Friday, July 25, 2008

Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex


From "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, p. 59-60:

Damasio studied patients with damage to a small but critical part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which lies behind the nose.

The ventromedial area plays a critical role in decision making. It works out contingencies and relationships and sorts through the mountain of information we get from the outside world, prioritizing it and putting flags on things that demand our immediate attention.

People with damage to their ventromedial area are perfectly rational. They can be highly intelligent and functional, but they lack judgment. More precisely, they don't have that mental valet in their unconscious that frees them up to concentrate on what really matters.

In his book 'Descartes' Error' Damasio describes trying to set up an appointment with a patient with this kind of brain damage:

I suggested two alternative dates, both in the coming month and just a few days apart from each other. The patient pulled out his appointment book and began consulting the calendar.
The behavior that ensued, which was witnessed by several investigators, was remarkable. For the better part of a half hour, the patient enumerated reasons for and against each of the two dates: previous engagements, proximity to other engagements, possible meteorological conditions, virtually anything that one could think about concerning a simple date.
[He was] walking us through a tiresome cost-benefit analysis, an endless outlining and fruitless comparison of options and possible consequences. It took enormous discipline to listen to all of this without pounding on the table and telling him to stop.

7 comments:

Mottel said...

Wow . . . I just happened to pick up the book Blink now in the airport!

the sabra said...

buy it-it's fantastic!

Mottel said...

By pick up I meant pick and purchase . . .

the sabra said...

Aha, gotcha. (Not literally, folks--you can sit back down in your seats)

Dovid said...

Haha! Tonight, I finally got around to buying it from Amazon.com, and look what I find here!

the sabra said...

look, indeed.
i intend to copy more of his work onto here, so stay away if you like surprises ;)

the sabra said...

O and aliza, you should be shepping nachas here.
(aliza? aliza? are you awake??)