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The science of craving

https://www.1843magazine.com/content/features/wanting-versus-liking

1843magazine.com

The science of craving
T he stately stretch of New York Avenue, in Washington, DC, that runs between the White House and Mount Vernon Square is bookended by Starbucks. The branch on the corner of 14th Street, Barack Obama's local, welcomes a flow of freezing bodies this brisk November lunchtime.

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The reward system

The reward system in our brain exists to ensure we seek out what we need. If eating nutritious food or being smiled at pleases us, we try to secure more of these stimuli. However, seeking pleasure can also result in people becoming addicted, indebted or overweight.

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Desire and pleasure

In 1986, a discovery was made that dopamine did not produce pleasure, but in fact, desire. While dopamine makes us want, pleasure comes from opioids and endocannabinoids ( a kind of marijuana produced in the brain), which paints pleasure on good experiences.

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Potential clinical application

We cannot explain away our minds by brain mechanisms. Brain mechanisms are part of our minds.

Understanding that desire and dread, for instance, share the same brain operations, could help ease schizophrenia symptoms by restricting a particular dopamine neuron that produces fear.

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Pleasure and desire

Pleasure and desire

One of the key things in pleasure is that it comes in cycles. 

The hungry desire state before a meal could produce pleasure from the anticipation of good food. Then, while eating, pleasure dominates, but desire could still come for more salt or a drink until satisfied. If we switch to the desert, we can prolong the pleasure again.

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Music and social pleasure

The closest we can come to hold on to pleasure is in music. It is a tension-and-release kind of thing that can keep you going for a long time, waxing and waning, desiring and enjoying.

Music also tends to unite us - dancing with someone is more fun than doing it alone. It's all about other people and social pleasure.

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Reasons for craving

Addicts, for instance, crave drugs even after years of abstinence because addictive substances hijack the dopamine system and change it permanently.

When exposed to addictive substances like cocaine, heroin, alcohol, nicotine and even sugar, neurons are releasing more dopamine, and also growing more receptors for a transmitter that makes them release the dopamine. It is a permanent physical change.

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Dopamine as a motivator 

Dopamine as a motivator 

Our brains can also become sensitized to prompts. The Pavlovian conditioning was used on rats to link a particular cue to cocaine or sugar. The rats ended up desiring the cue more than the drug. The same may apply when checking our phones.

Advertising and availability are also tempting cues prompting us to want.

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Novelty activates dopamine

Something as simple as dropping your keys once will fire dopamine neurons. But, if you drop them a few more times, the neurons will get bored and stop taking notice.

The market economy has increased the dopamine-wanting system. If you can give the consumer novelty, they will continuously want more.

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Taming the dopamine desires

Taming the dopamine desires

The best way of resisting is not to linger over the temptation, but to decide to move away from it, as witnessed in the marshmallow tests.

Mindfulness meditation may also help. It's not that meditation makes the wanting go away - it's giving the more cognitive mind a way of distancing itself from the urgency of those wants.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

A new disorder

The World Health Organization officially added a new disorder to the section on substance use and addictive behaviors :

The term "addiction"

Addiction can include:

  • Addiction as a moral transgression, like excessive drinking or drug use.
  • Addiction as a scientific disease, which characterize alcoholism and drug addiction as biological.
  • Colloquial violation, which applies the term to almost any fixation. 

The idea that someone can be addicted to a behavior, as opposed to a substance, remains debatable.

Arguments against gaming addiction

  • Excessive gameplay is a symptom of a larger problem, like anxiety or depression.
  • The fear of possible addiction arrises from moral panic about new technologies, not scientific research or clinical data.
  • Making excessive gaming a disorder can harm the gaming industry by stigmatizing their products. 

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Health Benefits Of Music

Health Benefits Of Music

Music has been shown to play a role in healing our bodies and increasing our health and happiness. Studies show that music relieves pain in patients, and also relieves stress and anxiety...

Limitations in the Findings About Music

  • There is still ambiguity if listening to or playing the music causes the benefits.
  • It is not known if stimulating or relaxing music is doing the healing.
  • It is not known if the music is the person’s favourite music or of his liking, as opposed to something chosen by the experimenter.
  • There are several other factors like a group playing vs individual playing of music, or a large random trial, which needs to be looked at in the future

Dopamine: The Brain Chemical Of Desire

Dopamine: The Brain Chemical Of Desire
  • Discovered in 1957, Dopamine is one of 20 major neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that communicate between nerves and cells.
  • In the 50s the chemical was associated with physical ...

Dopamine: The Celebrity Molecule

Companies, advertising agencies and tech giants slowly realized the power of dopamine.

Tech companies which already rely on persuasion lapped up this ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ molecule, essentially hacking the human mind after learning about its basic vulnerability, using the knowledge to increase the rate at which people use their services.

Persuasive Technology: Irregularly Timed Rewards

If a reward is provided on a regular basis, the brain takes the same as a given, but if the same reward is irregular, the brain is primed to check again and again about the same. This is the same technique that is used in slot machines at gambling casinos.

Social media has been tremendously successful as it has been able to exploit this desire and addiction towards social affirmation, with random, irregular rewards.