Spoiled reward-pathway hypothesis II (learning-machines)

From: Philip Jonkers (P.A.E.Jonkers@phys.rug.nl)
Date: Wed Aug 29 2001 - 16:28:16 BST

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    From: Philip Jonkers <P.A.E.Jonkers@phys.rug.nl>
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    Subject: Spoiled reward-pathway hypothesis II (learning-machines)
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    Spoiled reward-pathway hypothesis II
    or learning-machines

    In this `Spoiled Reward-Pathway Hypothesis' follow-up
    I will argue that our culture is responsible for giving us
    elevated dopamine brain levels. This makes us so liable
    to develop addictive behavior.

    Susan Blackmore argued that we humans are meme-machines.
    On adopting the meme's-eye-view it is tempting to
    regard humans as mere instruments of memes,
    almost blindlessly replicating the culture-replicators.

    Prior to replicating a meme, i.e. modifying and transmitting,
    you have to adopt or master the meme first. This process of
    acquisition is equivalent to learning or assimilating the
    contents of the meme (self-reflection, feedback, the works).
    If the meme is viable for adoption, i.e. if it doesn't clash
    with existing meme-plexes too much, this period may be as
    short as a few seconds, as with gossip-memes, or as long as a
    few years, as with scientific theory memes.

    Anyway, my point is that humans should better be regarded as
    learning-machines rather than meme-machines in order to
    understand addiction. During our entire lifes our brain is
    designed to constantly try to acquire new memes, put them in
    the right meme-plexes, possibly modify them a little by
    interaction with exising memes (=`(creative) thinking'?)
    and pass them on to the next guy or gal. Therefore we are
    literally constantly in the process of learning (about our
    culture). Compared with other animals this makes us humans
    unique; there's simply no other animal who learns at such an
    intense level throughout its entire life as humans do.

    I have this link to an interesting internet page in which
    Dr. Wightman and colleagues argue that `forebrain dopamine
    release is not necessary for the experience of reward or the
    maintenance of addictive behavior'. The paper says further:
    `the actions of dopamine may be most important in mediating
    expectation of reward or in processing novel stimuli.'
    This suggests that dopamine fulfills a vital role in learning
    and hence meme-acquisition. If you want to read the entire
    article, go to:


    The conclusion of Wightman and co-workers seems consistent
    with findings of Durstewitz and others that dopamine
    has a stabilizing function on the working-memory and thus
    improves memory tasks (mastery of memes?). For instance see:


    If the above reasoning is correct it seems plausible that
    humans possess higher functional dopamine levels than any other
    animal. The subconscious goal of exercising addictive behavior
    is to elevate dopamine levels in the brain. The brain of
    addicts might be engaged in trying to approach the naturally
    high dopamine levels already possessed by the normal `learning'
    brain. Failure to learn (acquisition of memes) for whatever
    reason might predispose the brain to develop addictive behavior
    as a short-cut compensative means to stimulate dopamine release.
    In this sense we may blame our culture for our affinity to develop
    addictive behavior (i.e. dopamine craving).
    Again, any comments?

    Philip Jonkers.

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
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