Wednesday, March 30, 2011
From Oneborneveryminute.com: Adoption and the Corpus Callosum (no kidding)
There’s a most remarkable interview at http://www.growninmyheart.com/an-alternative-therapy-for-the-child-who-has-been-adopted. If you consider the treatment they describe there to be plausible, I have a nice bridge to offer you at a reasonable price. The person who is interviewed, one Susan McCrossin, specializes in or perhaps has invented a treatment called Brain Integration Technique (BIT). This treatment, she says, deals with stressed brain circuits, which develop when blood leaves the brain to go to the extremities and enable flight or fighting, a situation resulting from a frightening experience like meeting someone who is in a bad mood. As a result of this, the cortex with its reasoning capacities turns off. The same thing will happen when you meet that person again, even if now he or she is in a good mood, and only your emotional functions will be left working. Although this all sounds as if brain functions turn on and off again (someone correct me if I’ve become confused), McCrossin apparently feels that a turn-off can be permanent or at least long-term. She states that for adopted children, the “abandonment factor” (not defined) turns off the corpus callosum and affects the brain’s development, causing (?) the amygdala to become overactivated. By touching your head in three places, waiting for the pulses to synchronize, and… something else involving acupuncture points and energy… McCrossin can fix this and raise your brain’s stress tolerance. On her website www.crossinology.com she provides some unpublished research reports in which she tested people, touched their heads etc., and tested them again, and not only did they do better on tests, they also all said they could learn better afterwards. (I don’t know whether they learned not to get involved in this kind of thing any more. That would be a step in the right direction.) Asked whether insurance would pay for her services, McCrossin opined that because this was an alternative technique, insurance companies might not have heard of it yet. Let’s examine “Crossinology” under a strong light. The first issue, I think, is to decide whether these statements about brain functions are meant literally or metaphorically. One of the difficulties is the fact that the cortex has a lot of functions-- thinking and reasoning are only some of them. Vision, hearing, the skin senses, and motor control are all associated with parts of the cortex. Turning off the cortex would mean loss of a great deal more than impaired reasoning, so unless McCrossin can support what she has said, her perspective can’t be dealing literally with brain functioning. I’m willing to accept it as a metaphorical approach, but I don’t see that it adds anything to what we could say quite simply and parsimoniously: if you get really scared, it’s hard to think straight. If someone or something scared you enough, you’ll remember that on another occasion and probably find your thoughts somewhat confused as a result. I know that’s not such a scienterrific way to put the matter, but it’s a lot more accurate and thus leads to fewer untrustworthy and speculative associations about how people’s brains work. What about the adoption issue? First of all, let me repeat what I’ve said in other posts: this “abandonment factor”, if it means distress about separation as I think it does, will not be present until the baby is at least six months old. It’s irrelevant to early-adopted children. Second: the corpus callosum. I would like to save myself some trouble and just say “you’re kidding”, but I know this foolish idea is still out there after half a century or more. Yes, the corpus callosum plays an important role in transmitting information from one side of the brain to the other in most people. However, there are several other “bridges” like the structure of the optic nerve that allow information to be available to both sides simultaneously. In the case of hearing, there are 8 or 9 crossover points between the cochlea and the auditory cortex. In addition, there are people born without a corpus callosum, but whose functioning is perfectly normal. There are many aspects of the brain where back-up systems make sure that important tasks are done, and this may be one of them. I have no idea what speculation brought the amygdala into this picture. However, the idea that the callosum plays some critical role in functioning dates back quite a way. It was involved with the belief that mixed hand and eye dominance would cause reading difficulties (actually, about 50% of people have mixed dominance, and far fewer have trouble reading.) In the 1960s, Robert Zaslow, who invented Attachment Therapy, published a report linking left-handedness (which involves less strong dominance) to resistance and non-compliance in children. The attachment therapist Elizabeth Randolph stated in a self-published book about ten years ago that she could diagnose Reactive Attachment Disorder be seeing whether children were able to crawl backward on command, an ability she related to the corpus callosum. Therapeutic techniques using the “cross-crawl”, which I recently mentioned on this blog, are without supportive evidence and are again related to the belief that the callosum plays some extraordinary part in personality and behavior. How about the touching-your-head treatment? In order to believe this could have an effect, McCrossin must be convinced that she is able not only to detect an unidentified life energy within each person, but that in some way her touch alters that energy. In other words, she and her followers posit some form of event that is outside the study of the physical and biological sciences-- what one can only call a supernatural event. Acceptance of such an idea puts McCrossin’s practice into the realm of religious ritual rather than of methods whose effectiveness can be investigated scientifically. One more point. Do insurance companies fail to pay for things because they didn’t hear of them “yet”? Actually, they are fairly careful about making these decisions. Look at the Aetna website, for example, and you’ll see discussion of the evidence about specific practices and the decisions that are made about paying for them. I’m no more a fan of these corporations than anyone else, but I believe it’s deceptive to represent them as failing to pay just because they haven’t caught up with progress. The Brain Integration Technique presented by McCrossin appears to be nothing more nor less than nonsense based on popular misunderstandings of brain functioning and of the emotional life of children. If you have an adopted child whose mental health is problematic, there are some excellent, evidence-based interventions that can actually help you. Please don’t fall for the idea that magic touches can fix real problems.