The Human Magnet Syndrome - Excerpts - page 20

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brains resulted in higher survival rates. Our larger brains gave us the ability for complex planning,
language, and the ability to spread new ideas from one individual to another. Planning, communication
and even trade led, among other things, to the development of better tools and weapons which spread
rapidly across the population (Mosley, 2011).
As much as there is evidence pointing to how our environment enhances or quickens physical and
psychological growth, a greater body of evidence exists to the contrary. This inverse phenomenon is
best illustrated by research that was conducted on Romanian orphans. According to Nim Tottenham
who researched deprived Romanian orphans, there is a causal connection between early childhood
emotional and personal deprivation and their developed abnormally small and structurally malformed
brains. The research established that by receiving little to no nurturing, attention and stimulation during
an infancy and the toddler years, children’s brains did not develop to their full genetically determined
The consequences of the orphan’s brain malformations included language, intellectual, and cognitive
impairment. A significant amount of these orphans developed a Conduct and/or Antisocial Personality
Disorders, which led Tottenham, 2013, to conclude that there is a distinct connection between poor or
absent childhood personal and emotional nurturing (positive attachment) and irreversible adult mental
health problems.
Additional research shows the circular interaction of neurological (brain) and environmental influences
on psychological functioning. Through the use of MRI scans, it was revealed that the lack of compassion
and empathy was a direct result of having less brain mass (gray matter) in the anterior insula, a
subsection of cerebral cortex, compared to a non-narcissistically reared (empathic and compassionate)
control group. The research concluded that adverse environmental factors, such as a negative
attachment experience, inhibited the normal development of the brain structures responsible
compassion and empathy. The following quote by researcher Sharon L. Johnson succinctly explains the
impact environmental influences have on brain development:
“Attachment, the emotional bond formed between an infant and its primary caretaker,
profoundly influences both the structure and function of the developing infant's brain. Failed
attachment, whether caused by abuse, neglect or emotional unavailability on the part of the
caretaker, can negatively impact brain structure and function, causing developmental or
relational trauma. Early-life trauma affects future self-esteem, social awareness, ability to learn
and physical health
(Johnson, 2012).
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