different or is this the same?


DR. LAWLER:  It's amazing you guys separate brain and mind so clearly and metaphysically.  I thought I was the old fashioned guy on this.

Anyway, but abstracting from that, okay, let's say, and it's probably so, I suffer from antisocial personality disorder, which as Paul pointed out is a weasely and vague title for something.  All right.  So I go in and I have an fMRI and the doctor says, "Well, there's a correlation between your brain and your inability to control your anger very readily."

I as an ordinary guy would say, "Yeah, sure.  You mean you're saying I'm hard-wired to have a quick trigger finger?"

In a certain way the doctor is not telling you anything you did not already know.  So when he tells you this, you almost yawn, although you're glad to know this and go home and tell your wife that, you know, "It's just the way I am.  You know, tough break," but you already were telling her that.  Now you have a picture that gives you evidence of that, number one.

Okay.  Number two, and the interesting question that Michael was raising:  well, what do you do with this information in terms of leading a better life or whatever?

The old fashioned view, which still is practiced by all psychologists, is various ways you could be taught self-control, that you're still responsible for this.  We all have strong points and weak points in our brains, and you're responsible for controlling those bad things you have a propensity toward, and we all have some propensity toward some bad things.

So the old fashioned teaching is pretend like there's a policeman next to you.  Go to church.  Like Aristotle, develop good habits or something.

But what if?  And this to me is the only interesting question at this point.  It could just be a purely physical fix.  We could then change your brain so that you no longer have this propensity to have a quick trigger finger or lose your temper too readily.

And it seems to me it would be utterly disastrous if we could do that, and I admit we can't do that, but if we could do that, it would be utterly disastrous to start to do that, although we should cure epilepsy if we could.

Dyslexia is kind of on the border because there are ways you could cure it short of — you know, people can learn to read without having their brains changed, and as Michael pointed out, sometimes the brains change when they learn how to read, right?  So the cause and effect is not so clear here.

But in this particular case, it would seem to me that except in maybe a very, very extreme case, such as a guy that's going to go to jail and is going to go out and kill someone, we shouldn't mess with this, right, because there are certain advantages to having this kind of personality.  We might want this guy on the front line during battle.  We might actually want this guy to be maybe not a policeman, but maybe a high school teacher.


DR. LAWLER:  There are jobs for which this sort of personality, this sort of temperament is an advantage, right?  And so I react badly to the idea that we —

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Uncontrollable anger is an advantage?

DR. LAWLER:  No, I don't think it is uncontrollable.  If you read the case, this fellow, you know, took up with Paul, got a good psychologist probably.  It could be controlled, right?

And then it was absolutely uncontrollable.  It is an extreme case, but if you read the antisocial personality disorder characteristics, they are vague.  I think I have two-thirds of them.  So it depends on the intensity with which you have these things, right?  So sometimes it may be direct physical intervention might be the cause, but that would be the cause of last resort.

I'm in favor of telling the truth except in the case we talked about yesterday.  So you should tell the guy there is this physical connection, and when you tell him that, you're not telling him anything he didn't already know truly.

But then you say we're going to do everything we can to use ordinary, old fashioned, psychological means to bring this under control, and only as a last resort would we intervene physically.

And there will be a temptation in the future, in the Utopian future described here, where these direct physical interventions become easy to homogenize temperaments, and that I think is the real danger here, right?

So my position would be — and also because of the point Michael made — what we don't, right, is whether if this guy responded well to Paul's old fashioned psychological therapy that his brain would not, in fact, change, that the impulse would diminish, right?

So I think this is not like epilepsy.  Dementia, the difference obviously with respect to dementia is temporal.  There is no psychological therapy for dementia.  You can't make that guy better through other techniques.

And I'm done because there are so many hands up.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  Just as a question in the intervention notion, do people have a problem with the fact that the intervention might be surgical versus pharmacological?

So we take this problem and flip a blue pill and everybody is fine.   Is that socially acceptable, whereas the neurosurgeon says, "I'll go in here and tickle his amygdala and the person will be fine, too."

I'm just curious to know what the fear or what the concern of an intervention is.  Is it that somehow when you touch the physical brain through surgery it's quite a different thing kind of than when .-

DR. GÓMEZ-LOBO:  Can I respond to that?

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Could I make a procedural comment?  The subject of the actual intervention for behavioral disorders is the topic of the second session and Dr. Cosgrove is going to present that issue.  We're at this point simply talking about the uses of the information both to predict and to intervene.

People wanted, I think, to respond either to Peter or Frank and then Mary Anne.

PROF. FUKUYAMA:  Well, and it seems to me one way of thinking about this that might be useful to distinguish this case from the epilepsy is just the economist concept of moral hazard because, you know, moral hazard comes up with insurance.  If you insure against a certain kind of behavior, you get more of it because the consequences are mitigated, and it's a very common way of understanding, you know, a lot of behavioral problems.

And it seems to me, you know, what really makes epilepsy and dementia quite different from this case is that there's no moral hazard in either of those.  I mean, if you knew that you had this biological diagnosis, I mean, there's nothing in your behavior that would change that would make it more likely that the behavior will come about.

Now, it seems to me that what happens in the other cases where there is moral hazard is that, of course, you know, scientifically you'd say there's some biological degree of causation and then there's some, you know, degree of individual responsibility.  But the tendency in our society is to take the information that there is some degree of biological causation and then to run with that as far as possible.

And that's what leads to this general phenomenon we discussed in this Council many times earlier of, you know, this perpetually expanding domain of the therapeutic.  And we saw this before in ADHD where, you know, that's again a situation where there are some patients where the behavior is very heavily biologically caused and, you know, only a small degree of individual responsibility, but there's a large number of other cases where the two sorts of causation are much more equal and where people could modify their behavior if they wanted to or with help or whatever, but once they're told that there is a biological foundation for it, they say, "Great.  You know, just give me the pill and let me stop worrying about my own degree of responsibility," and then it gets into all of the economic incentives with insurance and everything else.

And so it seems to me that's really the problem with this category of things for which there is moral hazard, is that people like that actually, and they want to be absolved of, you know, the individual part of the responsibility, and so they never get accurate the relative weights of the individual and the biological causation.


PROF. GLENDON:  Well, this is a question about whether  — I'm really not sure, but I think we may have already taken some steps along the lines of informing patients and offering to them surgical and chemical treatments for — I don't know the name of the disorder, but what I'm thinking of is the violent, predatory sexual offender.

Does it help to think about that case, where we're pretty sure in some of these cases that there is a biological basis.  I don't know whether it's in the brain or somewhere else, and here's where I'm a little unsure, but haven't I read that some of these people are offered surgical and chemical treatments and do, in fact, accept them as a condition of parole?

DR. CARSON:  That has been done, and I think that's going to be covered in the second section.  Actually that's part of the paper for the second section.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Rebecca and then Bill.

PROF. DRESSER:  This point has some overlap with what  Frank said, but the very act of labeling the condition as, all right, this seems to be related to the brain lesion or whatever, I think we always worry about consequences when labels are applied, and now I think in this case one of the main, major areas of concern is social consequences of getting a label.

But the other is personal consequences, and there's a famous social psychology study, the Pygmalion effect where children in first grade were divided into three reading groups, the Bluebirds, Redbirds and some other birds, and they were told, "Okay.  You're in this group because your reading ability is lower than average, average, or higher than average," and they were randomly selected, and at the end of the year, they were tested, and they fell right into their groups.

So the lesson was that even though it was unconscious, the teachers, the students, everybody was playing into this classification.

So in this case I think telling the patient that, well, we think your behavior is related to this lesion would affect that person's, as Frank said, understanding of the problem, his roll in the problem, and probably affect how others treat that person, and it could actually increase the chance that there would be more behavior just because of getting the label.

Now, you have the same problem if the label comes from a psychological testing classification, but because of this tendency we have to put a lot of weight on physical explanations, I think it would be a special danger here.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Bill Hurlbut.

DR. HURLBUT:  That comment seems to me to sum up one of the major issues here.  I don't actually agree with you, Peter.  I think that when you go and somebody tells you something about why something is happening, people right now at least in the current phase of our culture are inclined to take a scientific view, which has a certain element of determinism in it and explain it away.

And I think here's really the crux of the question from which a lot of practical issues flow, and that is what is moral behavior.  If it were epileptic seizures in today's world, we wouldn't be so concerned about it.  We'd say, oh, a physical explanation.  That's fine.

But when it comes to moral behavior, we feel with our folk psychology at least, and probably correctly, that there is something called freedom, and freedom is intrinsically not determined.  That's what makes it free, and that's what may be the difference between our concepts of brain and mind.

At the most fundamental level, we feel like the mind has an element of something that you can't describe with a scientific finding.  The interesting here, for example, with dyslexia, I have a paper in front of me done by one of my colleagues, John Gabrielli at Stanford, where they did a series of studies on children with dyslexia before and after some remediation.  This is mentioned in the paper, and it showed a change in neural imaging after the remediation.

And so then you ask yourself, well, what's going on there.  Was the dyslexia just simply a physical cause and what else would it correlate with besides dyslexia?

It turns out that there's a very high rate of dyslexia among people on death row.  So does dyslexia then also cause criminal behavior?

Well, the interesting thing is maybe it correlates, but the question is what's between that and the criminal behavior, the dyslexia and the criminal behavior.  Of course, there's a whole process of personal existence, the sense of low self-esteem that comes with failure in school.

And so it's sort of what you make of the finding.  I think we should face into this.  It seems to me that in the future we're going to see more and more quasi correlative forms of quasi explanation.  I don't think we should avoid this issue.  The mystery of human existence is that there is something called freedom, and that's what makes us moral creatures, but it's almost certain that that freedom emerges from the fragile frame of our physical existence.

And it's much easier to correlate a pathology with a cause than it is freedom.  Freedom emerges from the whole being.  It's the right functioning of the whole being, and therefore, it correlates with something that's a condition but not a cause in a sense. 

Finally, our highest order behaviors emerge not just from our physical existence, but our process of identity formation, our memories, our habits, and then, of course, our aspirations, our beliefs and images.

And that's where I think many practical things flow from that, but it seems to me that what we're really contending with here is that mystery, that what we think of as our highest order human capacities, our moral capacities are, in fact, an emergent property of our whole frame of being, not somehow of one identifiable locus of cause just like there's really no brain that's a reification, a convenience of thinking.  There is no source of moral behavior except the whole being.

So is that right, Paul?


DR. McHUGH:  Wow.

DR. LAWLER:  Yes or no?  Yes or no?

DR. McHUGH:  First of all, I believe, I absolutely believe that we're going to and have to appreciate that freedom is what we're all working to have for patients, and we're doing that with physical as well as mental conditions, and freedom gets restricted in a number of different ways, and ultimately freedom is not a faculty, but it is a psychological experience itself of understanding the distinctions and choices and taking responsibility for the outcome.  Okay?

Now, we're capable of doing that because we have the kind of brain we have, but it permits us to have the kind of mind we have, which relates to that brain in a very special way, and it's unique to humankind as far as we can tell.

And that was all swept under the rug by Steve Pinker and all of that, and we should obviously salute that view.

I just don't think we can start, Bill, from that position to understand the questions that have been raised around this table about moral hazard, about the dementia       question.  I remember so well what Rebecca is talking about because my children were in school at that time, and they were getting various kinds of slips.  So I know all of that.

I don't think though we can answer the questions that are raised here from that level.  We've got to work at another level to understand what the primitive field of psychiatry is about and how it will relate to these problems.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Could I?  I think we really have to come down to the more concrete question rather than deal with this thing at the most global level.  You've got a dangerous guy here.  This is a fellow with an explosive temper and lack of self-control.  His family is bothered by it.  Even if he doesn't feel remorse, he's at least willing to go and try to seek some kind of help.

As part of the work-up, they find out that there might, in fact, be something which it's not epilepsy, but there might be some kind of organic contribution to his inability to exercise self-control.

And never mind what I think as a philosopher.  Here's a patient, and there is this kind of correlation, and I would be surprised if this correlation is meaningless.  Quite frankly, I would be surprised if the people who have explosive temperaments and who have no capacities for self-control have perfectly normal brains.  It would surprise me greatly.

That there would be a lot of abnormality that winds up eventually in prison I don't think should surprise us, whatever our philosophical view is, dualists or what.

And here is a question.  I mean, here we have this kind of information.  What use should we make of this information?  That's a kind of retail question.  It's not the question for the Council of Metaphysics.

What do we tell him?  What should he do on the basis of this kind of knowledge or is it knowledge?

DR. GAZZANIGA:  What's the problem?  If Mr. Jones has X wrong with his brain and we have a pill that fixes it, fix it.  Next question?

CHAIRMAN KASS:  There you are.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  I mean who's lessened by that?

DR. CARSON:  Well, it's not that.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  There are all kinds of people who I think are trying to undermine the force and potential usefulness of the findings.  He (Frank Fukuyama) talks about the moral hazard of making such a diagnosis.  She (Rebecca Dresser) talks about the trouble of labeling.  He's (Paul McHugh) worried about contributing to some kind of purely reductionist view of the human spirit.  Bill (Hurlbut) is worried about freedom.

I was waiting for Mike to say, "Look.  Here is biological information relevant to the person's well-being, never mind society's well-being.  Here is information that he should be told about, and insofar as there is effective treatment available, he should be encouraged to get it fixed.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  Sure, why not?  I mean, but let's go back to —

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Like epilepsy or other sorts of things.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  Well, there are drugs that are active and help schizophrenics, and they fix the dopaminergic system.  You tune it up and pretty soon people are in fairly good shape.

That solution doesn't ever touch the question of why did that guy think he was the king of Siam before the medication.  No one has any idea how that works.  The same with this.

So you can just fix it.  Fix it and worry about all this other stuff in some other context.

DR. CARSON:  Well, one thing we have to recognize even about the epilepsy case.  When people have lesions, we see them.  We don't jump to surgery automatically.  If they can be easily controlled some other way, then they generally are controlled some other way.  Surgery is usually not number one on the list. In some cases it is, but not in all cases.

The other thing to keep in mind is let's say this guy — and we have found some abnormality in his amygdala.  It doesn't necessarily mean that because there's an abnormality there we want to go do something physical to it, but the reason that people have envisioned a physical response is because there have been numerous cases of people who have had rage type behavior and have had a tumor in that area.  We have gone and taken the tumor out, and the behavior has resolved.

It was the same kind of thing that led to the interventions for sexual predators.  Because people had tumors there, they went in, took it out, the behavior resolved.

So you know, this is not something that came about just because somebody saw an abnormality.  There really have been correlations for these things.

DR. McHUGH:  Can I just come into this very important discussion that Ben and Mike have brought out?

The problem for me is not whether you, if you have an effective pill, whether you shouldn't use it.  It is, one, what you're using it for and what are the consequences as well of having used it.

If you're simply using it in antisocial personality to reduce the  responsiveness of the patient, it is the same thing as saying to the antisocial personality, "Never take alcohol because that raises your threshold for anger." So I have no objection to that.

What I have an objection to is when you demonstrate that this does lower his short trigger, that you then say, "Well, you see, because we're able to do it with this, therefore, he doesn't have any responsibility the other times when we didn't have the pills and he shot his wife."  Okay?

The fact that you can alter the temperament up and down doesn't change a bit the moral question, which was part of the things that made this really an interesting question at this point.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Everybody.  Let's start Michael, Bill, Peter.

PROF. SANDEL:  Well, I have no objection if it really will make him better, all things considered, though what counts as better is something we would have to investigate from social, moral, as well as physiological point of view.

So I don't have any problem with Mike's answer if it really will make this person, all things considered, better, but we have convened in this session as the President's Council on Biometaphysics anyhow.  I don't think we can avoid that.


PROF. SANDEL:  So I just want to respond to the worry.  There is a common worry, and it has been voiced around the table that freedom is at stake here.  Freedom is threatened by scientific explanation or a fuller picture of the correlations in the brain.

I think that's a mistaken idea of freedom because it conceives freedom as consisting in and depending on gaps in scientific explanation, and then the reason it depends on the idea of gaps is because it assumes that freedom is the capacity of the will to initiate uncaused action, action that's uncaused in the sense that it doesn't have some physiological correlate.

And I think that conception of freedom is a mistake, but we probably don't have time to explore that here, except by way of going back to some concrete cases.

It was said, perhaps, Leon, well, it wouldn't be surprising if criminals had some abnormalities in their brains, but then wouldn't we also say that the same would be true for saints?  If we were to give scans to Mother Theresa and we found that there were features of her brain that we could identify that were different from less saintly people, that shouldn't surprise us any more than it should surprise us that criminals have certain features that are not true of the general population.

Now, that isn't a threatening finding I would say.  It's not threatening to the idea that certain people are saintly and others are criminal or sinful.  I don't think that those two descriptions or that scientific discovery in any way undermines the saintly or the criminal as a mode of moral discourse and judgment and understanding.

There was an experiment someone did once.  I don't remember who did it, who wanted to find out how much the soul weighed.  Do you remember reading about this?  And so he did experiments by sitting near terminally ill patients and putting them on a scale before and after, and at the moment of death figuring our how much the weight went down when the soul departed.

And it turned out that, you know, the soul weighs, you know, 2.5 ounces or something like that.  Now, that experiment, I don't think that experiment proves or disproves the existence of the soul.  It's surprising it weighs so little actually.


CHAIRMAN KASS:  I'm sorry.  I remember this experiment. 

Do you want to quick to that because Bill was next?

PROF. MEILAENDER:  Yeah, interestingly the second question on page 5 used the language "abnormal."  What more would we need to know before an abnormal neural image?

Is the thrust of your point, Michael, that we shouldn't actually we talking about an abnormal neural image but just a different neural image?

And if that's true, would — and this is really not just for you, but I'm just thinking with you — if that's true, would we want to say the same thing in the case of the demented patient, that there wasn't anything about it that we'd call an abnormal image, but just a different one?

I mean, I'm trying to figure out whether these cases really are different sources of cases or not.

PROF. SANDEL:  Well, I'm trying to understand what's your —

PROF. MEILAENDER:  Well, we've got saints and we've got incarcerated people, and we've got the rest of us who float around somewhere in between.

PROF. SANDEL:  And if it turned out that we could find some pattern between the brain scans are the same of the criminals and the people in between.

PROF. MEILAENDER:  I wouldn't call any of them abnormal.  I would just say here are these different ones, and they're correlated with people we call by different names.

PROF. SANDEL:  Well, it might or might not be useful information.  If that's the question, we might consider the brain scan of Mother Theresa to be extraordinary and the one of the criminal to be —

PROF. MEILAENDER:  Well, that would just mean it's just statistically abnormal, which isn't a whole lot different from different.

PROF. SANDEL:  Well, these descriptions, I think, only matter from the standpoint of possible interventions, but whether the intervention is (a) desirable and (b) effective is a further question.

PROF. MEILAENDER:  But if we said that the image of the brain of the demented person is abnormal, we would mean characteristic of a person who cannot really function fully as an adult human being does when reasonably flourishing.

DR. McHUGH:  Can I translate that into physical medicine for you to make it clear what I think is going on?

PROF. SANDEL:  Yes, yes.  We try to treat it.

DR. McHUGH:  I think that this issue that you're raising Gil and that you're pressing Michael on is, in fact, something that doctors are very accustomed to.  You take a baseball player who is at the top of his game, and he's 33 years old or 34 years old and his batting average is beginning to fall off, and he tries and practices and works away to see if he can get his skills back to where it was before with new weights and new exercises.  And it fails, and he goes to the doctor and the doctor says, "You have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  It is a disease of your nervous system."

And of course, we're talking about Lou Gehrig.  If you look at the general batting averages of baseball players, they fall off in a very particular way.  It's associated with a statistical change in the muscular structure of men as they age, but in Lou Gehrig's case, you can see the batting average falls off the cliff and you have a real pathology in the tissues that have got nothing to do with the statistical change.  You have a new process in action.

These things relate to what you're going to tell Gehrig what he can do and what his future is, and it's going to generate, and it's going to generate all of our scientists to want to find a cause for that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis so that we can prevent it in the future.

That's what happens, and that's the difference between somebody who has a dementia that is falling off and a new process is in action versus somebody who, like me, doesn't have quite the same capacity that he had when he was 30 to remember the names of all my friends and some of my acquaintances.

This is a natural process, and the other thing is a disease.  And dementia is that, and that's how we come at this issue.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  And what are these behavioral disorders of this sort?

DR. McHUGH:  In relation to this?


DR. McHUGH:  These behavioral disorders, if you want to call them — I call them temperament disorders or personality issues — they are the different forms of our constitution in which we have a Bell shaped relationship in the world, and we're at some place along these dimensions, and they express themselves not only in our behavior, but very much more clearly in relationship to our emotional responsiveness to the situation.

We're extroverts versus introverts.  We're more unstable, unstable.  Those things are biologically built in, and they are responsive to biological measures because nothing happens in our mind that doesn't have some correlation with something happening in our brain.  It doesn't happen any other way, and we have to think of them though in quite different terms than we do in relationship to the diseases that reflect the organ that generates it.  Hence, the difference between dementia and mental retardation, ordinary physiological mental retardation, and in relationship to these behavioral disorders and what we would do about them and imply from them.


DR. HURLBUT:  That strikes me as the right way to frame it.  Obviously, whatever else we are, we are chemical, and whatever else we are, we're going to find patterns of brain circuitry for every behavior that we manifest, but that doesn't make the pattern of the saint somehow the same as the pattern of the criminal.  Obviously they would be different patterns, but one could manifest its phenotype or its overt behaviors as a manifestation of a weakness, whereas the other could manifest the fuller integrated functioning.  That would give them quite a different moral meaning and quite a different practical meaning with regard to what we do with our emerging science.

The criminal might be doing what he or she does in a sense by having a missing link in the chain of freedom, whereas the saint may be doing something from an extraordinary level of freedom.  And that seems to me very different reality.

And so what I'd like to ask Mike, based on what you said a few minutes ago, are we going to end up with two categories of crime eventually?  One will be pathological crime and the other will be freely generated crime.  One of them goes to the hospital and the other goes to jail?

DR. GAZZANIGA:  I don't think so, but that's another story, and I'll send you an article I wrote on it though.


DR. GAZZANIGA:  But let me raise maybe an orienting question or orienting point for all of us to think about.  If you are an evolutionary biologist and you're trying to understand something, what's the first thing you do?  You ask, well, what is the thing for that I'm trying to understand.  So if it's a kidney or liver or heart, you go find out what it does, and then you figure out how evolution fits into that picture.

So the question with respect to the nervous system is what is the brain for.  You've got to ask that question.

Does anybody here?  Do you all know the answer?

I know the answer.  It's there to make decisions.  It's a decision making device.  And if we're going to understand how the brain plays a role in all of these things we're talking about, we're going to have to understand how the brain makes decisions.

It's making a zillion decisions as we sit here on 100 different levels, from eye movements to breathing, to talking, to trying to formulate a sentence, all of these things.  It's a decision making device.

What does neuroscience know about how the brain makes decisions?  Basically nothing.  We're all kind of working on it.  People are doing elegant experiments, but how it all comes together into making the final decision, a final decision that is being made, is just the great unknown in neuroscience.

In these kinds of things we're just discussing, we're dealing where we have maybe genetic dispositions to particular temperament.  There are biasing decisions.  We're affected by our somatic system in these decisions.  We're affected by our past experience in these decisions.  We're affected by a zillion things, but once you just sort of get out of the mystique and just ask yourself the question, what is the brain for, it is the decision making device, and that's how we're trying to understand its role in all of these issues that we're dealing with.  That's what it is.

PROF. SANDEL:  But then the question is one of the best neuroscientists might turn out to be Dostoyevsky.

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  I think I have stumbled in on a seminar on metaphysics here.  But, Mike, there's a difference between the organ of the brain and the organ of the heart.  You don't go to jail if you have an arrhythmia, but you do go to jail if you make the wrong decision.  So that's why you have to introduce the metaphysics, and you can't be ultimately a reductionist.

I think the real question is, you know, is antisocial behavior just as Gil was implying in this question, you know, one end of a normal distribution of adaptation to societal requirements or is it a medical abnormality.

The question, I think, here is medicalizing sin, if you like, or criminality or bad behavior or bad decisions.  I think it's a critical question, and if you give the guy a pill and you say you've solved the issue, you haven't.  You have to decide whether or not he's responsible for what he did, and that requires answering the question.  Is this a disease, in which case we would assume he isn't?  If a person is schizophrenic and he kills someone assuming he is the king of Siam and the other person is a pumpkin, well, you'd say, "Well, he doesn't go to jail."

But if it's not a medical abnormality he does go to jail.  So I think it may sound abstract, and it isn't metaphysical, but in the end it's extremely practical as a question.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  I think you have to recognize that this decision making view of the person finds that person able to learn rules and to follow them.  Schizophrenics stop at red lights, right?  They know how to take a rule and follow it, and to call upon most sorts of disease cases as being exculpatory just doesn't work.

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  What about Hinkley?

DR. GAZZANIGA:  I know it has been done.  I don't particularly agree with —

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  Well, and you're saying it shouldn't have happened.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  Yeah, I don't think it should happen.

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  We shouldn't have an insanity defense.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  I don't agree with it.

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  It's a fairly practical position.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  It's a very practical position, but it's also such a teeny part of all court proceedings.  Less than a quarter of one percent is it ever used by —

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  Oh, you don't think it's an important question?

DR. GAZZANIGA:  Yeah, yeah.

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  A man assassinates the President of the United States assuming that he's —

DR. GAZZANIGA:  I'm just not particularly in favor of the insanity defense.

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  I assumed that.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Frank, take the last.  We're going to take a break.  Frank, take the last comment.

PROF. FUKUYAMA:  I can kind of formulate my answer to this question that Mike posed a long time about what's wrong with just fixing this, and I think it was involved in this interchange between Michael and Gil.

But I think another thing wrong, apart from this responsibility issue, is in the question of how we define abnormal.  Now, the case takes, you know, this propensity for uncontrolled violence, which almost anybody would agree is not socially desirable, and I would say, Peter, it's not good in high school teachers.  It's not good in soldiers.  I mean, it's very hard to imagine a case where it is good.

But there is a kind of precedent and slippery slope issue involved here because I think what people would worry about is the sort of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest kind of behavior, you know.  DSM is a book that's got oppositional disorder, you know, in it as an officially recognized disorder, and if you remember the Ken Kesey novel, you know, McMurphy goes into this asylum and it turns out that all of the inmates are in there voluntarily because they're just afraid of being out in the world, and so he tries to take them out in the world and, you know, this is regarded by Big Nurse as, you know, clearly antisocial behavior, and then he is given the lobotomy and, you know, everybody then ends up conforming.

But it does seem to me that there's a large other category of behaviors that are not, you know, sexual predation and not uncontrolled propensities for violence where, you know, the good aspects of behavior are all tied up with things that are, you know, much more questionable.

And I guess, you know, you're kind of opening up the possibility of biologizing that, too, and you know, raising these questions.  Then do we know what, you know, so clearly is abnormal?

And I think the precedent from the discipline of psychiatry is, you know, a little bit troubling because there are a lot of things that are considered abnormal which, you know, may  not be.

I mean, homosexuality is a good case of that.  It's all very politicized and so forth.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  Yes.  Look.  We did only partial justice to what's here.  I think to —

PROF. SANDEL:  I'm not sure if it was partial or excessive justice.


CHAIRMAN KASS:  In a way our conversation will continue in the next session when we're dealing with specific interventions for behavioral and psychiatric diagnoses, but just as an observation, it seems to me — and I'm guilty of this myself — to talk about biologizing something, to give it that label and, therefore, to let that label do the sort of work of defeating its desirability, I think, is going to be insufficient here.

You remember the case of the guy who went up in the tower at the University of Texas with a machine gun and shot up the place, and one's attitude about what that was changed dramatically when, after they shot and killed him, it was disclosed that he had a tumor in the temporal lobe.  One might want him eliminated; one might want him incarcerated, but one would not have put that guy on trial and held him morally responsible for what he did.  That's a clear case.

These kinds of cases become less clear, and even if Paul is right that with the policeman standing next to the guy he wouldn't have beaten his wife, nevertheless, we move from an area where something is absolutely clear to something where there might, in fact, be major biological contributions to the lack of self-command.

And to simply name it as biologic in this thing as if that was somehow going to be sufficient in a climate where this kind of evidence is going to become increasingly important, I think, is to miss the force of what's coming even before science can explain fully how the brain is a decision making instrument.

These cases are beginning to come forward now, and the question of how this bears on moral and legal responsibility can't be answered, I think, because we worry about the slippery slope.  We have to, I think, face it directly.

Let's take a break and we'll convene at 20 after.

DR. GAZZANIGA:  Just one point though.


DR. GAZZANIGA:  There are plenty of patients with those same temporal lobe tumors who don't go up and shoot up a campus.

CHAIRMAN KASS:  That's true.

DR. KRAUTHAMMER:  And there are plenty of schizophrenics who don't do that either.

      (Whereupon, the foregoing matter went off the record at 10:08 a.m. and went back on the record at 10:20 a.m.)



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