And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their fore heads" (Rev. 22:4).
Man is the crowning work of creation, and the crest of that crown is the human brain. Its living tables were designed to receive God's grace and reflect His glory—the principles, motives, and character of its Divine Designer. And the crown of the brain is the frontal lobes. Structurally and functionally, the forepart of the head is the top of the brain.
This fact is especially significant for ministers because recent scientific studies have revealed that spirituality and morality have their seat in the frontal lobes. Thus it is largely to this capital of the brain that pastors minister. So what ever helps the front of the brain helps the minister's work. And whatever hurts this part of the brain depreciates the pastor's influence in the individual, the home, the church, and the community. So it is important to understand the function of the brain's frontal lobes and how to preserve and strengthen them.
The importance of this part of the brain to morality is well illustrated in the cases of those who have undergone a frontal lobotomy, a surgical procedure in which the nerve fibers connecting the frontal lobes to the rest of the brain are severed. The most dramatic story is that of Phineas Gage. In 1848 Gage, the foreman of a railroad crew, dropped his steel tamping rod into his blasting powder. The resulting explosion shot the tamping bar under his left eye, through his brain, and out the top of his head. Gage's men helped him get to Dr. J. M. Harlow, who tended to his wounds and helped him regain his physical health.
Dr. Harlow reported to the Massachusetts Medical Society on the effects of this sudden frontal lobotomy. With his frontal lobes largely destroyed, Gage be came irreverent, irascible, and irresponsible. He manifested little deference for his fellows, was impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicted with his desires, and at times was pertinaciously obstinate, yet capricious and vacillating, devising many plans of future operation that were no sooner arranged than they were abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible. Finally he forsook his family and wandered off to see the world, ending up in Chile.
Another significant case is that of an English woman who was an officer in the Salvation Army. She had been incapacitated for years by a sense of guilt and was convinced that she had committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. Finally she had a frontal lobotomy. After the operation her psychiatrist asked, " 'How are you now? What about the Holy Ghost?' "
Smiling, she answered, 'Oh, the Holy Ghost; there is no Holy Ghost.' "1
A psychiatrist asked another English woman before lobotomy, "What is the thing to do if you lose a watch you have borrowed from a friend?" Her answer: "I expect you would have to pay for the loss of it." Several months after the lobotomy her answer to the same question was "Borrow another watch."2
One Swedish girl who was quite religiously inclined and liked to attend church to hear her brother preach had a lobotomy. Afterward she said she thought that religion was humbug and often teased her brother because of his vocation.
When the frontal lobes are badly compromised, the capacity to think on the level of principle is deficient; the power and relevance of principle almost vanish. In addition, the capacity for abstract thought, mathematical understanding, generalization, classification, interpretation of pro verbs, symbolic thinking, creativity, and serious reading may be impaired. Lobotomized patients become less concerned with truth and consequences, and more concerned with pleasures here and now. Though ordinary IQ performance may not decrease markedly, higher mental behaviors do suffer. A re cent work dealing with the frontal lobes puts it this way: "The frontal lobe ... is not the seat of intelligence, but it intervenes in all intellectual activities." 3
The structure of the front brain
The frontal lobes make up only 3 per cent of a cat's cortex. They comprise 7 percent of a dog's cortex, and about 15 percent of a chimpanzee's. But up to 33 percent of the human cortex is located in the frontal lobes.
Of all the lobes of the human brain, the frontal lobes are the largest. They make take as long as 30 years to fully develop anatomically, and they extend from the eyes to the top of the head and from the back of the forehead to the ears. These prominent frontal lobes contain thousands of the largest nerve cells of the human brain, some of which send three foot- long branches down the spine. But, more important, the frontal lobes contain millions of tiny cells that control the big ones.
Like the steering column in a car, which includes the shaft and all the connections that give control and finesse in driving, this steering mechanism of the brain, laced with rich two-way connections to all other parts of the brain, represents the pinnacle of brain function.
Judgment evaluates truth and behavior, and conscience evaluates moral rectitude, but the will is the governing power in our nature. Neurological study of World War I veterans demonstrated that shrapnel wounds of the front of the head reduce the will markedly. Similar lesions in the back of the head do not have the same effect. ' Will is a term used almost exclusively in philosophy/theology/psychiatry at present and, as such, is given metaphysical connotations," write two contemporary neurologists. "Nevertheless, human will represents a brain activity, one that can be altered by focal damage, and appears to be strongly linked to the functions of drive and motivation. Human will appears to be a frontal function." 4 Will is built by serious, motivated work; in turn, willpower helps build character. Every rail that Abraham Lincoln split tended to build willpower and character. Modern sedentary people, young and old, need regular physical work or exercise to build strong wills as well as strong bodies.
The front brain system is vital in the execution of tasks toward fulfillment of a goal. Related behaviors are concentration, determination, and initiative. Without the front of the brain people learn little from the past. They are shallow and show little foresight. They wander in the here and now.
Human decision or action is preceded by a preparatory electrical brain wave called the contingent negative variation. It is largest over the front brain, and the larger it is, the faster is the reaction time. This first anticipatory electrical sign can be produced by semantic, pictorial, or verbal signals, and may include components correlated with volition.
Eyes that see not
In Russia Dr. A. R. Luria studied visual processing by using carefully designed pictures. People with intact functioning frontal lobes can get the big picture—the real point—quickly and clearly. People with severe frontal deficits can see many details, but the larger meaning escapes them. They have eyes, but they see not! Why? We see physically in the back of the head. And we see with memory by using the sides of the brain. But the highest interpretation of vision is an active ongoing process involving integrated attention, intention, vigilance, anticipation, selection, planning, hypothesis processing, and, most critically, higher interpretation and verification. These processes are carried on in the frontal lobes. Even the motor control of the eyes is cared for in the front brain. The eyes and other major senses are indeed "avenues to the soul."
And the electronic traffic on these avenues is two-way. True vision is active, dynamic, and personal. People tend to see what they want to see, and new brain-scanning equipment has revealed that the more interpretation, or processing, an incoming visual or auditory stimulus requires, the more the frontal and other higher cortical areas become involved.
Speech and communication
Several aspects of effective speech re quire the front brain. Motor speech itself is managed by Broca's area, typically on the left side at the bottom, just in front of the motor strip where other muscle groups are managed.
In front of Broca's area—in the front brain—is the area that controls self-expression. If the function of this area is disrupted, the patient loses the ability for normal self-expression. And in the absence of control by this frontal area, behaviors such as swearing can erupt to the surprise and chagrin of all.
Overall, there is a splendid hierarchy of control. Though highly involved with other parts of the brain, speech is mainly controlled from the front brain in a blended mode of management that brings richness and quality of meaning, creativity of arrangement, pleasing melodic sound, smooth phrasing, spiritual coloring and enrichment, and overall appropriateness. This helps achieve splendid speech, which is basic to a successful ministry. How important, then, that the front of the brain be cultivated with the finest of thoughts, words, ideas, and motives.
Social and health functions
People with defective frontal lobes suffer abnormal social interaction. Carelessness in personal appearance, disregard for social, ethical, and moral standards, self-absorption, and reduced social interest, skill, and capacities combine to break down social behavior. Sexual aberration is also common among patients with damaged frontal lobes.
Overall body health can also be affected by damaged frontal lobes. Weight and appetite control in an affluent society where food is abundantly available is a serious problem. Though there are several mechanisms in the body to control appetite, the highest of these are in the front brain. Crucial to control are nerve fibers from the front brain that are connected to the feeding centers in the hypothalamus, at the bottom of the brain. Thus the top of the brain can signal the bottom to control how much we eat. When the front brain is deficient, appetite control is deficient or even absent.
Effects of alcohol and drugs
The frontal lobes are the first part of the brain to be affected by alcohol and other mind-altering drugs. Alcohol's deadening of moral sensibilities is widely recognized, and even appreciated, by its partakers. The negative effects of moral numbness were aptly illustrated in a study of American GIs in Italy after World War II. It was found that more than 70 percent of the GIs who had contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD) had been under the influence of alcohol when they contracted it.
The implications of this study for our society today are momentous. For one thing, we must come to recognize that "safe sex" propaganda cannot stop the spread of STDs in a society where the use of alcohol and mind-altering drugs is widely accepted and even promoted.
In an era when AIDS and other STDs are running rampant, it well behooves us to know how to maintain our frontal lobes in top condition, and even to strengthen their function so that they will always stand ready to control us and keep us healthy.
Protecting and improving the front brain system
The brain, especially the cortex, is plastic. Environment and other influences can have a profound effect for molding, strengthening, or on the other hand, weakening it. An animal in an old-fashioned zoo with little simulation of natural habitat can experience as much as a 25 percent decrease in the size of its brain cortex.
But an overall enrichment program causes the cortex of the brain to become thicker, heavier, and more richly endowed with enzymes. The tiny dendrites, the fingers of the mind, actually grow more branches. Therefore the brain is dynamic in structure and function. We can follow the computer principle "garbage in, garbage out," or the Bible principle "... whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7).
We get much of the "hardware" of the brain from our parents. But our environment and our behavior, our freewill choices, become the "software."
In the physiology of the brain, long-term memory, some learning, and habits may even, with time, become synaptic hardware. They may become permanent microstructural changes in the fabric of the outer layers of the brain. Thus some of today's choices may become tomorrow's tools—electronic tools in your very own living personal computer.
The following suggestions will help you to preserve and strengthen your brain, including the all-important front brain.
1. Protect it from mechanical injury. Most head injuries can be prevented. Safety is not weakness; it is good sense. When working, driving, or enjoying recreational activities, remember the golden egg of your life your head. If you must use a motorcycle or even a bicycle on a public road, wear a helmet. In cars use seat belts or harnesses. Children are more vulnerable than adults. Fasten them in.
2. Give it good blood. Fine health of the whole body helps make good blood. Fresh air and deep breathing help get vital oxygen into the blood. Then good circulation must deliver it to the billions of air-hungry brain cells. Almost one fifth of your oxygen consumption when you are at rest should go to the brain. Stale air means stale sermons.
3. Provide good nutrition. Of all the organs, the brain is the fussiest about its fuel and nutrition. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have complex carbohydrates that provide a steady supply of blood sugar the high-octane fuel of the brain. With these, plus legumes, seeds, and nuts, your body can build the best possible blood. It needs all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and some of the best natural fats available.
4. Avoid certain foods. Purity of nutrition is also vital. Eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is the best way to build pure blood. But to keep it pure there are certain foods and practices you need to avoid. Byproducts and waste from animal proteins can confuse those parts of the brain that are outside of the blood brain barrier system. Tyramine and tryptamine are two of the most familiar of these toxic amines that come from proteins. Tyramine acts as a counterfeit noradrenaline; it usurps noradrenaline's duties, and confuses communication in the brain.
There are other sources of chemical static as well. Toxins are a serious problem when alcohol compromises the liver, since the liver is our main "oil filter." Poor digestion and lifestyle practices can aggravate these difficulties. Daniel's daily growing oneness with God, his life of prayer, and his advanced nutritional practices helped him to succeed. No wonder he was 10 times wiser than the competition (Dan 1:20).
5. Give it good circulation. Blood goes where the action is. Where there is no real need, the circulation becomes sluggish. If modern sedentary people need anything, it is regular physical exercise. Work integrates the whole brain to fulfill an objective.
Physical labor is great for increasing the consciousness of personal value. A fine stack of wood worth $50 to $100 is not an image it is a fact! A new garage that a family has made is a permanent monument, if you please, to family team action. This perspective is not merely a hygienic nicety; it is a useful way to socially facilitate family fitness.
Faculties and functions of the body need a regular workout, tuned, of course, to age and overall situation. Brisk walks, especially in the morning, are a splendid way to prevent headaches so often caused by unrelieved brain work or stress. Who can think his best when he has a headache? Take exercise breaks; then your nerves can gain poise and power. Atherosclerosis and hypertension can slowly (or in the case of a stroke, suddenly) strangle the blood supply to your brain. They must be prevented or, at the very least, controlled.
6. Use it. The more pervasive and rushed our technological society gets, the more we need men and women who think. If we don't use front-brain skills, capacities, and attitudes, we will lose them. The brain thrives on meaningful challenge, on problem-solving without comes that are socially, personally, and eternally relevant. The law of atrophy of disuse applies to all of the body, including the brain.
7. Provide great inputs. The greatest, most enriching, ennobling, and challenging source known is the Bible. Use it faithfully as bread for the brain. It is such a charming blend of biography without bias, history without boredom, and truth without falsehood. We all need a sustained renewal of Bible study. "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).
The service principle
Human beings are much more than machines. We are free in Christ! But some of the same principles that apply in science can help guide us to more success, fulfillment, and happiness. For maximum efficiency an excellent ma chine, like a fine computer, needs the best inputs, the best throughputs, and the best outputs. So with the brain. Great inputs, like the Scriptures, and splendid throughputs, like serious thought, are essential. But we all need excellence of output. Here is where real service shines. The ordained minister or the layman who enjoys unselfishly serving the needs of others and witnessing for God will be building better motives, better principles, and a better character. We don't need inflated self-wills. We need men and women who know how to team up with others, how to focus all their faculties and functions to get something practical done for God, for the church, for the community. God works in beautifully as we work out wholeheartedly. We add; He multiplies.
The Bible is not and cannot be just garnish for information (the back brain) or an annoyance and restrainer of earthy pleasure and shallow feelings (the bot tom brain). Instead God's Word is an instrument for the building of Christlike character.
This character is most especially represented in the front of the brain. This is the unique most holy place in man, set apart for His way, His truth, and His life. Our personality, character, and success, as well as that of our flocks, can be markedly improved by steady, eager cooperation with a loving Lord who designed, sustains, and can glorify the front-brain system with His character. This character is not a luxury, but a necessity. Hence the whole person can be blessed. Then by His agency we can choose to become His agents. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt 24:14).
1. J. F. Fulton, ed., The Frontal Lobes (New York:Haftier Pub. Co., Inc., 1966), p. 703.
2. Quoted in A. Petrie, Personality and the Frontal Lobes (New York: The BlakistonCo., 1952), p. 136.
3. D. T. Stuss and D. F. Benson, The Frontal Lobes (New York: Raven Press, 1986), p. 203.
4. Ibid., p. 243.