1990 by International Univ. Press, Inc., Connecticut
(Clinical Infant Reports N° 3)
The Foundation of Experience
by K. E. BERNARD & T.B. BRAZELTON
by Anton FÜRLINGER,
Isbarygasse 13, Vienna, A-1140 Austria, Europe
question the visual sense is dominating our experience in
doubt most of the (laureated) neuroscientists have worked their
way through the visual pathways.
we need "a critique of pure vision" (CHURCHLAND et al
1994) to take intermodality more serious and behaviour as sensory
the best visible, accessible and largest of all organs of the vertebrate,
the skin, the first modality to emerge in ontogeny is touch. (Together
with the second, the vestibular senses this may suggest a relational
origin of the nervous system: the one sense will detect the direction
towards the earth's "body", the other all bodies approaching
the skin beyond zero distance ).
this monograph, it succeeds in integrating work from neuroanatomical,
comparative biological, sensory-motor, learning and developmental
viewpoints. It covers the entire life span with emphasis on preterm
infant care and on therapeutic applications in general.
the chapters in some more detail. MERZENICH's famous experiments
on plasticity of somatosensory cortex show that experience not only
lays the foundation of cortical maps, (why not already in utero,
there is a lot of undisturbed selfencounter there) but can alter
them accordingly throughout life.
and GREENOUGH also deal with somatosensory development. In rats
reared in enriched conditions (made complex in the social or environmental
domain) gross enlargement of brain tissue and larger neuronal dendritic
fields were found.
presents an evaluation of short-term social separation experiments
with young Rhesus monkeys. Even brief separations can entail systematic
problems in social development, thus adding evidence to HARLOW's
doctrine on the tactual "nature of love".
& STANTON corroborate this by arguing that contact between mother
and infant, in their case squirrel monkeys and rats, might be a
crucial mechanism to modulate level of arousal in both infants and
with his data collected by an implantable biotelemetry device, examines
the physiological correlates of agitation or depression seen in
young pig-tail monkeys after maternal separation. Touch seems to
have regulating or signalling influences on physiology, can promote
attachment and health. "If we can understand the biology, then
the psychology will make more sense." He is right!
together, the above chapters attribute the tactual mode the role
of an early integrator for the other senses (but it is not "used
against" the visual hegemony...)
a wealth of information about work in intensive care nurseries together
with evaluations and discussions is presented (GORSKI, RAUSCH, KORNER).The
sensory ecology of a fetus and the design of an environment permitting
diagnostic and therapeutic activities are not easy to reconcile.
Rocking, striking and water beds for the preterm infant are only
starting points as long as we do not know the rhythms a fetus can
or must track to mature is nervous system (fetuses of comatose mothers
are not rocked...)
SATZ ("A developmental study of finger localization and reading
achievement") GOTTFRIED reviews the role of touch in early
development. At one hundred days, the embryo is sensitive to touch
all over the body "except for the top and back of the head,
which remain insensitive until birth". According to him (too)
there is still "a paucity of data on the amount and nature
of tactile contact of premature infants in special care units".
touch" is introduced by MEEHAN, specified for midwifery by
WOLFSON and critically appraised by SMITH. For me as a physician
reports that touch can change blood composition even without direct
contact is hard to believe.
the other hand, isn't every (pro )therapeutic interaction characterized
by extra-ordinarity in ethological, natural terms much as art
is characterized by "making things special" (see DISSAYANAKE
us try to model a "healing situation", the atmosphere
of which evokes an "aura curae" for the patient. LA.NGER
(1987) used the term to broaden the context of placebo effects:
Imagine, first, a visibly ill one realizing another (often unfamiliar)
individual approaching him beyond the distance a curious
mammal would keep towards a deviant (manifestly sick) congener.
intentional "manipulations" are administered without
clear signals for ordinary motives like chance, (kin) familiarity,
threat or sexuality.
the addressees's body cannot react in a contingent way but might
react in some unspecific way.
In the last chapter, on life spectrum, WEISS opens to show how meaning
is created in cognitive maps and that learning through tactile stimulation
is a necessary precondition for learning via other modalities, nicely
paraphrasing the title of the volume. She then examines the effect
of parental touch and arrives at unexpected sex differences.
her "language of touch" MAIN demonstrates that parental
aversion to infant initiated contact is transmitted across generations.
ANARNEY rightly points to the importance and risks of tenderness
in adolescent interactions: "Since women are usually held or
cuddled before or after coitus, they can use sex as a means to get
this type of body contact" (for a more elaborate handling of
the tender quality of touch see KOORTMULDER 1994)
is also a philosophical chapter about history of concepts and energy
field hypotheses and there are, scattered between the chapters,
segments of lively discussions (a pity some crucial questions are
posed but not answered -or not printed)
book can be strongly recommended for graduate students in behavioural
biology, (behavioural) physiology and developmental biology.
CHURCHLAND P., RAMACHANDRAN V., SEJNOWSKI T., 1994: A Critique of
Pure Vision. In: KOCH C. DAVIS J. (eds.1994: Large Scale Neuronal
Theories of the Brain MIT Press Cambridge, Mass.
DISSANAYAKE E., 1992: Homo aestheticus: where art comes from and
why. The Free Press, a Division of Macmillan, Inc. New York
KOORTMULDER K., 1994: "Tederheid" in zoological perspective
Sociology and Human Affairs. Vol 59, 21-33
LANGER G., 1987: Placebo: Beyond Pretence and Nuisance Variable,
Arguments in Favour of Upgrading an Eminent Protherapeutic Concept
("Aura Curae") Suppl.175, Wien. Klin. Wochenschr. Vol.
Heft 20, 1-20 (in German)