The frontal lobes have received an increasing amount of attention of late, with terms like “Executive Functioning” becoming quite popular. Simply put, the frontal lobe is a section of mammalian brains that occupies the front portion of our head (right behind our foreheads). Some of the functions of the frontal lobe include: attention, working memory, generating and inhibiting behaviors (think of this as a “gate-keeper” between thinking of doing something, and doing it), forming concepts, temporal sequencing and planning, considering context and perspective (including in social settings), and general managerial/executive performance. While the left side (your left!) focuses more on language, the right side addresses social considerations.
One other item to note: when faced with a novel situation (rather than something routine, or instinctual), it is the frontal lobe that will activate, using the functions listed above to consider the issue. For example, when asked to solve “2+2=?”, one’s frontal lobe is not activated; this is a problem so simple, and solved so frequently, that it is a reflexive response - no planning is involved. If, on the other hand, one is asked, “Which is larger: 3a + 4b x 4c or 5a x 6b - 8c where a is equal to half the product of b x c?” then the puzzle might require a bit more frontal lobe activity, including to determine whether the problem even makes sense (since I just made that up out of thin air). Assuming it is legitimate, one might consider a number of strategies designed to determine the answer; it is the planning and organization associated with truly solving a puzzle that the frontal lobe provides. The frontal lobe would help decide whether to solve the problem as well, or whether to say "Forget this!" and go watch TV. In a different context, figuring out when the “time is right” to broach a subject in a social setting, such as asking for a raise, or a date, or whether a joke is appropriate to tell in a particular setting, is also the domain of the frontal lobe.
I completed an evaluation not too long ago where my primary concern about the individual’s overall functioning at the present time was his possible frontal lobe dysfunction. Specifically, he appeared to grasp all of the concepts relevant to competency to stand trial, and when asked directly for an answer to a question, or prompted to respond, he would. But there appeared to be little in the way of motivation; that is, he would respond when asked, but he did not necessarily appear to initiate any effort into demonstrating his competency. Tests measuring his degree of effort matched this theory as well; he did not make anything up, or intentionally provide wrong answers (that would require a plan, and implementation of it!), but rather he would provide answers with the first thing that popped into his head. There would be no consideration of the problem; no recognition (or an inability to act on any recognition) that as the problems and issues became more difficult, sustained focus for a lengthier period of time might be required to answer the question (for example, in multi-step questions, similar to “Say a train leaves New York at 7 am at 65 miles per hour, and...”); and no consideration of the larger context in which the evaluation was taking place. Simply put, he was basically a reactive, amotivated individual (thanks in large part to tons of drug use, including inhalant abuse) who required prompting to initiate most behaviors. When asked about his behavior on the unit, staff would state, “Most of the time, he just sits there.” An interesting case, to say the least, and one that prompted me to learn more about the functioning of the frontal lobes (thus demonstrating that mine is still working at least to some degree).
In the spirit of this effort at self-education, I purchased The Human Frontal Lobes, by Bruce Miller and Jeffrey Cummings. I have just started to look through it a bit, but it looks to contain just about anything anyone could ever want to know about the front part of the brain. Here is a snippet from the introduction:
“The frontal lobes are no longer considered a single functional entity. Rather, there are a variety of ways to anatomically subdivide this brain region, all based upon distinctive constructs. Most researchers accept that the frontal lobes have three major divisions: motor, premotor, and prefrontal regions. Motor and premotor areas are considered distinctive functional units, whereas prefrontal cortex is more complex, requiring further subdivision. One system to subdivide the frontal cortex relies on the distinctive functions of different prefrontal regions. Another approach considers regional connections to and from specific subcortical regions. (Pg. 7)”
That’s page seven, from the introduction. Man, do I have my work cut out for me; that passage alone gave my frontal lobe a headache. Obviously, this is a tome that would be best tackled in small doses over time, rather than late night reading where I hope the ending surprises me. In any event, as I go through the book, even on an as-needed basis, I’ll keep an eye out for little bits here and there that might be of interest, and pass it along. If you’re “in the biz,” and need a thorough book on this area of neurological and neuropsychological functioning, consider this one.
It's been a long time since I've made a postcard post, so I dug around, and thought I'd put up a postcard of Utica's railroad station, now known as the Boehlert Center at Union Station. According to Wikipedia, the station was originally built between 1912 and 1914 (replacing a structure from 1869), but has been undergoing renovations since 1978. Here is a postcard of the exterior, dated 1924:
Wikipedia indicates eight trains use the station daily, which is served by Amtrak. There are also various bus services in use, and on a seasonal basis one can take a train from Utica to Old Forge in the Adirondacks. Here is a link to another blog who has a picture of the exterior from the back, where the tracks are. Below is a picture of the station's exterior from a couple of years ago, to give you a "now and then" perspective"
Wikipedia notes that the original station had a tunnel which led from the interior of the main station area to the platform; the tunnel has since been replaced by an enclosed overpass. Below is a postcard depicting the intrior of the station:
Wikipedia notes that the station was built in the Italianate style, with the main waiting area 15,000 square feet in size, and ceilings 47 feet high. The eight columns were brought from grand Central Station in New York, and the benches are warmed with pipes channeling steam. The interior no longer has a Western Union office, but still houses a barber shop (apparently one of the few left inside of a train station), and a restaurant (though I don't remember one being there when I checked it out a couple of years ago). Here is a photograph I took in 2006, for the "now and then:"
The beauty of the marble, as well as the true height of the ceiling, shoes up much better in this photograph, I think. The place really is immense, and it is fun to imagine what it must have felt like to be inside when a train station like this was a transportation hub in any city (if you've ever been in Grand Central Station or something like that, you'll know what I mean). Here is another photograph of the interior:
Quite a sight! Amazing to think that a structure that required this amount of space and grandeur now sees only eight trains come through daily...if only airports were designed with a fraction of the visual appeal.
I remember arriving and/or departing at this station several times as a child, when we would come visit family from New York. Of course, as a child, the excitement of riding on a train expires quickly, replaced by almost terminal boredom (especially when said child is used to train rides that are the length of subway trips, not journeys up the Hudson River and through the Mohawk valley!). I also took Amtrak once in college, getting home from Connecticut by way of New York. That trip was far more interesting, though I still hadn't developed a taste for nostalgia like now.
Here is another web page offering far more history on this station, as well as several other really nice photographs. If I ever get doen to the station again (or, even better, ride a train into or out of the station!), I'll definitaly take more pics.
“The pathological critic is a term coined by psychologist Eugene Sagan to describe the negative inner voice that attacks you. Everyone has a critical inner voice. But people with low self-esteem tend to have a more vicious and vocal pathological voice.
The critic blames you for things that go wrong. The critic compares you to others - to their achievements and abilities - and finds you wanting. The critic sets impossible standards of perfection and then beats you up for the smallest mistake. The critic keeps an album of your failures, but never once reminds you of your strengths or accomplishments. The critic has a script describing how you ought to live and screams that you are wrong and bad if your needs drive you to violate its rules. The critic tells you to best the best - and if you’re not the best, you’re nothing. He calls you names - stupid, incompetent, ugly, selfish, weal - and makes you believe that all of them are true. The critic reads your friends’ minds and convinces you that they are bored, turned off, disappointed, or disgusted by you. The critic exaggerates your weaknesses by insisting that you “always say stupid things,” or “always screw up a relationship,” or “never finish anything on time.”
In short, the more you grapple with an internal voice like this, the more likely it is you sense of self-worth is being compromised by this cognitive style. The good news is, the inner critic is much like the loud, obnoxious drunk at a party; everyone listens to what he says because he is loud and obnoxious, but with a bit of confrontation and some logic, everything he says can be disproved.