Our Bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
A TRUE STORY
The Man Who Lost His Personality
On September 13,1848, a tragic accident occurred that would shock the
world of medical science. A 25-year-old railroad construction foreman in
Vermont named Phineas P. Gage was in charge of blasting through a mountaineous
region for laying down a new railroad line.
The routine was simple: drill a long hole into the rock, fill it partially
full with explosive powder, then cover the powder with sand. A tamping iron
was next used to pound down on the sand, consolidating the charge. Finally,
a fuse would be lit to detonate the explosion. On that fateful day, everything
was going as planned. The long hollow hole had been drilled; the explosive
powder was put in the hole, but someone forgot to put in the sand. Phineas
began tamping directing over the powder. A spark flew and ignited the powder
and a powerful explosion and blast came forth from the hole.
The l3-pound tamping iron, about 1 inch thick and 3 feet long, was hurled
directly at him. With the force of a missile, the iron went under his left
cheekbone, behind his left eye, through his brain, and then out again.
Amazingly, the traumatic accident did not kill Phineas. In fact, he lived
for another l3 years and had regained nearly all of his physical strength.
He seemed just as mentally intelligent, he could speak and physically work
just as well, and his memory was just as sharp. However, this accident did
cost him something.
Figure 1 .
Before the accident Phineas was a well-loved, responsible, and intelligent
worker and husband. He was known as a person with high morals and was described
according to one account as "a pious and reverent church-goer."
So excellent was Phineas ' character that work records lauded him as "the
most efficient and capable foreman" employed by the Rutland and Burlington
After the accident Phineas experienced a terrible moral decline. He became
very emotional about things and would get angry quickly. He lost interest
in church and spiritual things. He became irreverent, and prone to excessive
profanity. He lost all respect for social customs and became totally irresponsible.
He went from a prized employee to the unemployment rolls. His company dismissed
him when he could no longer responsibly perform his duties.
Phineas' traumatic accident cost him his personality, his moral standards,
and his commitment to family, church, and loved ones. Researchers have concluded
that he had lost an important area on the front part of his brain, called
the frontal lobe. It is the part of our brain that is responsible for moral
reasoning and social behavior.
The brain is divided into several sections, or lobes. Each lobe has specific
functions. The frontal lobe behind the forehead is the largest lobe of the
brain. It is the seat of judgment, reasoning, intellect, and the will. It
is the place of spirituality and morality that makes up the character of
man. Therefore, a person with a damaged frontal lobe may look the same as
they always did, but if you interact with them, it is usually apparent that
they are "just not the same."
Frontal Lobotomy In the late 1800s psychiatrists began using a surgical
procedure called a "frontal lobotomy" (literally meaning removal
of the frontal lobe). Although sometimes a portion of the lobe was physically
removed, at other times it was "functionally" removed by severing
its nerve connections.
The operation initially was used on people who were violently or criminally
insane. The practice of frontal lobotomies became increasingly popular in
the 1930s and 1940s. However, today this operation is rarely used
Patricia, the Surgical Nurse Patricia was a very successful surgical
nurse who was preparing for a frontal lobotomy. The hope was that the surgery
would resolve her many guilt problems that she had struggled with for several
years. Following the procedure there were striking changes in her interests,
attitude, work performance, and integrity. It was obvious that Patricia
was a different person.
Before the lobotomy, Patricia was an extremely efficient operating room
nurse. She was also very fond of books and belonged to the nurses' literary
After the lobotomy, she lost much of her ambition. She lost interest
in her work, and lost sympathy with her patients. She could only perform
subordinate work and she lost interest in books.
Studies hav-e shown that those who have frontal lobe darnage experience
impairment of moral principles, loss of love for family, loss of empathy,
and a lack of restraint (leading to boasting, hostility, aggressiveness).
They also experience distractibility and restlessness, fantasying, lack
of foresight, and become incapable of abstract reasoning.
Diseases caused by frontal lobe damage include: mania, obsessive compulsive
disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, and increase
Since 1990, the number of people diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder in the U.S. has risen from 900,000 to more than two million in
Sophisticated brain scans (PET scans) reveal that depressed patients may
have a 60 percent reduction in frontal lobe blood flow. In working with
depressed patients, there is evidence that if one can enhance the activity
of their frontal lobe, blood flow to that area will increase, and the depression
can be markedly improved and corrected.
When it comes to appetite control, the frontal lobe plays a very important
role. In fact, the highest center of appetite control is in the frontal
lobe of the brain. No matter how hungry you are or how strong your desire
may be for something that may be harmful, you can generally suppress that
desire if your frontal lobe is functioning optimally. Those without a capable
frontal lobe have great difficulty in suppressing such urges. Some overweight
individuals who know they are eating too much will continue to eat because
their frontal lobes are not fully able to say "no." It is evident,
that a healthy lifestyle protects the frontal lobe, and a healthy frontal
lobe helps us to make better lifestyle choices.
Therefore, it is imperative that we ask this most important question: What
are the most common causes of frontal lobe impairment? It is not surgeries.
It is not occupational injuries. It is improper lifestyle habits.
Let us consider a number of lifestyle habits that compromise our frontal
lobe from making the best moral and spiritual decisions.
Alcohol Alcohol has direct effects on the frontal lobe. Several years ago,
alcoholics and non-alcoholics were studied by two modern diagnostic tests:
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission topography (PET scanning).
The MRI looks at the actual structure of the brain. Among the alcoholics,
it revealed a striking amount of loss of frontal lobe gray matter.
This loss of gray matter indicates an actual loss of brain cells that are
involved in critical frontal lobe functions.
PET scanning looks at the fimction of the brain. In this testing, the alcoholics
showed a lower glucose metabolisrn-which indicates less frontal lobe activity.
These frontal lobe-impairing effects are not confined to heavy alcohol users.
Adverse effects were seen with those who drank only one alcoholic drink
per week. Of course, as alcohol intake increases, there will be a decreased
ability to think abstractly and to make the best moral decisions.
Alcohol also interferes with the development of the fetal brain.
It is well recognized that women who use alcohol during pregnancy adversely
affect their offspring for life. Fathers who drink are likely impairing
their children's frontal lobes as well. The free use of wine and liquor
leaves to their children the legacy of a feeble constitution, mental and
moral debility, unnatural appetites, irritable temper, and an inclination
Caffeine has become very popular drug for an early morning lift. However,
a heavy price is paid for this artificial stimulation. Caffeine impinges
on the brain's communication system in a number of ways. In exploring these
relationships, we need to recall that brain cells talk to one another through
chemical interchanges. Nerve cells release chemicals called neurotransmitters
(or "chemical messengers") that are picked up by
neighboring cells. Some neurotransmitters cause stimulation of the recipient
nerve cell, while others cause depression. Caffeine's widespread influence
focuses primarily on its ability to affect the levels of two neurotransmitters:
acetylcholine and adenosine. Caffeine disrupts the brain chemistry by increasing
the level of acetylcholine and interfering with the transmission of adenosine.
Reseachers consistently fmd that a decrease in brain acetylcholine is associated
with impaired mental functioning. When caffeine weakens the power of adenosine
to do its work-an artificial stimulation and an imbalance is created in
the mind. A summary of some of the effects of caffeine on the brain is listed
in Figure II.
The Effects of Diet and Nutrition
Research shows that children who are breast-fed have a mental edge that
persists at least for years and probably for a lifetime. Among the advantages
appears to be the fat content of breast milk. Dr. Yokota of Japan showed
that newborn rats need adequate amounts of omega3 fats in their diet. Without
those fats, learoing is impaired. It is well recognized in research circles
that traditional infant formulas for humans provides substandard amounts
of omega-3 fats when compared to breast milk. Supplementing the child's
diet will not make up the omega- 3 deficit.
However, the proper type of fat also seems to be necessary for short term
learoing in adults. Dr.
Coscina and colleagues demonstrated this fact a decade ago. They fed two
groups of adult rats diets that had identical amounts of fat. However, the
fat came from different sources. After only three weeks, rats given a diet
based on a moderate amount of vegetable fat (20 percent polyunsaturated
soybean oil) exhibited improved learning skills compared to those fed a
diet based on 20 percent saturated fat (lard).
Dr. Bemell Baldwin suggests one explanation for why the type of fat may
make a difference. The saturated fats that are typically found in animal
products may make brain nerve communication more difficult. His hypothesis
is that the membranes where brain communication takes place (called synapses)
are rendered more rigid by a diet rich in saturated fat; while unsaturated
fats from vegetables, seeds, and nuts induce more flexible membranes that
promote more efficient brain communications.
Lessons from Carbohydrates
Other parts of the body can use fat, proteins, or carbohydrates for energy,
but not the brain. The brain uses glucose, a simple carbohydrate, almost
exclusively as its source of energy. Apparently, as a result of the brain's
very rapid metabolism, it is dependent on minuteto-minute supplies of this
simple carbohydrate. This becomes easier to appreciate when you understand
that the brain has a metabolic rate 7.5 times greater than the average body
tissue. Although it makes up only 2 percent of our body's mass, the brain
accounts for 15 percent of our total metabolism.
The brain, however, does not have much room to store nutrients.
Only a two-minute supply of glucose is available to the brain cells and
this is in the form of glycogen-the storage form of sugar.
Thus, for peak performance, the frontal lobe requires blood with a steady
and adequate glucose level.
Our best sources of carbohydrates for the mind are from fruits, vegetables,
and whole-grains. It should be noted that animal-based products, such as
meats and dairy products are completely void of carbohydrates. So for mental
health we should stay away from animal products when possible.
Years ago, when scientists first discovered that the brain functioned best
with carbohydrate fuel, some people began referring to candy bars as "brain
food." Eventually, they learned that refined sugar products like candy
bars had the opposite effect. In fact, large amounts of sugar in the diet
have been demonstrated to impair frontal lobe functions in school age children.
One study of 46 five-year old boys was particularly revealing.
Boys with little sugar in their diet had superior attention spans and more
accurate responses than their high-sugar consuming peers. When tested, the
boys on a low refmedsugar diet performed the equivalent of one whole letter
grade higher in school.
Some have asked: If sugar is a carb()hydrate and carbohydrates are the frontal
lobe's preferred fuel, then how could a high sugar diet impair brain function?
Our bodies were created to eat foods such as fruits and grains in a natural,
unrefined state. These foods help to keep our blood sugar at a fairly constant
level. However, when refined sugary foods enter the digestive system, the
blood sugar rises dramatically, and the body reacts as if it were just exposed
to a great volume of natural food. In response, the pancreas produces a
large amount of insulin. However, the rapid rise in blood sugar is deceptive.
Unlike natural plant foods, foods rich in refined sugar tend to be quickly
absorbed. The result is that the rapid rise in blood sugar is short-lived.
With' insulin still present and no more sugar coming in via the digestive
tract, the blood sugar level can plunge.
If a person's blood sugar level falls low enough, frontal lobe functions
can suffer due to inadequate fuel supplies. To avoid this unhealthy rapid
rise and fall in blood sugar levels, each day should begin with a high-quality
breakfast that includes a balanced selection of plant sources of nutrition.
Effects of Hypnotism on the Brain
Hypnosis, by design, bypasses the frontal lobe as it brings the subject
into a trance-like state. During the hypnotic state, individuals can receive
information of various kinds, and can mentally record the duties the hypnotist
asks them to perform. None of the information is filtered according to their
sense of values or moral worth;