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THE FRONTAL LOBE: The Crown of the Brain

Function of the Frontal Lobe


Damaged Frontal Lobe Caused Deterioration of Character
Before the accident Phineas was a well-loved, responsible, and intelligent worker and husband. He was known as a
person with high morals and was described according to one account as "a pious and reverent churchgoer." So
excellent was Phineas character that work records lauded him as "the most efficient and capable foreman"
employed by the Rutland and Burlington Railroad. After the accident, Gage seemed to be physically just as fit and
mentally just as intelligent. He could work and speak just as well as he could before the accident. His memory was
just as good.
But some major things were different after the accident. His moral decline was immediately evident. He became
very emotional about things and would get angry quickly. Not long after his injury he lost interest in church and
spiritual things. Phineas became irreverent, and prone to excessive profanity. He lost all respect for social customs
and became totally irresponsible. He went from a prized employee to the unemployment rolls. His company
dismissed him when he could no longer responsibly discharge his duties. Dr. John Harlow, his physician, stated that
the accident destroyed Gages "equilibrium or balance, so to speak, between his intellectual faculty and his animal
propensities." He ended up forsaking his wife and family and joining a traveling circus. Phineas Gages traumatic
frontal lobotomy cost him his personality, his moral standards, and his commitment to family, church, and loved
ones.
Phineas died about 13 years after the accident. Dr. Harlow found out about his death some five years after the
fact, and apparently for the sake of science, made an unusual request. He asked Phineas family if they would allow
his body to be exhumed and his skull kept as a permanent medical record. The family agreed, and to this day the
skull along with the tamping iron (which was buried alongside Phineas) are housed in the Warren Anatomical
Medical Museum at Harvard University.1
Since no autopsy was done, speculation has continued throughout the years as to where precisely the injury
occurred. The landmark status of this illustrious case was further testified to in 1994, when one of the worlds most
prestigious scientific journals, Science, devoted its cover story to Phineas Gage.2 The journal featured an article coauthored by scientists at Harvard, the University of Iowa, and the Salk Institute in San Diego. These researchers
used advanced computer modeling and X-ray studies of the skull to try to pinpoint the exact part of the brain that
actually had been damaged. They concluded that Phineas Gage had lost an important area on both sides of the
front part of his brain, known as the left and right regions of the frontal lobes.
What do we learn from Phineas Gages unique case? It demonstrated that a section of the brain, the frontal lobe,
is responsible for moral reasoning and social behavior.

Lifestyle Factors Can Also Damage the Frontal Lobe

This area of the brain has taken on even greater significance today for at least two reasons. First, there is a growing
emphasis on personal development and mental performance. Second, many feel that societal norms and moral
reasoning are crumbling. Some neuroscientists are wondering if there are physical reasons to explain such
purported changes. Can there be lifestyle factors that may damage this critical part of the brain and affect, in
essence, who we are? The answer is definitely "Yes."
Our daily lifestyle practices can indeed affect our temperament, our emotions, and our behavior. The front part of
our brain can either be enhanced or compromised by our habitual choices. This revelation of brain science has
profound implications for all of us. By understanding the factors that affect our frontal lobes, we can improve our
performance in work or school, develop better social skills, be more responsible parents, neighbors, or spousesand the list goes on. Although most people do not pick up a health book to read about their frontal lobes, this may
be the most important chapter in my entire book. I encourage you to read what follows carefully. Your ability to
successfully implement the healthy lifestyle changes advocated in this book may well depend on your frontal lobe
operating at peak efficiency.

Functions of the Frontal Lobe


The brain is divided into several sections, or lobes. Each lobe has specific functions. Behind the forehead are the
frontal lobes. For convenience, we refer to both the right and the left frontal lobes collectively as "the frontal
lobe." It is the largest lobe of the brain.3 It is the seat of judgment, reasoning, intellect, and the will.4, 5, 6 It is the
control center of our entire being. Some scientists refer to the frontal lobe as the "crown" of the brain. Studies
show that this so-called "crown" performs a variety of vital functions. Some of these are listed in Figure 2: The
Frontal Lobe - The Crown of the Brain.7
Spirituality, character, morality, and will are the characteristics that give us our unique individuality. Therefore, a
person with a damaged frontal lobe may look the same as they always did, but if you interact with them, it is
usually apparent that they are "just not the same." The Book of Books alludes to the significance of the frontal lobe
in knowing God. The last book of the Bible makes a provocative statement, quoted in Figure 3: Revelation 22:4.
This text suggests that Gods character ("His name") is reproduced in our character (exemplified by the frontal
lobe, which is just behind our forehead).

Brain Size and Function


It is fascinating to observe how the size of the frontal lobe differs among men and various beasts. It is the frontal
lobe that largely sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, as shown in Figure 4: Frontal Lobe Size of
Humans vs. Animals.8
Those with the smallest frontal lobes have limited instinct-driven ways of life. Those with larger frontal lobes are
able to perform more complex functions. Cats, with only 3.5 percent of the brain in the frontal lobe, are limited in
judgment and reasoning power. They have a very limited capability to analyze information and make judgments
based on new information; thus, they basically rely on instinct. Dogs are more trainable because 7 percent of their

brain is in the frontal lobe. Among the animals, chimpanzees have the largest frontal lobe-up to 17 percent of their
brain. Humans, on the other hand, have 33 to 38 percent of their brain in the frontal lobe.
Some animals have other portions of the brain that are more developed than human beings. For instance,
compared to humans, chimpanzees have much larger cerebellums-the brain area that controls coordination. This
stands to reason, because chimps need well-honed balance and agility to swing from tree to tree. Birds also have
very well developed cerebellums for flying, landing, and hunting. All of these activities require a high level of
coordination. Other animals may have a much more generous occipital lobe-the brain center where vision is
housed. Hence, their eyesight is generally much better than that of humans. Still other animals have more
developed parietal lobes. However, for humans, the difference is clearly our much larger frontal lobe. Thus, we
have the capacity for elevated spiritual reasoning and superior learning ability. To fully appreciate the significance
of the frontal lobes, it is valuable to examine a few more cases from the annals of medical history. One of the
reasons for this is that Phineas Gage only lost part of his frontal lobes. Lifestyle choices can affect our entire frontal
lobes-albeit in less dramatic ways than Phineas loss.

Frontal Lobe Impairment from Drugs, Nicotine,Alcohol, Caffeine, and a Toxic Chemical.
What Lifestyle Factors Affect our Frontal Lobes?
To maximize the efficiency of our frontal lobes we must focus on both the positive things we should be doing and
the negative things we should be avoiding. In fact, by fully recognizing the ways that we often compromise our
frontal lobes, we can better appreciate how the healthful factors can aid us in expanding brain capacities. From
this perspective, I will begin by looking at lifestyle habits that impair frontal lobe function. I will later address some
of the key factors that are calculated to improve frontal lobe function.
A list of drugs to avoid in order to protect our frontal lobe is shown in Figure 11: Drugs that Damage our Frontal
Lobes.

Effect of Drugs on the Frontal Lobe


Many Americans have been wringing their hands of late regarding our nations heavy and increasing use of drugs.
There has been a sharp upturn recently in both the acceptance of illicit drugs and the use of those drugs among
American youth according to many widely publicized surveys.31 Parents are afraid their children will use illicit
drugs because of their addictive nature and the physical, mental, and social implications of that addiction. They
also fear what their children might do while "under the influence," such as engaging in high-risk behaviors that
could ultimately cut short their young lives. This last concern is especially important. Even a person who does not
appear to be intoxicated can have blunted frontal lobe function. Such impairment predisposes to risk-taking
behaviors that can result in an automobile accident, contracting HIV infection, or some other life-changing or lifeshortening event.
Drugs other than illicit drugs impair frontal lobe function. Many feel cheated if they pay to see a doctor and do not
walk away with at least one prescription for a medicinal drug. Television, radio, and magazine ads bombard us with

our need for over-the-counter remedies. Caffeine and alcohol are culturally accepted drugs. Nicotine use is socially
stigmatized in many settings, but is still treated legally as a lifestyle choice, not a powerfully addictive mindaltering drug.

Illicit Drugs and Mental Impairment


The dangers of illicit drugs on mental performance are well recognized. There seems to be little need to belabor
how such "mind altering" drugs alter the mind-including the frontal lobe. This problem, however, is even worse
than previously thought. There is growing evidence that drugs of abuse affect the brain long after their acute
effects have worn off. Recent research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that college students
who were regular marijuana users had defects in their attention, memory, and learning even 24 hours after their
last use of the drug.32 Long after the high was over, the brain was still struggling along in low gear. Marijuana, like
its cousins alcohol and nicotine, has now been demonstrated to harm the brain of the developing fetus. A mother
who uses marijuana gives her child a lifelong legacy of brain impairment.33 The message from marijuana research
applies to the use of alcohol, which is covered later in this chapter; namely, the brain performance of those who
use alcohol and other mind-altering drugs can be impaired long after the user thinks the effects have worn off. For
optimal frontal lobe function, leave illicit drugs out of the picture.

Legal Drugs Can Also Assault the Frontal Lobe


Many prescription and over-the-counter drug medications can also depress frontal lobe function. If you go to a
library and read a drug reference about the effect that various drugs have, you will find that many have an
influence on the central nervous system, and one of the most commonly affected areas of the central nervous
system is the frontal lobe. Many people are on medications that are not actually necessary, and their side effects
may be harmful to the personality and character. This is why, before deciding to take medications, the benefits
need to be carefully weighed against the risks. A list of classes of drugs that commonly affect the mind is shown in
Figure 12: Drugs that Commonly Affect the Mind.34If you are currently on one of these drugs, do not stop it
abruptly. Instead, work with your doctor. After all, it is not an easy decision to know what to do with many of these
medications. A good case in point is provided by the high blood pressure drugs. Some of those medications may
impair frontal lobe function. However, if the high blood pressure is not adequately treated, a stroke may be the
result, causing much more profound frontal lobe impairment. For this reason, many physicians are advocating
lifestyle therapies as the optimal means of controlling blood pressure. Chapter 6, "One Nation Under Pressure,"
presents such therapies. More information is given later in this chapter on the importance of controlling blood
pressure for maximizing frontal lobe function.
It is now becoming a part of mainstream medical practice to help people get off drugs rather than adding new
medications to their program. Research on older Americans shows that they are at higher than normal risk for
impaired mental function, drug side effects, and also deleterious effects from high blood pressure. The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently pointed out that Americans 65 and older have nearly twice the risk
of adverse drug reactions compared to those that are younger.35 Furthermore, they highlighted the fact that high
blood pressure drugs frequently cause adverse side effects in this population group. The CDC from this perspective
asserted: "one important strategy for preventing adverse drug reactions among elderly persons is to limit the

number of drugs used." 36


Of course, concerns for drug side effects and a resulting advocacy of lifestyle change for disease treatment have
existed long before this recent CDC proclamation. One of the more interesting historical statements along these
lines was written by Ellen White. Her words are quoted in Figure 13: Lifestyle in Contrast to Drug Treatment.37
Social drugs often interact with prescription drugs to produce side effects. For example, alcohol adds significantly
to the risk of adverse consequences of drugs-including effects on mental clarity. In a study of over 100 recently
hospitalized individuals who represented a broad cross section of the population (men and women, 14 to 88 years
old), 10 percent had interactions between alcohol and the medications they were given upon leaving the
hospital.38

Alcohol Injures the Frontal Lobe


Alcohol has direct effects on the frontal lobe in addition to it worsening the risk of medication side effects. In fact,
it is one of Americas most popular frontal lobe assailants. Let us examine some illuminating research along these
lines.
Several years ago, alcoholics and non-alcoholics were studied by two modern diagnostic tests: magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI) and positron emission topography (PET scanning). The MRI is a now-familiar scan that can look at
the actual structure of the brain. Among the alcoholics, it revealed a striking amount of loss of frontal lobe gray
matter. The gray matter is where the bodies of the brain nerve cells are concentrated (in contrast to the deeper
lying white matter where the nerve fibers leaving those cells predominate). Technically called "cortical atrophy,"
this condition of gray matter loss indicates an actual loss of brain cells that are involved in critical frontal lobe
functions. On the other hand, PET scanning looks at brain function. In this testing, the alcoholics showed a lower
glucose metabolism-indicative of less frontal lobe activity.39
These frontal lobe-impairing effects are not confined to heavy alcohol users. Researchers found a measurable
decrease in abstract thinking ability among 1300 men and women who were social drinkers. These individuals
drank as little as one alcoholic beverage per week. The average man in the study only had about two drinking
occasions per week and consumed two or three alcoholic drinks on those occasions. The women drank even less.
On the average, they only drank every fifth day and consumed two alcoholic drinks. Even with these low levels of
use, assessments of mental functioning showed impairment. In fact, as alcohol intake increased, their ability to
think abstractly (a measure of frontal lobe performance) decreased even more.40 These changes could not be
explained by acute alcohol effects or intoxication, because all assessments of mental function were done at least
24 hours after the last consumption of alcohol.
Many people believe that automobile accidents are more frequent among drinkers primarily because of the
profound effects on coordination, judgment, and alertness seen in "drunks" and others who are manifestly
intoxicated. However, in many cases the problem may actually relate to more subtle deficits in judgment that
occur in apparently unimpaired social drinkers. Such alcohol-using drivers may have no impairment in
coordination. Their speech may well appear normal. However, a few moments later they may find themselves
skidding off the highway or involved in a collision. The reason? Their impaired judgment failed to provide adequate
warning about the speed to successfully negotiate a curve or stop in time in the face of an impending roadway

emergency. Individuals with a blood alcohol level of 0.05-0.09 percent, less than the legal limit in most states, have
at least nine times the risk of a fatal traffic accidents than at zero.41 This is largely due to the fact that alcohol
impairs the frontal lobe long before it impairs other parts of the brain such as the coordination center.
Alcohol also interferes with the development of the fetal brain. It is well recognized that women who use alcohol
during pregnancy adversely affect their offspring for life. The Alcohol chapter (Chapter 17 entitled "Want a
Drink?"), explains this further. This has been demonstrated in animal tests as well.42 The animal research is
particularly interesting-and sobering-because it points to another risk factor for childhood brain impairment:
paternal alcohol use.43 Fathers who drink are likely impairing their childrens frontal lobes. Ellen White decades
ago wrote about the importance of the influence of such paternal factors. Her comments are quoted in Figure 14:
The Unborn are Afflicted by Parental use of Alcohol.44, 45

Effects of Diet and Nutrition on the Function of the Frontal Lobe.


Enhancing Brain Function through Breast Feeding, Polyunsaturated Fats, And Vitamins.
Our earliest dietary choices are not really ours to make. Those who were fortunate enough to have mothers that
chose to breast feed them were bequeathed a precious frontal lobe legacy. Research shows that children who are
breast-fed have a mental edge that persists at least for years and probably for a lifetime.77, 78 All of the reasons
for the breast-milk advantage are not clear. However, one factor appears to be the fat content of breast milk. Dr.
Yokota of Japan showed that newborn rats need adequate amounts of omega 3 fats in their diet. Without those
fats, learning is impaired.79 Other international research teams such as Bourre and his French colleagues80 have
made similar discoveries in animal tests. All have demonstrated the vital need for the omega 3 fats in the
developing mammalian brain. It is well recognized in research circles that traditional human infant formula
provides substandard amounts of omega-3 fats when compared to breast milk.81 Supplementing the childs diet
with foods other than formula cannot reasonably make up the omega-3 deficit. One group of researchers came to
this stunning conclusion: "It is concluded that it is virtually impossible to supplement the diet of formula-fed
infants to match the long-chain PUFA intake of breast-fed infants with currently available whole foods."82
The superiority of breast-feeding is obviously important information for expectant parents. However the proper
type of fat also seems to be necessary for short term learning in adults. Dr. Coscina and colleagues demonstrated
this fact a decade ago.83 They fed two groups of adult rats diets that had identical amounts of fat. However, the
fat came from different sources. After only three weeks, rats given a diet based on a moderate amount of
vegetable fat (20 percent polyunsaturated soybean oil) exhibited improved learning skills compared to those fed a
diet based on 20 percent saturated fat (lard). The authors saw this as solid evidence "that short-term variations in
the quality of dietary fat can enhance mammalian learning." Israeli researchers have also found that animals on a
diet that is adequate in such plant fats as alpha linolenic acid and linoleic acid can improve memory and help the
brain tolerate pain better.84
Dr. Bernell Baldwin suggests one explanation for why the type of fat may make a difference. The saturated fats
that are typically found in animal products may make brain nerve communication more difficult. His hypothesis is
that the membranes where brain communication takes place (called synapses) are rendered more rigid by a diet
rich in saturated fat; while unsaturated fats from vegetables, seeds, and nuts induce more flexible membranes that
promote more efficient brain communications. 85 Some of the most recent research has continued to

demonstrate the harmful effects of saturated fat on brain performance, but has not found evidence to suggest
that such membrane changes are responsible.86 Another possibility is that some of the unsaturated fats actually
have beneficial effects that may be blocked by their saturated cousins. If this is true, unsaturated fats such as the
omega-3 fats may be especially important for adult learning as well. Fortunately, for adults, there are other
sources of these high quality fats besides breast milk. In Chapter 5, "The Truth About Fish," explores a unique class
of fats called Omega-3 fats, and lists a number of excellent vegetarian sources of these nutrients.
Ingestion of polyunsaturated fats are not the only nutritional keys to optimal brain function. Adequate vitamin and
mineral intake also appear to be essential for human brain performance. Some of the micronutrients that have a
role in improving our brains achievements include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, B12, folic acid, the antioxidant
vitamins A, C, and E, and iron.87, 88, 89 The growing list of such nutrients argues for a well-balanced diet that is
rich in a broad array of these compounds.

Lessons from Carbohydrates


Other parts of the body can use fat, protein, or carbohydrate for energy, but not the brain. The brain uses glucose,
a simple carbohydrate, almost exclusively as its source of energy.90 Apparently as a result of the brains very rapid
metabolism, it is dependent on minute-to-minute supplies of this simple carbohydrate. This becomes easier to
appreciate when you understand that the brain has a metabolic rate 7.5 times greater than the average body
tissue.91 Although it makes up only 2 percent of our bodys mass, the brain accounts for 15 percent of our total
metabolism. The brain, however, does not have much room to store nutrients-space is extremely limited by the
hard shell of the skull. Only a two-minute supply of glucose is available to the brain cells-and this is in the form of
glycogen-the storage form of sugar. Thus, for peak performance, the frontal lobe requires blood with a steady and
adequate glucose level. In the chapter on sugar and diabetes (Chapter 8), I point out how a diet containing lots of
refined foods can cause the blood sugar to rise quickly, and then fall below normal. Such food options abound at
snack machines and dessert counters. They are best left out of our diets. It would be better to eat liberally of a
wholesome variety of complex carbohydrates such as those found in potatoes, rice, whole grain breads, and
cereals. Simple sugars are carbohydrates too, but it is important to understand the distinction between the simple
sugars in concentrated snack foods and those found in natural fruits that come packaged with a wealth of fiber.
Years ago when scientists first discovered that the brain functioned best with carbohydrate fuel, some people
began referring to candy bars as "brain food." Eventually we learned that, for sustained performance, refined
sugar was not brain food at all; it was just the opposite, as stated in Figure 19: Sugar and the Frontal Lobe.
One study of 46 five-year old boys was particularly revealing.92 Boys with little sugar in their diet had superior
attention spans and more accurate responses than their high-sugar consuming peers. The difference could not be
explained by IQ or the parents social or education status. When tested, the boys on a low refined-sugar diet
performed the equivalent of one whole grade letter higher in school. This provocative study suggests that a better
diet will help transform a B-student into an A-level scholar.
If sugar is a carbohydrate and carbohydrate is the frontal lobes preferred fuel, then how could a high sugar diet
impair brain function? Let me try to give you the best explanation I have found of this apparent paradox. Our
bodies were created to eat foods such as fruits and grains in a natural, unrefined state. These foods help to keep
our blood sugar at a fairly constant level. However, when refined sugary foods enter the digestive system, the

blood sugar rises dramatically, and the body reacts as if it were just exposed to a great volume of natural food. In
response, the pancreas produces a large amount of insulin. However, the rapid rise in blood sugar is deceptive.
Unlike natural plant foods, foods rich in refined sugar tend to be quickly absorbed. The result is that the rapid rise
in blood sugar is short-lived. With insulin still present and no more sugar coming in via the digestive tract, the
blood sugar level can plunge. It is not unusual for the blood sugar to drop well below where it was before the
sugary food was eaten. If a persons blood sugar level falls low enough, frontal lobe functions can suffer due to
inadequate fuel supplies.
To make matters worse, probably the most common response to hypoglycemia is to eat yet another sugary snack.
Although this will drive the blood sugar up quickly again, research demonstrates that it takes the brain another 45
to 75 minutes to regain normal intellectual function after the blood sugar returns to normal.93,94 The message I
take away from this research is that adults as well as school children need to make correct dietary choices if they
want to function at peak mental efficiency. Each day should begin with a high-quality breakfast that includes a
balanced selection of plant sources of nutrition. I prefer a variety of fruits and whole grains along with a few nuts.
These items tend to keep the blood sugar in the proper range throughout the entire morning without a need for
snacks. I explain more fully the importance of eating a wholesome breakfast in Chapter 1, "Principles for Optimal
Health."
A liberal supply of fruits, vegetables, and grains provides the best nourishment for the frontal lobe. All of these
foods contain a healthy quantity of carbohydrates. On the other hand, essentially every type of meat is devoid of
carbohydrates. If you look at food tables, you will see a recurring theme-whether it is red meat, fish, or chickenthey all score a big zero (or very close to it) in the carbohydrate category.95 These foods are generally high in fat
and protein, but deficient in carbohydrate, which may be one reason why meat appears to be associated with
subtle frontal lobe impairment.
There is, however, irony in all this data. Because the brain is very adaptable and becomes used to the lifestyle you
are on, even healthy changes may cause a short-term decline in brain efficiency before any improvement occurs. It
is analogous to the situation with nicotine that I describe in Chapter 16 in kicking the smoking habit. Despite
nicotines deleterious brain effects, when a person stops smoking, sleep quality and mental agility tend to get
worse before they get better. The same is probably true with diet. Research suggests that when people
dramatically increase their intake of fat or even carbohydrate, mental performance can suffer in the short term.
However, continuing with the better lifestyle will bring the expected benefits in time. The message is: no matter
how difficult it may be in the short term, develop new health habits and stick with them.96

Effects of Hypnotism, TV, and Music on the Frontal Lobe.


Hypnosis and the Frontal Lobe
Let us now move from the field of diet and nutrition to another area that can impact the health of our frontal
lobes. We now turn our attention to a very popular method for dealing with things ranging from common bad
habits to emotionally devastating childhood trauma. That method is hypnotism. Despite its innocent demeanor
cultivated by circus performances, media presentations, and mass smoking-cessation programs, hypnotism can
cause some serious side effects. Among the down sides of this popular "therapy" is frontal lobe impairment.

The connection between hypnotism and the frontal lobe comes as no surprise to those who understand this
technique. Hypnosis, by design, bypasses the frontal lobe as it helps the subject enter into a trance-like state. Dr.
Freda Morris, a former professor of medical psychology at UCLA, has written several books on hypnosis. In her
words, hypnosis is a state characterized by a single-minded focus on only one thing, "like a bird watching a
snake."133 While hypnotized, the subject is inattentive to all other environmental cues. A hypnotist can often
induce such a state first by helping the subjects to remain quiet and still, free from all outside diversions. Next, the
hypnotist helps them develop that new focus "on a certain point." Once they enter a hypnotic state, they are
encouraged to follow the hypnotists mind.
If brain waves were measured with an EEG (electroencephalogram) during this process, we would see that the
hypnotized person loses beta waves from the brain. This beta activity indicates sound thinking that involved
dynamic frontal lobe activity. In the hypnotized state, however, an alpha brain pattern is operative,134 during
which we do not critically analyze incoming information.135 Alpha waves are brain waves of a lower frequency
than beta waves. In this state, an individual will record information and suggestions without interpretation and
without frontal lobe filtering.
A flickering light that trains the eyes to focus in one place has been noted to easily induce a hypnotic state. During
the hypnotic state, individuals can receive information of various kinds, and can mentally record the duties the
hypnotist asks them to perform. Indeed, their memory works well, their emotions work fine, and they can laugh
and cry. But as they continue to focus on the flickering light they do not critically analyze the information they
receive.136 None of the information is filtered according to their sense of values or moral worth; their very
reasoning powers are being bypassed. The frontal lobe has been short-circuited.
Humans have been given large frontal lobes for a good reason. To compromise this control center of the brain,
even temporarily, is dangerous. Today, hypnotism has become quite popular and comes in several forms. The
medical literature is filled with examples of hypnosis being used for psychiatric and/or behavioral problems,
spanning a broad spectrum from traumatic events of childhood to current problems with overeating or nicotine
use.
There are other more subtle forms of hypnotism: Eastern meditation, or yoga, is promoted for stress control, but
Dr. Freda Morris points out that in many cases it is really a technique of self-hypnosis.137 For this reason, such
meditation is potentially dangerous. The parallels between Eastern meditation and hypnotism are examined in
Chapter 14,
"Stress Without Distress." Differences between Eastern and Christian meditation can be found in the same
chapter.From my perspective, stress control can be obtained in a much safer way by entering into an experience of
meditation and prayer to a personal God, speaking to Him as we would a respected friend. One of the reasons I
make such a recommendation is because of my understanding of the mental effects of different types of spiritual
disciplines. For example, if you connect stressed individuals to a biofeedback monitor (a stress-measuring device),
whether they practice yoga or Eastern meditation, or pray to God, they will all very likely show significant stress
reduction. However, only those who are praying still have their reasoning powers fully intact. The healthy, thinking
beta brain waves will be present during prayer at the same time measurable stress reduction is occurring. Thus,
communicating with God in prayer provides a more balanced form of meditation.

Television Weakens Brain Power


The effects of television are far-reaching. One of the greatest concerns in academic circles is that the TV viewers
interest in reading is markedly reduced. The more television watched, the greater the interest in reading suffers.
Children who spend many hours each day watching TV tend to be poor readers. Their reading ability and reading
comprehension scores both suffer.152 Learning other subjects such as history, geography, mathematics, and
English is based on reading; thus, poor readers have a general learning handicap. The result has been a consistent
decline in the average reading skills of our youth since TV began to be influential in the 1950s. Television affects
more than reading skills. It weakens brain power in general. This is true at any age, from early childhood to the
"golden years." A recent study revealed that certain activities of retired persons increased mental capacity while
other activities decreased it.153 The results are shown in Figure 23: Brain Power - Use it or Lose It.
These results are encouraging: by avoiding mind-numbing activities like watching television and engaging in
challenging activities, even people of retirement age can improve mental ability. Retirement does not mean that
your brain has to waste away.
Another way that television undermines health is by encouraging poor lifestyle habits. As we explored earlier in
the chapter, nutrition is important for the brain to function properly. Many children and teenagers are not
functioning at their full frontal lobe capacity because of their eating habits. If you view a few childrens programs
(and some adult programs for that matter), you will notice that a variety of sugar-laden, high fat foods are
frequently advertised.154 Large sections of our supermarkets are loaded with these television-advertised snack
foods, not because they are good for us, but because they sell well. As we have already seen in this chapter, these
items are really "anti-brain foods." This research demonstrates a principle commonly seen: compromise of the
frontal lobe by one activity (in this case, television) favors poorer choices (for example, junk food consumption)
which in turn lead to further compromise of the frontal lobe.
The poorer lifestyle habits fostered by TV appear to be a major factor in the epidemic of childhood obesity. Many
studies reveal that television watching and obesity in children are directly related: the more TV a child watches,
the heavier he or she tends to be. In addition to causing poorer food choices, University of Tennessee researchers
helped to clarify some other reasons for this relationship. They studied the effect of television viewing on 31
children between 8 and 12 years old. Fifteen of the children were obese and sixteen were normal in weight. Each
childs metabolic rate was measured both during television viewing and when at rest doing nothing. The findings
are shown in Figure 24: T.V. or not T.V.? - Fat is the Question.155
Television viewing requires no physical involvement, yet occupies an average of 26 hours a week for most children.
They are spending many hours without any significant mental or physical activity.156 In addition to increasing
passivity in this way, the medium of television itself actually slows metabolism more than if you were just sitting in
a room resting.157 This provides a further argument in favor of the altered "trance-like" state that television is
able to induce. All of these factors contribute to the rise in childhood obesity, which has become epidemic in the
U.S., affecting over 25 percent of our kids.158 Obese children often become obese adults. To further compound
matters, obesity in adults increases the risk of "sleep apnea"159 with its frontal lobe and overall brain impairment.
When an individual with sleep apnea relaxes during sleep, the "overweight" airway often closes, causing up to a
minute of apnea-literally no breathing-bringing about a dramatic fall in oxygen saturation. Such individuals not
only snore loudly, but they do not obtain a restful sleep, and thus are frequently found unintentionally falling
asleep during daylight hours. If the individual loses weight, the sleep apnea is often cured and the brain and frontal
lobe abilities improve.

Summary List of Seven Actions to Take for Enhancing the Function of the Frontal Lobe. 1.Protect the Frontal Lobe
from Mechanical Injury
Mechanical injury can inflict permanent brain damage. Boxing, football, and motorcycle riding are examples of
high-risk activities. Blows to the head while boxing frequently damage the tiny blood vessels, particularly in the
frontal lobe. A boxer with these injuries is sometimes referred to as being "punch drunk." Other sports can lead to
similar injuries. All such avocations are best avoided by those who want to protect good frontal lobe function.
Frontal lobe injury by mechanical means is not limited to sports participants. Head injuries from automobile
collisions can inflict frontal lobe damage. For this reason, car seat belts and shoulder harnesses are a must.
Furthermore, work place injuries are not confined to the Phineas Gages of yesteryear. Take all reasonable safety
precautions on the job.

2.Prevent Diseases That May Damage the Frontal Lobe


The proper use of preventive medicine principles can also help you to preserve frontal lobe function. A number of
diseases can lead to loss of frontal lobe capacity. Many of these maladies are potentially preventable. Strokes are
among the most worrisome; yet, they can often be prevented by controlling risk factors such as high blood
pressure. Independent risk factors for stroke in people between the ages of 16 and 60 include: high blood
pressure, diabetes, current tobacco use, heart disease, and alcohol consumption (within 24 hours preceding the
onset of the stroke).190 Women need to add oral contraceptives to this stroke risk factor list.191
Recent research indicates that high blood pressure itself can affect brain efficiency.192, 193 In one of these
studies, 42 hypertensives (high blood pressure patients) were compared with 42 people without high blood
pressure. They all underwent MRI scanning, a widely available procedure that takes detailed pictures of the brain.
Intelligence tests were also given to the subjects. The results are shown in Figure 31: Hypertension and
Intelligence.194
Note that high blood pressure inflicted visible frontal lobe white matter damage as well as damage to the subjects
intelligence. The white matter portion of the brain is involved with nerve impulse conduction and is rich in nerve
fibers. Its color comes from these nerve fibers that are insulated with a white substance called myelin. Note,
furthermore, that the white matter lesions were present no matter how successfully the blood pressure had been
treated with drug therapy. This research suggests that only by controlling blood pressure with lifestyle can such
brain damage be prevented. Chapter 6 explains how high blood pressure can be addressed or avoided by natural
means, without medication. Still other research has documented another brain damaging effect of high blood
pressure; namely, brain atrophy, or brain shrinkage. Brain size as measured by MRI is smaller in those with high
blood pressure. This is described in Figure 32: Hypertension and Brain Shrinking.195
High blood pressure and strokes are not the only conditions that can jeopardize the frontal lobe. Physical

conditions often affect brain performance. Heart conditions can lead to problems that later affect the brain.
Nervous system disorders of many sorts compromise brain function. In fact, just being ill with any serious disease
will tend to have measurable brain effects. The bottom line is to follow a healthful lifestyle that addresses your
bodys total needs.

3.Improve the Quality of Your Brains Blood Supply


Enhancing the quality of our brains blood supply is important. Again, this factor stands to help the entire brain,
not just the frontal lobe. How can we provide it? By breathing clean, fresh, well-oxygenated air. I discuss in some
detail the benefits of fresh air on mental performance in Chapter 20, Beyond the Leading Causes of Death. There I
discuss the body of research suggesting that negatively charged ions in fresh air enhance mental performance.
However, more than air quality may well be affecting mental performance. Our habits of breathing may also make
a difference. In a classroom or office setting we may not realize that most of us tend to take shallow breaths. This
may be one reason why after 30 minutes we may find it somewhat more difficult to concentrate. Shallow
breathing may have such deleterious effects by allowing our blood oxygen level (called "oxygen saturation") to dip
below the level necessary for optimal frontal lobe performance.196 Consciously taking deep breaths periodically
may help to counter this tendency. By taking deep breaths, particularly of fresh air, we may be able to boost
oxygen saturation sufficiently to improve frontal lobe function. In addition to taking deep breaths while sitting,
regular aerobic exercise (outdoors preferably) will cause the heart to pump vital, oxygenated blood to the brain.

4.Provide Good Nutrition


I have focused a large portion of this chapter on the role of good nutrition in optimal frontal lobe function. A total
vegetarian diet that is free from all stimulating agents appears to be the best diet to improve the abilities of our
front brains. Nursing infants should be breast-fed.

5.Get Adequate Sunshine


Sunlight may increase serotonin production in the daytime. This, in turn, can help prevent depression and
fatigue.197 I deal with some of these relationships in the context of sunshines sleep-enhancing role in Chapter 9
on melatonin. Further details of sunshines benefits on whole person health are chronicled in Chapter 20, "Beyond
the Leading Causes of Death."

6.Challenge Your Frontal Lobes


By all means, exercise the thinking power of your brain! Just as our muscles shrivel if we do not use them, so it is
with our frontal lobe. Challenging mental tasks will help to maintain our mental acuity by stimulating the frontal
lobe. Serious reading, the study of nature, asking questions about the vast world surrounding us, and other

wholesome uses of our mental capacities tend to produce salutary frontal lobe effects. One recent study found
that imagining a certain activity stimulated 80 percent of the brain circuitry that would be used to physically
perform the very task imagined.198 Such mental practice strengthens the brain cell connections, and when the
time comes to execute the activity, the individual is better prepared.
Mental activity in children and teenagers is especially important in enhancing the ability to learn. Scientists have
now discovered the first strong evidence that intellectual stimulation can significantly increase the number of brain
cells in a crucial region of the brain. Previously it was thought that the number of active brain cells was more-orless set early in childhood. This landmark study was performed at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.199
There, young mice were provided with an enriched environment, with more games and toys, and room to roam in
extra large cages. When the results were in, those mice had developed 15 percent more brain cells in a key part of
the brain responsible for memory and learning than genetically identical mice living in sparse surroundings. The
extra brain cells enabled them to negotiate complex mazes faster and more efficiently. Researchers say that there
is every reason to suppose that similar results would hold true for humans. The important conclusion is that the
environment we provide for our children and teenagers may actually influence their number of brain cells and
their ability to learn.
Ellen White described the effects of challenging the brain as quoted in Figure 33: Exercising the Brain will Expand
It.200

7.Control What We See and Hear


The final point on the list is related to the previous point. Exposing our minds to great inspirational material will
enlarge the mind and strengthen the intellect. Since spirituality, morality, and the will are centered in the frontal
lobe of the brain, the inspirational material chosen should ideally appeal to our spiritual and moral being. The
study of the Word of God fills this requirement like no other can. Ellen White outlined the impact of studying the
Scriptures on the mind, soul, and intellect, as quoted in Figure 34: Read the Bible and Strengthen the Intellect.201 I
have used considerable space in this chapter making the point that proper physical and mental habits are
important for optimal frontal lobe function. Clearly, right mental habits promote mental excellence. At the same
time, "right physical habits promote mental superiority."202 These are the laws of nature, laws that the Creator
has put into our being. "Intellectual power, physical strength, and longevity depend upon immutable laws. There is
no happen-so, no chance, about this matter. Heaven will not interfere to preserve men from the consequences of
the violation of natures laws."203

Conclusion
God has provided each one of us with the power to freely choose how we will live. And He usually does not
interfere, even when we make bad choices. Truly, "there is much truth in the adage that every person is the
architect of his own fortune."204 In view of this tremendous power that you have been given to shape your own
future, wont you take some time today to again seriously look at your lifestyle. I challenge you to reflect on your
current health habits and ask yourself what you can do to take advantage of what you have learned from this
chapter. Try to identify some concrete steps that you can take within the next week to help protect and enhance

your frontal lobe-and of course with it, your entire body. A healthful lifestyle makes sense. Do not merely follow
your old ways of doing things just because they are comfortable, or "because everyone else is doing it." In the
words of Scripture, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye
may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:2.