Compass of pleasure

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A leading brain scientist's look at the neurobiology of pleasure-and how pleasures can become addictions. Whether eating, taking drugs, engaging in sex, or doing good deeds, the pursuit of pleasure is a central drive of the human animal.

Linden explains how pleasure affects us at the most fundamental level: in our brain. As he did in his award-winning book, The Accidental Mind , Linden combines cutting-edge science with entertaining anecdotes to illuminate the source of the behaviors that can lead us to ecstasy but that can easily become compulsive. Why are drugs like nicotine and heroin addictive while LSD is not? Why has the search for safe appetite suppressants been such a disappointment? The Compass of Pleasure concludes with a provocative consideration of pleasure in the future, when it may be possible to activate our pleasure circuits at will and in entirely novel patterns.

David J. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Linden explicates the workings of [the regions of the brain] 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. Neuroscientist David Linden delves into the research, mixing in plenty of trippy anecdotes. Even the footnotes are sprinkled with hidden gems.

If it tastes good, spit it out. Because indulging pleasurable excess, whether of drugs, food, or sex, has an unforgiving downside. Pleasure is a superb book. My brain has been changed by reading it. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his two children. My uncle had already promised his to the mail lady. Bangkok, The afternoon rains have ended, leaving the early evening air briefly free of smog and allowing that distinctive Thai perfume, frangipani with a faint note of sewage, to waft over the shiny streets.

I hail a tuk-tuk, a three-wheel motorcycle taxi, and hop aboard. My young driver has an entrepreneurial smile as he turns around and begins the usual interrogation of male travelers. I want some good, spicy dinner. What is it exactly that makes a vice? We humans have a complicated and ambivalent relationship to pleasure, which we spend an enormous amount of time and resources pursuing. A key motivator of our lives, pleasure is central to learning, for we must find things like food, water, and sex rewarding in order to survive and pass our genetic material to the next generation.

Certain forms of pleasure are accorded special status. Many of our most important rituals involving prayer, music, dance, and meditation produce a kind of transcendent pleasure that has become deeply ingrained in human cultural practice. As we do with most powerful forces, however, we also want to regulate pleasure.

In cultures around the world we find well-defined ideas and rules about pleasure that have persisted throughout history in any of forms and variations:. Our legal systems, our religions, our educational systems are all deeply concerned with controlling pleasure.

We have created detailed rules and customs surrounding sex, drugs, food, alcohol, and even gambling. Jails are bursting with people who have violated laws that proscribe certain forms of pleasure or who profit by encouraging others to do so. One can fashion reasonable theories of human pleasure and its regulation using the methods of cultural anthropology or social history. These are valid and useful endeavors, for ideas and practices involving human pleasure are certainly deeply influenced by culture. In this book I will argue that most experiences in our lives that we find transcendent—whether illicit vices or socially sanctioned ritual and social practices as diverse as exercise, meditative prayer, or even charitable giving—activate an anatomically and biochemically defined pleasure circuit in the brain.

It is in these tiny clumps of neurons that human pleasure is felt. This intrinsic pleasure circuitry can also be co-opted by artificial activators like cocaine or nicotine or heroin or alcohol. Evolution has, in effect, hardwired us to catch a pleasure buzz from a wide variety of experiences from crack to cannabis, from meditation to masturbation, from Bordeaux to beef. This theory of pleasure reframes our understanding of the part of the human body that societies are most intent upon regulating.

While we might assume that the anatomical region most closely governed by laws, religious prohibitions, and social mores is the genitalia, or the mouth, or the vocal cords, it is actually the medial forebrain pleasure circuit. As societies and as individuals, we are hell-bent on achieving and controlling pleasure, and it is those neurons, deep in our brains, that are the nexus of that struggle.

These particular neurons also comprise another battleground. The dark side of pleasure is, of course, addiction. It is now becoming clear that addiction is associated with long-lasting changes in the electrical, morphological, and biochemical functions of neurons and synaptic connections within the medial forebrain pleasure circuit. There are strong suggestions that these changes underlie many of the terrifying aspects of addiction, including tolerance needing successively larger doses to get high , craving, withdrawal, and relapse.

Provocatively, such persistent changes appear to be nearly identical to experience-and learning-driven changes in neural circuitry that are used to store memories in other brain regions. In this way, memory, pleasure, and addiction are closely intertwined. The combination of associative learning and pleasure has created nothing less than a cognitive miracle: We can be motivated by pleasure to achieve goals that are entirely arbitrary—goals that may or may not have an evolutionary adaptive value.

These can be as wide-ranging as reality-based television and curling. For us humans and probably for other primates and for cetaceans as well , even mere ideas can activate the pleasure circuit. Our eclecticism where pleasure is concerned serves to make our human existence wonderfully rich and complex. Our accumulating understanding of neural function, coupled with enabling technologies that allow us to measure and manipulate the brain with unprecedented precision, has given us new and often counterintuitive insights into behavioral and cognitive phenomena at the levels of biological processes.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the neurobiology of pleasure. One example: Do you, like many, think that drug addicts become drug addicts because they derive greater reward from getting high than others? The biology says no: They actually seem to want it more but like it less. This level of analysis is not only of academic interest. Understanding the biological basis of pleasure le us to fundamentally rethink the moral and legal aspects of addiction to drugs, food, sex, and gambling and the industries that manipulate these pleasures in the marketplace.

It also calls for a reformation in our concepts of such virtuous and prosocial behaviors as sharing resources, self-deprivation, and the drive for knowledge. When I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology in the early s, I was fortunate to work with Sid Udenfriend, a pioneer in the biochemistry of the brain and a real mensch. While postdoctoral fellows at McGill University, under the direction of the renowned psychologist Donald Hebb, Olds and Milner were conducting experiments that involved implanting electrodes deep in the brains of rats.

The implanting surgery, conducted while the animals were anesthetized, involved cementing a pair of electrodes half a millimeter apart to their skulls. After a few days of recovery from the surgery, the rats were fine. Long, flexible wires were then attached to the electrodes at one end and to an electrical stimulator at the other, to allow for activation of the specific brain region where the tips of the electrodes had come to rest.

One fall day Olds and Milner were testing a rat in which they had attempted to target a structure called the midbrain reticular system. Located at the midline of the brain, at the point where its base tapers to form the brain stem, this region had ly been shown by another lab to control sleeping and waking cycles. In this particular surgery, however, the electrodes had gone astray and come to rest still at the midline, but at a somewhat more forward position in the brain, in a region called the septum. The rat in question was placed in a large rectangular box with corners labeled A, B, C, and D and was allowed to explore freely.

Whenever the rat went to corner A, Olds pressed a button that delivered a brief, mild electrical shock through the implanted electrodes. After a few jolts, the rat kept returning to corner A and finally fell asleep in a different location. The next day, however, the rat seemed even more interested in corner A than the others. Olds and Milner were excited: They believed that they had found a brain region that, when stimulated, provoked general curiosity.

However, further experiments on this same rat soon proved that not to be the case. By this time, the rat had acquired a habit of returning often to corner A to be stimulated. The researchers then tried to coax the rat away from corner A by administering a shock every time the rat made a step in the direction of corner B.

This worked all too well—within five minutes, the rat relocated to corner B. Further investigation revealed that this rat could be directed to any location within the box with well-timed brain shocks—brief ones to guide the rat to the target lo Convert currency. Add to Basket. Book Description Hardcover. Condition: New. New - unused and unread. Seller Inventory E4B More information about this seller Contact this seller. Book Description Condition: new. Book Description Condition: New. Seller Inventory M Seller Inventory Q Linden, David J. Publisher: Viking , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available.

View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title A leading brain scientist's look at the neurobiology of pleasure-and how pleasures can become addictions. About the Author : David J. All rights reserved. Sound of engine sputtering at idle.

Johnnie Walker You can gamble! In cultures around the world we find well-defined ideas and rules about pleasure that have persisted throughout history in any of forms and variations: Pleasure should be sought in moderation. Pleasure must be earned. Pleasure must be achieved naturally.

Pleasure is transitory.

Compass of pleasure

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The Compass of Pleasure