The title is a bit grand – there is probably more we don’t understand than we do. I will try to share some of the bits we do know. It all begins in a region of your brain known as the nuclear accumbens – this region of the brain has been given the nick name the “reward centre”.
The “fun” fair
A trip to the nuclear accumbens, is like going to the fun fair. When you arrive at the gate, you need to buy tickets – how many tickets you buy, determines how many rides you can participate in. The ticketing system used by the nuclear accumbens, requires you to pay with one of the important neurotransmitters, called dopamine.
It turns out that there are actually quite a few ways to get enough dopamine to buy a ticket.
It’s easy to buy tickets to the fair
Quite literally drugs, sex and rock n’ roll can get you in – actually anything that can makes YOU feel good when YOU do it, so the list can include food (mmmmm………… chocolate), computer games, gambling, even work.
And visiting the “Nuclear Accumbens” fair is fun, provided you don’t get carried away.
Most of the time, you purchase a few tokens, enter the park and enjoy a couple of the rides and games, and then you head home having enjoyed the experience. If you are lucky you leave the park with a stuffed toy and happy memories.
Unfortunately addictive drugs create a situation that when you arrive, your pockets’ are overflowing with “dopamine”, so you have the opportunity to buy lots and lots of tokens.
Once inside the park, you set about using these tokens. You start off playing the games and enjoying the rides, during the course of the activities, you win your first stuffed toy.
Man, does this feel good, so you use up a few more tokens on the games. Pretty soon you have a fantastic collection of stuffed toys. You are now just collecting them for the sake of it and it feels really really good.
You want the “fun” to last forever
You feel powerful, in control, lucky ………… everyone admires you – you don’t want the feeling to go away.
So you make a plan to get more of the dopamine, so you can continue to participate.
You want to spend all of your time at the fair – winning stuffed toys and enjoying the rides. The more time you spend in the nuclear accumbens fun park, the less time you want to spend in the real world. The ticket attendant suggests you purchase a season pass, to avoid having to stand in line for hours, especially on weekends.
Inflation in the “fun” park
Regrettably, the fun park is a business venture, not a charity……………so the higher demand levels mean that prices go up. The exhorbitant ticket prices lead to TROUBLE.
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