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'thirst For Knowledge' May Be Opium Craving


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http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/200...sc-fk062006.php

 

Public release date: 20-Jun-2006

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Contact: USC Media Relations

213-740-2215

University of Southern California

 

'Thirst for knowledge' may be opium craving

 

The brain's reward for getting a concept is a shot of natural opiates

 

Neuroscientists have proposed a simple explanation for the pleasure of grasping a new concept: The brain is getting its fix.

 

The "click" of comprehension triggers a biochemical cascade that rewards the brain with a shot of natural opium-like substances, said Irving Biederman of the University of Southern California. He presents his theory in an invited article in the latest issue of American Scientist.

 

"While you're trying to understand a difficult theorem, it's not fun," said Biederman, professor of neuroscience in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

 

"But once you get it, you just feel fabulous."

 

The brain's craving for a fix motivates humans to maximize the rate at which they absorb knowledge, he said.

 

"I think we're exquisitely tuned to this as if we're junkies, second by second."

 

Biederman hypothesized that knowledge addiction has strong evolutionary value because mate selection correlates closely with perceived intelligence.

 

Only more pressing material needs, such as hunger, can suspend the quest for knowledge, he added.

 

The same mechanism is involved in the aesthetic experience, Biederman said, providing a neurological explanation for the pleasure we derive from art.

 

"This account may provide a plausible and very simple mechanism for aesthetic and perceptual and cognitive curiosity."

 

Biederman's theory was inspired by a widely ignored 25-year-old finding that mu-opioid receptors – binding sites for natural opiates – increase in density along the ventral visual pathway, a part of the brain involved in image recognition and processing.

 

The receptors are tightly packed in the areas of the pathway linked to comprehension and interpretation of images, but sparse in areas where visual stimuli first hit the cortex.

 

Biederman's theory holds that the greater the neural activity in the areas rich in opioid receptors, the greater the pleasure.

 

In a series of functional magnetic resonance imaging trials with human volunteers exposed to a wide variety of images, Biederman's research group found that strongly preferred images prompted the greatest fMRI activity in more complex areas of the ventral visual pathway. (The data from the studies are being submitted for publication.)

 

Biederman also found that repeated viewing of an attractive image lessened both the rating of pleasure and the activity in the opioid-rich areas. In his article, he explains this familiar experience with a neural-network model termed "competitive learning."

 

In competitive learning (also known as "Neural Darwinism"), the first presentation of an image activates many neurons, some strongly and a greater number only weakly.

 

With repetition of the image, the connections to the strongly activated neurons grow in strength. But the strongly activated neurons inhibit their weakly activated neighbors, causing a net reduction in activity. This reduction in activity, Biederman's research shows, parallels the decline in the pleasure felt during repeated viewing.

 

"One advantage of competitive learning is that the inhibited neurons are now free to code for other stimulus patterns," Biederman writes.

 

This preference for novel concepts also has evolutionary value, he added.

 

"The system is essentially designed to maximize the rate at which you acquire new but interpretable [understandable] information. Once you have acquired the information, you best spend your time learning something else.

 

"There's this incredible selectivity that we show in real time. Without thinking about it, we pick out experiences that are richly interpretable but novel."

 

The theory, while currently tested only in the visual system, likely applies to other senses, Biederman said.

 

 

###

Edward Vessel, who was Biederman's graduate student at USC, is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Neural Science at New York University. Vessel collaborated on the studies and co-authored the American Scientist article.

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My thread. Yeah, I believe it.

 

 

I can do the same two finger whistle without any fingers. I just use my tongue and my lips. It started by me trying to communicate with gerbils at the pet store. It was a faint little squeak that made all the rodents get up on their hind legs. It was fascinating. Later, I realized that if I put more air behind it and altered the shape of my lips I could do the whistle I had always seen other people doing with their fingers. I've always found great pleasure in finding better ways to do things, much to the displeaure of some of my teachers. I didn't want to do it their way. My way was better! lol...

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Damn, you beat me to it. But I was going to have a clever title, so ha.

 

So sorry. What was your title idea?

I blame work. I can view the forum, but I can't go anywhere without getting the Orifice Despot restriction shit.

My title, which will probably seem even more retarded once I type it out was going to be: You are addicted to opium!

How is that for an eye grabber. Or even better: PENIS! Hehe.

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Heh - his shirt is most appropriate, Rev... :HaHa:

 

Yes! Quite the coinky-dink, huh? lol...

 

Damn, you beat me to it. But I was going to have a clever title, so ha.

 

So sorry. What was your title idea?

I blame work. I can view the forum, but I can't go anywhere without getting the Orifice Despot restriction shit.

My title, which will probably seem even more retarded once I type it out was going to be: You are addicted to opium!

How is that for an eye grabber. Or even better: PENIS! Hehe.

 

Orifice Despot! lol... That must be where you work, huh?

 

Both would've been good eyegrabbers. Though, the penis title has little to do with the article, unless we're talking about learning new tricks you can do with your penis! lol...

 

Heh - his shirt is most appropriate, Rev... :HaHa:

 

Unrelated except that it's below him on my Comedy page:

 

SnickersJesus.jpg

 

lol...

 

Oh, and this one I just picked up from my travels on MySpace:

 

jesus_killa.jpg

 

LOL! I love this one! I can't stop laughing about it! lol...

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Heh - his shirt is most appropriate, Rev... :HaHa:

At first glance I thought his shirt said "Loser" but lost works too.
Orifice Despot! lol... That must be where you work, huh?

 

Both would've been good eyegrabbers. Though, the penis title has little to do with the article, unless we're talking about learning new tricks you can do with your penis! lol...

Yes, that is where I work *sigh*

I really do like my original title, it doesn't seem as retarded as I thought it would.

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Heh - his shirt is most appropriate, Rev... :HaHa:

At first glance I thought his shirt said "Loser" but lost works too.
Orifice Despot! lol... That must be where you work, huh?

 

Both would've been good eyegrabbers. Though, the penis title has little to do with the article, unless we're talking about learning new tricks you can do with your penis! lol...

Yes, that is where I work *sigh*

I really do like my original title, it doesn't seem as retarded as I thought it would.

 

"Loser" or "Lost" -- the message can be seen loud and clear. One who loses, lost. lol...

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Guest Shiva H. Vishnu

My thread. Yeah, I believe it.

 

 

I can do the same two finger whistle without any fingers. I just use my tongue and my lips.

 

 

Me too, Star. No fingers necessary, and it's so loud my brain vibrates and my eyes itch.

 

And I've done plenty of opiates in my lifetime. I can see how those sensations are similar, but it's a totally different beast within the context of the brain's natural reward system. Opiates can make your body feel like nothing else on the planet, even your own endoginous morphine, because of the quantities of the drug ingested vs the bodies minute store of this chemical. I've felt endorphin rewards before, and though the feeling isn't as physically intense as snorting a line of H, it's far more profound than it's externally manufactured counterpart because of it's total context. In normal feeling good, the chemical is only a small part of the total experience, and not even the best part - but I can totally understand how someone would gladly live in a world of external chemical rewards, in lieu of chasing the internal ones. So much easier, and when you're high, you don't know the difference.

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Me too, Star. No fingers necessary, and it's so loud my brain vibrates and my eyes itch.

 

lol... Yeah, my wife hates it when I use it to get the kids attention inside!

 

And I've done plenty of opiates in my lifetime. I can see how those sensations are similar, but it's a totally different beast within the context of the brain's natural reward system.

 

Oh, agreed. I've done plenty of drugs, too. My body's drugs really didn't prepare me -- although I use to get panic attacks and that was quite a negative high. That, in retrospect, was quite similar but that's because in order to get an attack it means the levels of biochemicals in your bloodstream have to be approaching what you would get if you ingested something.

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And I've done plenty of opiates in my lifetime. I can see how those sensations are similar, but it's a totally different beast within the context of the brain's natural reward system.

 

Orgasms. They definitely have and still do give me a wonderful high. Right after I get this smile that I just can't help! My whole mood changes! Alcohol is the only similar drug, in that respect, that comes close.

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