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The Addictive Brain

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  951 ratings  ·  114 reviews
Addiction touches us all. Whether it’s a friend who can’t quit smoking, a colleague afflicted with alcoholism, or a relative abusing prescription drugs, we all know someone who suffers from some form of addiction—we may even have an addiction ourselves. By some estimates, roughly one in four Americans might be considered addicts. On the other hand, many of us use substance ...more
Audible Audio, 7 pages
Published March 6th 2015 by Audible
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 ·  951 ratings  ·  114 reviews

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Clif Hostetler
May 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science
The opioid addiction epidemic has been in the news recently so I decided to listen to these twelve lectures to inform myself on the subject of addiction.

When something is advertised on TV in the United States during the Super Bowl Game you know that there are plenty of potential customers for that product. In the last Super Bowl Game there was an advertisement for a product to relieve constipation due to opioid use. That is definitive indication of an opioid addiction epidemic.

This NIH report
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very informative. The voice and teaching style of the professor didn't harsh my buzz.
Morgan Blackledge
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for a quick but thorough primer on addiction and the brain, this is it. It's part of the Great Courses series and it absolutely lives up to the name.

It covers general topics such as learning and homeostasis. And it covers specific topics such as the pleasure and reward pathway and its effect on behavior.

It's not just about drugs, it's about all "addictive" or compulsive behavior.

As a psychology professor and mental health professional that works in the field addiction recovery,
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This past Spring I attended a mental health symposium which included various speakers on various topics. One of the lecturers was a very reputable and compassionate Psychiatrist. He spoke about addiction, specifically the neuroscience behind it. I was literally mesmerized by the lecture. I am a private psychotherapist and addiction is not my specialty. But I was completely engrossed in this very interesting lecture!

When I came across this Great Courses book, it very much reminded me of the lectu
Grant Barnes
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Incredibly interesting read.


When scientists refer to addiction they refer to the compulsive continuation of a behavior despite truly significant negative consequences.

The three main characteristics of an addiction are:
1. Abuse
2. Physical dependence
3. Pathological craving

All addictions have a biological basis. All addictions hijack the brain's reward system, rewiring it to produce pathological cravings, numbing the pleasure response, and weakening inhibitory self-control.

A national surv
Dec 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I found this great course rather addicting and had to force myself to space it out to one a day. My only real complaint is that I wish it had been rather longer, but it was an absolutely fantastic topic.

--I noticed several comments on the pacing. I listen to all but the fastest of readers on 1.25x speed, and didn't notice any issues at this rate.
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very well organized set of lectures about what addiction means for brain. The best thing about these lectures was that they were strictly about the relation of brain and addiction. So you would get what you actually ordered.
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neuroscience
Absolutely fantastic! I wish it were twice as long. Polk takes his students on a tour of the fascinating brain. He does not embellish or use the facts loosely in order to sensationalize the goings on of the mysterious brain. There is no need. The truth of how our brains become addicted is addicting in and of itself. Polk has a gift for taking the complexities of neuroscience and boiling them down into simplified, yet accurate, lectures that any curious person can follow. My dopamine receptors we ...more
Lindsay Nixon
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Comprehensive and relatively short course on the neuroscience around addiction with chapters dedicated to each type of addiction.

I was delighted to hear Polk say that the only proven treatment for any addiction is a 12-step program and specifically the only treatment for addiction is: (1) Recognize that you have a problem. Commit to overcoming it. [Note: The motivation has to come from within, it can’t come from someone else. The addict has to want to change. Most people don’t want to change no
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-book
An interesting insight into brain chemistry and how and why we get addicted to substances like coffee, nicotine, cocaine etc.
Unfortunately I got a bit distracted and did not pay attention at some of the key concepts presented. Maybe it would have been better if I read, rather than listened to this book.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great primer (or perhaps intermediary level study) on how different drugs affect brain and behavior, and on other addictive behaviors (gambling, food, porn, etc.). Full of research to back it all up.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Bad read. I thought the book was going to be about all types of addictions but it mostly focuses on substance abuse (alcohol) the author is good but it was just not for me. To be fair the book may have covered more but I could not finish it (it was just not something I needed or wanted to hear).
Mohammad Forouhesh
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thorough and comprehensive inquiry into neurobiological aspect of addiction. Each chapter begins with the history and origin of a substance of abuse (narcotics, alcohol ,opioids, nicotine, etc), how it manipulates the brain reward circuit and increases neural activities of dopamine receptors, and concluded with possible treatments based on a verity of approaches, including behavioural approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or chemical approaches like medication and pills that use antagon ...more
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Overview of a Demanding Topic

A brief yet excellent overview of addiction.

The opening lectures discuss what addiction is with the expected definitions and qualifications involved. We are treated to a few technical points on neuroanatomy and cognition. It then moves to the history of (and challenges behind) many substances and their relations to human life.
This reads mostly like a psychology course textbook and contains a good deal of up-to-date scholarship. While short, it i
Trung Nguyen Dang
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. The course is highly enlightening, way better than expected from the title. I learned so much from addiction issues, the history of various drugs, and how they work. I learned how difficult it was to give up addictions (I thought it's merely a will power issue) but i learned that the addiction was so strong that the cravings is way more than anything out there like food or sex .. etc.
The most surprising thing is that behavioral addictions such as gambling, or porn, is very similar to the dr
Colin Jarrett
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This was my second foray into the great courses and I found this less interesting and informative than my first (Stress and Your Body). The information was well presented and easy to follow, but I did not learn as much about addiction as I would have expected (and I highly doubt I know more than the average Goodreader about it), aside from the medical details themselves, which were somewhat in one ear and out the other anyway. A firm three stars.
Omar Tawfik
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A really interesting introduction into the genetic/physiological background of addiction. The author is a professor of both Psychology and Computer Science, which makes his take on these topics informative yet entertaining. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in knowing more about addiction, and how it alters the brain's chemistry in measurable and predictable ways.
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lecture-series
excellent and helpful summary of the current state of affairs as far as neurobiology, the brain, and addiction ... accessible presentation of basic understandings of various addictive responses ... highly recommended ... time well spent learning by using this series
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
4.25 out of 5
A lot of information about packed into twelve 30 minute sections. I love The Great Courses series and this was no exception. I found listening to a few lessons at a sitting allowed me to digest the information and kept me from zoning out. Recommended.
Thomas  Jackson
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved it, rids old beliefs on addiction, and fills in the blanks on some new ones.
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fantastic course! I can't believe how well the "author"/professor turned advanced scienitific concepts into easy to understand information. I learned so much!
Chrysten Lofton
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5⭐ Comprehensive breakdown on how chemicals and behaviors stimulate and interact with the brain and how they can ultimately disable the user

This is the first of the 'Great Courses' series I've listened to. The reader/professor, Thad A. Polk had a good voice and presented organized and evidence/fact based research on drug use.

This is not a 'drugs are bad' after-school special. This is an explanation of how drugs operate, how they interact on a neurological level, the evidence to support all
Lis Carey
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Addiction is a word that is often tossed around casually, but real addiction is a serious and complex problem. This is a look at what we know about the biological aspects of addiction, the role that human physiology and genetics play in making addiction, and in treating addiction.

Polk starts off by defining what he means by addiction in this book, the stricter definition of actual physical addiction, with continued use of the addictive substance despite serious negative consequences, and often d
Skip Surguine
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yep! I get it!
If you want to know how drugs work on your brain, this is the place to go.
Most important, he ably takes to task the long-running destructive attitudes we have in this country - in fact in most countries - ABOUT people who suffer from these chemicals.
We have "built in" to our thinking a gut response to addiction something like: "you got yourself into this, and you need to buck up and get yourself out of it" while, at the same time, we call it a disease.
It IS a disease, not in the
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Fascinating lectures on addiction and the brain from a leading researcher. Technical research is put in layman's terms that is approachable, though it would help to be able to take notes at certain points.

Dr. Polk addresses the chemical processes in the brain in relation to anticipation, attraction, compulsion and what we call addiction. Different lectures focus on specific additions: nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opiods, amphetamines, gambling, video games, shopping and sex. Each lect
Allan Olley
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This lecture series is a somewhat basic but fairly wide ranging look at some of the neural mechanisms of addiction. It especially relates them to the known elements of learning in the brain. It discusses both general processes of addiction in the opening lectures, but most of the individual lectures are about substances (or classes of substances like opiods) that are common drugs of addiction and abuse., the last two lectures (of 12) are on behaviours (lecture 11 on problem gambling, lecture 12 ...more
Sean Lynn
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Addictive Brain by Professor Thad A. Polk is an excellent look into the chemical and behavior causes of addiction.

Polk address the many reasons people become addicts. He explains how the brain gets addicted to certain drugs, the origins and composition of addictive substances, and how they mimic the natural endorphins and neurotransmitters the body produces. He also discusses how addictive behaviors develop, and how they can hijack human nature.

This, however, is not just a clinical lecture s
Vojtěch Tatra
Even I know much about addiction, there was some new stuff. A bit short comparing to other courses, there could be some more topics, but maybe in some bigger course about addiction overall. Topic of addiction is very actual these days since we (especially big internet companies) are hacking our reward circuits with super-natural triggers build into applications and websites causing addiction like malformation in our behaviour and mind. It probably actually lead to "classic drugs" in many cases - ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good introduction to the psychology and neuroscience of addiction. I especially liked the parts that explained the functions of different neurotransmitters and went to the molecular biology and chemistry side of things. Interesting and complex things, but explained very well. Books like these often only talk about the psychology of an individual and skip the complicated stuff.

A bit old fashioned with the examples, though. I couldn't help but notice that all the case studies sounded like they
Bert Heymans
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Our inner reward system is powerful and counter intuitive, especially in the long term. That's my key take-away of this course. In short we are being tricked all the time.

I learned a lot about neurotransmitters, the role of dopamine (which works in out inner reward mechanics, rather than as a pleasure mechanism, a subtle but important difference) I learned about the differences between several kinds of drugs and their short and long-term effects. This course makes you think about the role of psy
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Professor Thad A. Polk is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He received a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Virginia and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Computer Science and Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. He also received postdoctoral training in cogniti ...more

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