April 13 2013
Finding the line of Insanity
The human brain is a complex system, made up of many different mechanisms and controlled by a variety of chemicals. The way decisions are made, varies from one person to the next due to multiple factors, including, the way a person is raised and also the chemicals which are being released within the brain. Due to the large variety of ways a person’s brain can work, it makes it hard to decipher who’s brain is working ‘correctly’ and who’s isn’t. Who can really say if a person is “insane” or not? What does it actually mean to be insane? The line between insanity and sanity is a very thin line and is usually very difficult to identify. Due to society’s confusion in the understanding of insanity, people with mental health issues often don’t get the proper help they require.
Being able to distinguish the difference between what is reality, and what isn’t, is the first step in being able to identify what insanity really means. Most people accept the idea that the sole base of reality is perception. This means that every individual perceives their own idea of reality, making a large variety of what reality could ultimately be. If this is the case, then there is in fact, no such thing as ‘reality’, but rather just a variety accepted norms.
Another aspect to figuring out what it means to be insane is being able to understand how the brain actually works. Do people actually have the power to think and have wants, or is everything based solely off of the chemicals which are in the brain? When a person’s chemical composition in the brain changes, the behavior of this person often also changes, causing a distinct correlation between the two to be seen. The change in the chemicals can be due to a variety of things, ranging from slight stress level increases to medical problems such as a tumor.
David Eagleman, neuroscientist, and author of “The Brain on Trial” discusses the implications of medical problems within the brain. In his paper, Eagleman gives the example of a man who seemed perfectly normal, going on a killing spree before committing suicide. It was later found that this man had a tumor growing in his amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain which is involved with emotional regulation, focusing mainly on fear and aggression. When this part of the brain is altered with, it can cause people to act in ways which are completely uncharacteristic of themselves.
There are several other observances of these types of incidence and many articles which have been written which support Eagleman’s claims. One article in particular is “The Criminal Mind” written by Margaret Sivit, a writer at undergraduate Law Review at the University of Chicago. In her article, Sivit discusses the concept of whether or not people can be punished for crimes, if they may or may not have a mental problem, and thus had no actual choice or true intentions to commit the crime. “The ethics of legal retribution become even more difficult when the cause-and-effect relationship between biology and behavior is less clear.”(Sivit, 31). Thomas Scott, a neuroscientist specializing in sensory processes, also supports the idea of the human brain being controlled not by wants and desires solely, but rather on the chemical balances, stating, “Continued advances in these areas suggest the possibility of a day when neuroscientists can be confident that every human sensation, motive, thought and behavior results from an identifiable sequence of electrochemical events.” (Scott, 3).
Another important point to look at is that behavior can change within a person even over minor changes, such as a lack of sleep or high stress levels. Jimming Kong, professor at University of Manitoba, explains that stress and sleep tie into each other in this case, due to the fact that high stress is directly linked to a lack of sleep. The amount of sleep a person gets can have a large impact on how that person behaves and is able to...
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