Joy H.'s Reviews > The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good

The Compass of Pleasure by David J. Linden
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's review
Oct 15, 11

bookshelves: keep-in-mind, psychology, brain, discovered-in-nyt-books-update

Added 10/15/11
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Excerpt from review linked above:
"In his book “The Compass of Pleasure,” the Johns Hopkins neurobiologist David J. Linden explicates the workings of these regions, known collectively as the reward system, elegantly drawing on sources ranging from personal experience to studies of brain activity to experiments with molecules and genes. Linden builds a powerful case that every kind of substance, activity or stimulus that motivates human choice does so because it acts on this particular network, whose neurons use the chemical dopamine to communicate with one another. Cocaine produces a high by preventing dopamine from being recycled, thereby prolonging its action and keeping these neurons firing. Beauty, money and a photo of a juicy cheeseburger are compelling because they also increase the activity of these neurons. This may not seem surprising, but before the relevant experiments were done, it was far from clear that an “abstract” reward like money, or a mere reminder of one like a picture, operated via the same mechanism as “primary reinforcers” like food and water."
"What the Internet does is stimulate our reward systems over and over with tiny bursts of information (tweets, status updates, e-mails) that act like primary rewards but can be delivered in more varied and less predictable sequences. These are experiences our brains did not evolve to prefer, but like drugs of abuse, they happen to be even better suited than the primary reinforcers to activating the reward system. So if you find yourself stopping every 30 seconds to check your Twitter feed, your brain has no more been rewired than if you find yourself taking a break for ice cream rather than celery. Picking the more rewarding stimulus is something our brains can do perfectly well with the wiring they start out with."

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