Explore The Mysteries Of Pleasure And Addiction In The Brain
The human brain is a complex and fascinating machine.
It holds the secrets behind why we seek out certain activities, substances or experiences for their potential pleasure and why some of these things become addictive.
Neuroscience has gone a long way in shedding light on this deep mystery, and The Compass of Pleasure by David Linden reveals those secrets.
Thanks to this book, you’ll have the unique opportunity to discover the neurological secrets that drive our brains towards pleasure-seeking activities.
You’ll learn more about why cigarettes are more addictive than heroin, why there’s an essential difference between sex and love, and what running and cannabis have in common!
So if you’re keen to find out more about this subject, grab The Compass of Pleasure and get ready to dive into a fascinating journey through your own brain!
The Human Brain’S Pleasure Circuit And How It Drives Our Behavior
It’s no secret that pleasurable activities activate the medial forebrain pleasure circuit – the part of the brain responsible for our ability to experience pleasure.
This structure, located in the central section of the brain, is made up of several interconnected parts, such as the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the dorsal striatum.
When exposed to something pleasurable, like eating a slice of chocolate cake or having an orgasm, neurons in the VTA release dopamine to both the amygdala (responsible for emotion) and dorsal striatum (responsible for habit-forming).
This dopamine rush reinforces our behavior, leading us to continually seek out similar pleasurable experiences.
In fact, scientists have gone so far as electrically stimulating this pleasure circuit to learn its effects on behavior – one such study conducted at Tulane University by Dr.
Robert Galbraith Heath even contradicts traditional understanding on sexual orientation.
His research showed that direct electrical stimulation could affect one’s sexual behavior so profoundly that a homosexual man could experience heterosexual intercourse with pleasure.
Although somewhat controversial at first glance, it goes to show just how powerful stimulating your medial forebrain pleasure circuitry can be!
Addiction Re-Wires Our Brain To Crave Pleasure More Quickly
Addiction isn’t just an issue of biology and neurology; it’s also shaped by how a drug gives us pleasure – and how easily available it is.
We know that drugs like heroin, which trigger our pleasure circuit more strongly than others, are highly addictive – meaning they’re more likely to be abused.
And while drugs like LSD don’t stimulate our pleasure circuit at all, they can still be addictive if other factors like availability and peer pressure come into play.
For example, a study in the US showed that 80% of those who tried cigarettes had become addicted; whereas only around 35% of those who took heroin continued useing it.
Even though heroin is illegal, the fact that cigarettes have much greater availability means more people take them up.
But there’s another factor at play too: the kinds of pleasure that different drugs give us.
Heroin produces one huge pleasure surge; whereas smoking lots of cigarettes gives repeated but lighter pleasures rushes – this makes addiction to cigarettes easier and faster to happen because your body gets used to being rewarded for these behaviours more frequently.
It’s similar to training a dog: if you ask him to do something multiple times a day, give him treats every time and reward him quickly, he’ll learn quicker than if you did this only once in 24 hours.
Finally, addiction has been shown to actually physically change brain structures over time – and this further helps explain why we develop addictions more quickly with some substances and activities than others.
The Pleasure Circuit: How Our Brain Makes Us Reach For Unhealthy Foods
We all know that some foods, like pizza and chocolate, just taste so good that it’s almost impossible to resist them.
But why is this? It turns out that these delicious treats activate our pleasure circuits in a big way.
High fat and sugar content leads to the release of dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel great and reinforces the pleasure circuit in our brain.
This leads us to crave those tasty junk foods more and more.
Unfortunately, this cravings can often lead us into making unhealthy eating choices or overindulging.
Leptin works by suppressing our appetite when we start to gain weight but if someone is leptin-resistant then these signals don’t work as effectively making it even harder for people with higher BMIs to lose weight.
Ultimately, understanding the inner workings of our brains when it comes to food can help us make better food and lifestyle choices for ourselves.
The Compass of Pleasure Book does exactly this.
Sex And Love: Why They May Feel The Same, But They’Re Controlled By Very Different Parts Of The Brain
Falling in love and sexual arousal both engage the pleasure circuit in different ways.
It is well-documented that when we fall in love, our brains disable the decision-making and social cognition areas, causing us to see our loved one in an idyllic light compared to all other people.
On the other hand, with sexual arousal, this does not happen.
At Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, brain scans were taken of couples who saw images of their beloved and then a platonic acquaintance.
When comparing the scans for each set of images, it was found that different areas of the brain were activated only with the image of the former but not the latter.
Meanwhile orgasms have an entirely distinct effect on one’s pleasure circuits.
Not only is it a multi-faceted experience emotionally and physically speaking but it can even happen without producing any joy at all – such as what might happen during a rape session or epileptic seizure.
However when it comes down to it, orgams are quite pleasurable due to their activation of dopamine production which has been proven through neural scans from Gert Holstege’s research group.
In conclusion, though sex and love both precipitate happiness for many people, they do so via different pathways within one’s neurons and Central Nervous System (CNS).
Gambling And Other Compulsive Behaviors: The Power Of The Pleasure Circuit
Gambling has long been a popular activity for those who enjoy the thrill of the unknown.
But according to modern science, gambling is more than just a pastime – it can become an addiction.
Gambling releases dopamine, activating the pleasure circuit and leading to persistent, compulsive repetition in spite of increasingly negative life consequences.
The interesting thing is that we are biologically predisposed to find certain kinds of uncertainty pleasurable.
This behavior is observed in some primates, who clearly experience dopamine surges when they wait to see if they will get a reward after each stimulus.
It’s even suggested that gambling runs in families due to environmental factors such as parental influence or even inherited addiction genes.
So there you have it: gambling stimulates the pleasure circuit, just like drugs and fatty foods can lead to addiction.
Thus, people can become dependent on this type of behavior and experience strong cravings for it – all at the expense of their other priorities in life.
How We Feel Joy From Pain, Altruism And Knowledge Acquisition
We humans often turn to vices to light up our pleasure circuit.
But it’s not just unhealthy habits that cause us to experience joy – healthy living and good behavior can provide pleasure too!
For example, exercising can trigger what’s known as a “runner’s high” – a blissful state felt even when exhausted from physical labor.
This is because painful stimuli such as exercise also lead to a surge of endocannabinoids (brain cannabis-like molecules) and dopamine in the bloodstream, both of which give us pleasure.
And let’s not forget making an independent decision like giving to charity or learning for the sake of knowledge – these activates also light up our pleasure center!
A recent paper by William Harbaugh at the University of Oregon found that taxation and charitable giving activated the same part of the brain as receiving money did.
It could be due to pure altruism, making an independent choice, or enhancing social status.
We all deserve joy in life, and fortunately that doesn’t require us turning to vices or unhealthy habits to attain it – healthy activities like exercising and donating can bring about the same level of satisfaction.
The Compass of Pleasure by Dr.
David Linden is a book that summarizes the key message that there are many pleasurable activities that we can become addicted to, but there are also pleasurable experiences which activate our pleasure circuits without damaging our lives.
According to Dr.
Linden, to beat an addiction, it’s important to associate negative experiences with it instead of the happier times.
In other words, you should focus on all those times you felt miserable during a high or sick after a hangover and use them as motivating factors to quit.
Finally, this book provides actionable advice: remember that our brains are malleable and use this fact as fuel to beat your addiction!