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Spoiled reward-pathway hypothesis II
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?
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