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> 'Thirst for knowledge' may be opium craving
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post Jun 21, 2006, 06:57 AM
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'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.

PERCEPTUAL.PLEASURE.CM
-USC-
JUNE 20, 2006
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dutch84
post Jul 22, 2006, 06:11 PM
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That explains why I nearly lost my mind after graduation.....withdrawl!
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post Jul 24, 2006, 05:02 AM
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QUOTE(dutch84 @ Jul 22, 06:11 PM) *

That explains why I nearly lost my mind after graduation.....withdrawl!

That's quite an avatar, dutch84! Don't know whether to puke or laugh! Which is why I like it!
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philthemn
post Oct 06, 2006, 07:34 AM
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I've read this before. It is interesting, but somewhat self-evident as any sort of pleasure gained is always through the release of opiates in the brain, and so your natural search for pleasure is one of opium craving, whether it be skydiving or learning.
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Lao_Tzu
post Oct 09, 2006, 12:29 PM
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...until you recognise that craving for pleasure as a root of suffering, and start to uproot it.
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philthemn
post Oct 09, 2006, 01:04 PM
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Why so?
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Lao_Tzu
post Oct 09, 2006, 11:44 PM
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Well, this is getting into the realm of Buddhist psychology, which is somewhat off the topic, but just to elaborate...

If you satisfy a desire you feel momentary contentment (or pleasure, perhaps) but very soon another desire arises. This is the case with any desire. There is no end to desire - if you sate one desire, another arises.

Endless desirousness results in a state of pervasive dissatisfaction with the present state of things. It also results in continual frustration, because very rarely (if ever) is it possible to bring about the state in which the desire is perfectly satisfied - and even if you do, another desire arises almost immediately.

So basically, desire is a trap, and the state of being desirous is a state of suffering.

When we recognise this, we can start to investigate the possibility of taking steps not to be so attached to our desires. Once we are less attached to our desires, the force of our desires will lessen. We will crave less, and suffer less.

But that's just Buddhist psychology. I suppose where it relates to the topic at hand is that perhaps we should try not to be so attached to the opiate rush of pleasure that (the theory suggests) comes from new knowledge. My thoughts aren't clear on this... but I certainly wouldn't suggest that we shouldn't search for new knowledge - science is very important.
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Kclo4x
post Dec 02, 2007, 01:42 PM
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So if it is just an addiction surely there is a way to become more addicted to it, yes?

Which seems highly beneficial smile.gif

Increasing the dose of the "concept opiates" will cause us to build a resistance to that high of dose, or a higher amount of receptors, at least over time anyways. But we will want more, so we will be more interested in learning, and it will accelerate the rate at which we learn, because naturally we will seek it.

So, perhaps learning a whole bunch of really complex concepts at once would do it, right?
or is their another way?
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Flex
post Dec 02, 2007, 02:24 PM
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QUOTE(Kclo4x @ Dec 02, 2007, 01:42 PM) *

So if it is just an addiction surely there is a way to become more addicted to it, yes?

Which seems highly beneficial smile.gif

Increasing the dose of the "concept opiates" will cause us to build a resistance to that high of dose, or a higher amount of receptors, at least over time anyways. But we will want more, so we will be more interested in learning, and it will accelerate the rate at which we learn, because naturally we will seek it.

So, perhaps learning a whole bunch of really complex concepts at once would do it, right?
or is their another way?


Makes sense to me. The more you learn, the better able you are to learn--plasticity right? You just have to form the learning groove in your brain.
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Kclo4x
post Dec 02, 2007, 05:02 PM
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Yep smile.gif
so what is a good way to get this already existing addiction to learning, more addictive? or what are some actions you can do to become more addicted to it?
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Flex
post Dec 02, 2007, 08:33 PM
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QUOTE(Kclo4x @ Dec 02, 2007, 05:02 PM) *

Yep smile.gif
so what is a good way to get this already existing addiction to learning, more addictive? or what are some actions you can do to become more addicted to it?


I was watching a PBS show on plasticity, and they said the best way is to keep learning new challenging material.
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trojan_libido
post Dec 03, 2007, 12:39 AM
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Challenging and novel, if its in an area of interest then all the better for learning.
QUOTE
So basically, desire is a trap, and the state of being desirous is a state of suffering.
Desire is the mechanism that motivates us to do something, to totally remove this would be akin to disabling the human race. I know what the Buddha meant by this, but being aware is often enough without eradication.
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Kclo4x
post Dec 10, 2007, 04:57 PM
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Yesterday, i was standing at subway totally starving! I ordered an Italian BMT. You know the one? with all the pepperoni and other meats, cheese and everything. Well, after the lady had finished making the sandwich, i looked at it and started to smile, and maybe even laugh a little bit!
I am guessing this is happening because my brain is simulating what it will be like when i eat it, because that is exactly what i was thinking. I hadn't eaten any of it, but my brain gave me a pleasureful response; which was shown in the smile and excitement i experienced. Isn't that interesting?
So, basically from that observation, and a few others, i think it is safe to say that the brain went through a simulation, and in that simulation it caused a release of opiates (or something) to cause the pleasure i had experienced.
The opiates obviously activated some opiate receptors. The more receptors that are activated the more receptors there becomes, at least thats how i understand it, however I could be wrong. I figure it must be a lot like how the adenosene receptors work when one forms an "addiction" to caffeine, isn't that how it works?
Anyways, if you could simulate learning a concept in your mind, much the same way i simulated eating the subway, you would think this could open the gates to gaining more opiate receptors in the part of the brain that gives the reward for learning a concept.
Getting more receptors in that area of the brain, the more you will be addicted to learning, which is exactly what i am trying to do!

So, my questions are:
1. do you think that i am saying is possible? why or why not?
2. How could one simulate learning a concept in there mind? causing such opiate release, receptor activation, etc?
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trojan_libido
post Dec 11, 2007, 12:05 AM
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When you simulate learning in your mind, aren't you just learning in the standard way? To gain the response you need to actually make breakthroughs, or be some kind of master of tricking yourself. This means you would actually have to learn something, so I'm not sure how it'd work.

I think what you experienced was more like 'smugness' or 'happiness' caused by you finally filling your belly. I don't know if its linked to the same learning opiate release.
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atha
post Dec 11, 2007, 08:27 AM
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Thirst for knowledge is the thirst for life; it is the same as the thirst of our body for oxygen, water, and food to nourish and sustain itself. A fuller breathing means a fuller life; a fuller breathing makes and body and the mind vibrate more, and what vibrates more is more living -- it means the mind more awakened, the awareness more alert, and the inner potential more unfolded.
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Palaver87
post Dec 13, 2007, 05:31 AM
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In drug addiction, I think opium changes in the mesolimbocortical pathway secreted by the ventral tegmental area to the nucleus accumbens dictate 'liking.' Perhaps an increase in opium means we are 'liking' new knowledge. However, there is a difference between 'liking' and 'wanting.' Dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens in the same pathway seem to dictate 'wanting.' In experiments with low doses of cocaine, cocaine addicts could not detect the effects of the low cocaine doses but significantly preferred it over a placebo. The cocaine addicts 'wanted' the cocaine but did not 'like' it because the cocaine doses were so low that they did not even subjectively know there was cocaine. So, my point is that, from research from drugs and as far as opium is concerned, perhaps only 'liking' is increased and not 'wanting.' The thirst for knowledge sounds like wanting. But, if we like, we would probably want more, so maybe its an relationship between the dopamine and opium pathways.
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Rick
post Dec 13, 2007, 10:34 AM
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QUOTE(Palaver87 @ Dec 13, 2007, 05:31 AM) *
The cocaine addicts 'wanted' the cocaine but did not 'like' it because the cocaine doses were so low that they did not even subjectively know there was cocaine.
That's an interesting illustration of unconscious mind.
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trojan_libido
post Dec 14, 2007, 03:23 AM
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It implies the body and unconscious are in control of the person without their knowledge. Enemies withing! Wheres my tin foil hat when I need it. smile.gif
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atha
post Dec 14, 2007, 07:06 AM
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What does it mean To Know ?

KNOW = K+NOW And what does K stand for ?
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Rick
post Dec 18, 2007, 11:05 AM
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The word know comes from the Greek gnosis. What it means is that we have reliable information about something relevant.

Regarding unconscious "control," gaining knowledge of one's unconscious helps him to be more in control. We can be aware of and utilize our unconscious helpers. For example, if I say to myself "I will awaken at 4:30 in the morning" my unconscious will wake me on time.

If we understand the unconscious sources of our emotions, we become more in control. Carl Jung wrote extensively on this.
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dutch84
post Dec 19, 2007, 03:56 AM
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QUOTE(Palaver87 @ Dec 13, 2007, 05:31 AM) *

so maybe its an relationship between the dopamine and opium pathways.


I like the idea of a "relationship".
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