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Impulse and Neuroscience

I'm modifying my view slightly on the issue of people resisting impulses, in other words being more in charge of what they do. It's an issue that involved Alexandra. When I met her she was 105 lbs, having recovered by 60 lbs and a stay at a hospital. She told me in 2003 as we were planning on living together that she was determined to totally defeat her eating disorder. She died in January 2016 after having been down around 80 pounds. I failed to get her to interact with a scale: eating a little more when she was underweight and less when she went over 105. She was afraid that she couldn't stop binge-eating weight gains.

Now I read that neuroscientists are aware of a segment of the human brain that is devoted to impulse control. This tells me that If this part of the brain is physically disabled or damaged to some degree a person is going to have a harder time controlling her impulses. The damage might be genetic. The damage might be from ingesting chemicals of some kind. I don't understand addition. (I wonder what effect nicotine has on this part of the brain. Alexandra's shrink had her on pills that reduced her anxiety, and her sex drive.) I wanted her to master her anxieties and impulses without pills -- with discipline.

I gather that her problem had at least a small genetic component. But I'm annoyed that when she was in her late teens she conquered a weight problem with prescribed pills. Doctors are scientists and I am neither, but I wonder whether the pills she took could have damaged her.

A good friend at Berkeley, very balanced, sane, cheerful and happy, ended up in an institution, her brain having been fried by pills her boyfriend gave her.

Alexandra was also a coffee addict. I never drank coffee, except once. I felt like I was on speed and concluded that coffee drinkers were druggie speed freaks.

And I still believe in people exercising discipline over their impulses and not entertaining an excuse not to. And I still consider Alexander as a great person emotionally and intellectually, which may have had something to do with opinions that she was a naturally gifted actor.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.