2015-07-29

Missing white matter matters

Summary

The missing white matter finding might indicate a psychological disorder, in this case Asperger's syndrome. This posts contains an alternative explanation of the findings by James Cantor & Co.
This is an older post and does not reflect my changed understanding. There is a high comobidity with psychological disorders in pedophiles - similar to Aspergers. However, I know came to the understanding that pedophilia requires a precondition. If someone does not sexually prefer women in case of men, then the sex drive might not have been strong enough. The sex drive can be understood as an intuitive sexuality, much like the intuitive psychology which according to Steven Pinker is missing in autists. A better explanation. 

Lying with statistics


Many decades ago the consensus bureau in Germany found statistical support for something that have been told to small children for a long time. The first number they obtained was the number of children per woman. The did it with german precision getting numbers for each district. Using the same approach, they registered the number of storks. When they compared the numbers, they found an enormous support for the European folklore that the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. This example is teached to student so they look out for the undiscovered unknown factor. In the mentioned statistics, the division into rural and urban districts is the explaining variable. In rural areas mothers tend to give birth to more children - the storks nesting in those areas have nothing to do with it. It is just an unrelated coincidence.

Asperger's syndrome in pedophiles


One thing that comes up very often in child love chat boards is the discussion of psychology. Since Pedophiles are seen as mentally ill persons (which by the way is much better than to be considered sub-human scum), several disorders are discussed. There are some conditions that seem to have a very high correlation with pedophilia. There is a remark from a police officer that it is almost a cliche to find Star-Trek memorabilia during a home search. Being a Star-Trek fan is not qualified as an illness, but Asperger's Syndrome is. During psychological evaluations, a test on the Aspergers/Autistic scale seem to be standard. This gets reported many times on chat boards.

Participation on an internet chat forum might restrict the discussion to those who are technically savvy and with a higher than normal intelligence. It might be that the sample of pedophiles on those chat forums is biased towards Aspergers and highly intelligent people. Nevertheless, it is remarked that there are many members with Asperger's (short Aspies).


Asperger's syndrome mainly presents itself with communication deficits. Affected children have difficulties relating to age peers, but are excellent with adults or younger children. Adults often refer to them as "little professors". Everyone know those geeky boys, who have no chance with same-aged girls. This is actually a very simple explanation for some pedophiles.


Recent research has challenged the notion of missing empathy i autistic children. In fact they experience some kind of overload, they can't deal with the simultaneous onslaught of verbal and nonverbal communication signals. Hence autistic children tend to blend humans out. People scoring high on the autistic scale, but on the side of Asperger's disorder don't blend people out, but focus on one kind of input at a time. Often they are very logical and show a left brain dominance.

Circuitry


The polyvagal theory describes some neural circuitry issues. Stephen Porges links misfiring of the polyvagal system to attention disorders and autism. The missing engagement of the social muscles in the inner ear and of the face makes listening and nonverbal communication a challenge to those affected. When I say circuitry, I actually mean two different systems. One system are neural connections, like white brain matter. The other system comprises hormonal releases by endocrine glands. The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis is related to stress. The first two glands in this axis are also part of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis which might be dysfunctional in pedophiles according to Gaffney and Berlin. This means that stress could have influenced the development of pedophilia. Moreover, released hormones work like switches putting the brain into different modes. The neurons on the other hand direct releases of hormones. Hence, the circuitry of the brain comprises many loops.


The brain works like a massive parallel system. Simplified, humans have a paleomammal system comprising the amygdala among others, a frontal cortex, and many other systems. The paleomammal system is responsible for gut feelings while the frontal cortex is home to our consciousness. During puberty a myelination process happens in the brain and we change from a child like personality to an adult personality. This puberty time has been pinpointed as the assumed time frame when pedophilia manifests. Others pinpoint the event to prenatal changes, that means while the fetus is in the womb, leading to "born-this-way" arguments. However, at some time during the development, a certain establishment of circuitry is supposed to happen.


Understanding the brain as a massive parallel system assigns a moderating or controlling function to the frontal cortex. This means the frontal cortex influences the function of the paleomammal system via some connective tissue. Without a moderation that paleomammal part can either ran wild as in uncontrolled, or it is in a kind of stasis.

White matter


The flamboyant researcher James Cantor explains in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB6zwvBtDK8 his research on pedophilia and some research results. Besides the low-IQ-findings, the major point is the missing white matter. He explains pedophilia as a kind of cross-wiring as in connective tissue -  instead of going from A to B it goes from A to C. But then the question arises, why does it have to go to C, why not D, E, F and so on. If it were a cross-wiring, should there be more white matter some place else? The last question takes this "cross-wiring" a bit too literally.

The missing white matter can explain two different scenarios. The first one is absence of any excitation. There are indeed persons who experience asexuality. Moreover, it would explain why autistic persons and persons with a severe attachment disorder do not react. Only the dorsal part is engaged.  The other explanation is more mundane. The paleomammal system does what it can do alone in the absence of moderation. It too is an example of phylogenetic hierarchy. When the more evolved structures fail, more primitive systems are activated. Normally a person will adapt to the culture. This requires a lot of social contacts and internalization of social values. Hence in normal humans, the paleomammal system is dominated. If one lacks white matter, it certainly has impact on the moderation. Hence ancient gut feelings will surface and adaptive behavior will show up.


The russian silver fox experiment has shown that behavior has strong biological roots. It was an experiment with the aim of explaining the taming of wolves and their transformation into dogs. Not only have they succeed in only 10 generations, they have also caused signs of neoteny in those foxes. This experiment has been repeated and even the opposite has been carried out. The researchers managed to breed vicious foxes. Hence a strong biological base for behavior can not be denied.


The consistent qualities of pedophilia might be due to evolution. It is know that boylovers appreciate boyish behavior more than beauty, while girllovers are attracted to the female equivalent to the bud of a flower. Feierman 1990 gives some examples of pedophilic behaviors with a strong evolutionary cause. Those behavioral traits might have been grown since the first brain increase happened some hundred thousand years ago.


Hence, it seems reasonable to assume that missing white matter reduces moderation of the affected parts. Reduced moderation means less suppression of biology based behavioral traits. Moreover, less moderation also means less damping on the social communication signal, which then might lead to an overload - exactly the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome. Could it be that James Cantor statistically found a higher share of Aspies among his sample? This could be true, if missing white matter had been identified as common in Aspies. But this hasn't happened - or more precisely "has not happened yet".


Brain imaging techniques have not yet identified a clear common pathology for Asperger's syndrome (mentioned on wikipedia) - which does not mean there isn't anything brain related to be found. Even the smart James Cantor looked first at grey matter, before it made click and he discovered the lack of white matter. Discovery might be the wrong word, since he didn't find anything on the sMRI pictures, he missed something. Hence, one has to pose the hypothesis that Aspies are lacking white matter, for professionals to do the studies and to find out.

Is Asperger's syndrome the missing link?


Cantor & Co theorize that some prenatal events may have had big influence on neurobiology and sexual orientation. The latest paper by 4 students and him tested a hypothesis by Michael C. Seto about a correlation of minor physical anomalies and pedophilia, indicating prenatal influences. A critique of that paper asks for a temporal linkage between those prenatal events and the establishment of pedophilia during puberty. The argument is: if at any time between birth and puberty the child is "normal" in any aspect, then there should be no correlation between prenatal condition and sexual orientation. This means, between birth and manifestation of pedophilia, something has to be different in those children. Something that is so heavy that it impacts the development of "normal" sexuality.

By the way, in order to show up on the statistics, only a few more Aspies are required on the pedophile group. The explanation in this post does not mean that every pedophile is affected by Asperger's syndrome, only that there is a higher percentage of those.

Disclaimer


This presents amateur research. As such it is not backed by any study carried out under supervision. Instead it is an attempt to explain certain facts, which i have been confronted with. Even though i am discussing Asperger's syndrome and missing white matter, this post does not imply anything about any person. Diagnosing people with mental illnesses is the business of mental health professionals, not mine. I'm in this matter a layman.

2 comments :

  1. Has James Cantor eliminated the possibility that missing white matter, cross-wiring etc could be a result of existing in the shadow of stigma through a person's puberty, adolescence and adult life?

    When someone reaches adolescence and finds out that they are a paedophile and realises just how stigmatised and hated that orientation is - that they are the most loathed group in society, worse than terrorists or murderers - it is a huge shock and the person had to reconfigure their relationship with the world, keep an important part of themselves secret, either succumb to self-loathing or try to construct an ethical system from scratch (because the world won't help them there or provide them with role models).

    Stigma drives people insane, drives them to suicide (think Paul Christiano) - has James Cantor taken stigma and all its consequences into account?

    I guess to do so would involve taking brain scans of children and seeing if those that grow up to paedophiles had consistent differences in their brains when children.

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  2. There is a small discussion of that issue in that paper if i remember correctly. I googled "white matter disorder" today and found a lot of pages supporting my assumption. It could well be that there is a more reasonable alternative explanation than that of JC.

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