Anil Rajvanshi

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Is there a biological basis of ego and anger?

Recent evidence from neurobiological research has shown that von Economo Neurons (VENs) in the frontol cortex of brain may be a seat of awareness, consciousness and self. Is it possible to extend this concept to ego and anger?

A small article shows how it is possible.

Comments, discussion and feedback are welcome.

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    Oct 1 2012: Ego being the vast point of reference during life has to survive for existance.
    If this ego is threatened energy mobilizes to act in defence or flight which we know as anger.
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      Oct 1 2012: Yes your comment is correct. However we can probably reduce this ego by controlling VENs and that is the speculation.

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        Oct 1 2012: Interresting story you have, Anil.

        Never use control to shut up the controller.

        What you need is mastery which means that you can have complex activity without any thought.
        If you master the material and process of any activity the body can act on itself to accomplish the intentioned act in full concentration of the actor but without thoughts. Or maybe better: thoughts and thus inner or outer communication can be separated from the action that ihas become autonomous.
        Fast repetitive actions can bring this about as in factory work or weaving. If the body and its activity comes in a flow the ego is in a slumber. At that moment spirit comes free (unbound).

        It can be meditation, craftsmanship or juggling with excellence or Martial arts.

        Ego is a thing of the brain indeed.

        It is built through the ability to compare which faculty developed as a byproduct with the development of 3D vision. It is more with predators and even more with tree living animals that has to see clear distances and has to do many calculations to move through the branches. The use of hands and fingers for tool making did power up the brain tremendously. With this the human being did wake up to become conscious of self.
        The same process every child experience as it becomes self aware. From within the state of flow memory goes back to birth and even further. Spirit has no limits but no anchor either.
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    Nov 1 2012: Hi Anil,

    Is it possible .. maybe. What does Damasio say on the subject? He has extensive experience with many different forms of brain injury and might have corroborative data concerning what happens when damage occurs in the ACC and FIC.
    The inference that VENs play a role in focus and concentration would suggest that they modulate the "breadth of frame" allowed in the associative substrate. connection to "loose association" in schizophrenia would indicate just that.
    Also, the deactivation of VENs with sleep seems to infer some role in regulating potentiation - i.e. in sleep it is saying - "be massively loose with association - but don't learn the result" - which would explain why dreams are not often remembered upon awakening.
    I see the role of sleep as being a "pre-potentiation" process where "dreams" perform wild associations from the day's experience and "prime" subsequent associations to reinforce subsequent causal observations. "Dream potentials" that are not confirmed would atrophy to background levels while associative links that take multiple dream-hits will manifest as "intuition".
    In my understanding of the levels of "self" the VENs are not causal - but if you apply them to "consciousness" then you are onto something.
    It may be very true that the VENs define the associative "breadth" of the ego, I believe that the ego consists of the displacement map applied to the core self to yield the autobiographical models used in navigating social behaviour (predominantly language) - in other words the "self image" or self esteem.
    That Hindi and Buddhist adepts relate sense of "egolessness" would predict that their awareness is shifted away from the autobiographical self-image to the core self - this might be confirmed by brain images of adepts - I've been given some links but haven't had time to follow up just yet.
    Thanks for pointing the VENs out - i was looking for just such a mechanism for my own model!
    Hope this helps.
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    Nov 1 2012: Ahh, I see that you are the author of this "small article."
    I will have to read it carefully and then comment more thoughtfully.
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      Nov 1 2012: Thanks. Looking forward to hearing from you.
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      Nov 1 2012: Thanks for the "heads-up" Theo. This is very useful.
      I don't think the VENs are directly associated with anger.
      For my model, anger has to have an evolutionary significance - therefore must be a response to anything that reduces the field of agency in an organism. E.G. if something tries to eat you, your potential agency will become suddenly narrowed - producing a requirement for instant assertion of whatever potential advantage remained = strongly selective behaviour in the win/lose context. This would extrapolate to any incursion on potential agency - e.g. people will fight for "freedom" if they get the opportunity (potential advantage).
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    Nov 1 2012: By ego you mean "self awareness." (Ego is a Latin word meaning "I")
    I'm actually surprise by the number of comments that focus on this word and not on the Spindle Neurons or VENs. The question is really about the research of the neuroscientist John Allman. Spindle neurons are very unique and only found in animals with large brains. My suggestion is that others look them up and read about them.

    Specific to the question here, spindle neuro are found in two areas of the human brain that relate to anger and self awareness.
    First regarding anger, but also other intense emotions:

    "In humans, intense emotion activates the anterior cingulate cortex, as it relays neural signals transmitted from the amygdala (a primary processing center for emotions) to the frontal cortex, perhaps by functioning as a sort of lens to focus the complex texture of neural signal interference patterns. The ACC is also active during demanding tasks requiring judgment and discrimination, and when errors are detected by an individual. During difficult tasks, or when experiencing intense love, anger, or lust, activation of the ACC increases. In brain imaging studies, the ACC has specifically been found to be active when mothers hear infants cry, underscoring its role in affording a heightened degree of social sensitivity."

    Regarding self awareness one will note that here too there is a tie in to emotions:

    "This fronto-insular cortex is closely connected to the insula, a region that is roughly the size of a thumb in each hemisphere of the human brain. The insula and fronto-insular cortex are part of the orbitofrontal cortex, wherein the elaborate circuitry associated with spatial awareness and the sense of touch are found, and where self awareness and the complexities of emotion are thought to be generated and experienced."
  • Oct 25 2012: You say Ego "and" anger. Are You suggesting a relation on those two subjects??
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      Oct 25 2012: Yes very much. Please read the essay to see how they are related.

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    Oct 13 2012: Thanks for the comments to this debate. Yes the frontal lobes of the brain are involved in emotions and other higher order thinking but what is a possible mechanism is what I have described in the essay.

    A reading of that essay and debate on it will be appreciated.

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    Oct 10 2012: I think ego stems from self awareness, if we were not self aware there would not be as much ego. There might be disputes and still need and Alpha man/women. But we have ego because we think we are top
  • Oct 5 2012: Dysfunction of the frontal lobes of the brain are associated with aggressive behavior. Even criminal behavior is associated with deficiencies in the frontal lobes. Any human is able to turn violent or "use force". Its part of us, is one of the remains of our primitive lineage. The frontal lobes recognize the consequences of our actions, and choose between good and bad actions and can suppress unacceptable social behaviors. When "reason" is no longer able to handle a situation violence arises. And this "reason" that keeps violence under control is in our frontal lobes.
  • Oct 1 2012: Interesting. However...

    I feel uneasy to accept that one neuron type is responsible for complex constructs such as ego and anger. It's in fact the extremely intricate connections between different neurons, of differing parts of the brain, that enable thought.

    Keep in mind that more that 90% of all neurons are multi-polar (such as vENs), and that more than 95% of those fall into the category of "interneurons"(neurons that connect with other neurons, rather than a different cell type). Therefore this morphological trait can't be really be considered as an argument that helps the theory that vENs are the bearers of ego.

    This is why modern neuroscience has difficulty pinpointing the functions of even entire areas of the brain and it's especially true for the Limbic system and cortex cerebri. Advanced cognitive abilities (such as ego and anger) are particularly problematic to localize.