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Brain studies of revenge and reward


rustyjaw
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You know the feeling you get when you finally kill that level-boss that's been giving you hell? Well, there's a reason it feels good (from Reuters):

 

The PET scans showed a clear pattern of activity in the brain's dorsal striatum, involved in experiencing satisfaction, when one player penalised the other for selfishness.

 

The article is pitifully short to get any real meat about the study, but the gist is clearly that we (well, men at least) are designed to gain satisfaction from retaliation, even at some cost to ourselves.

 

As far as a reason for this to evolve, the authors suggest:

 

"For thousands of years, human societies did not have the modern institutions of law enforcement -- impartial police and impartial judges that ensure the punishment of norm violations such as cheating in an economic exchange, for example," they wrote.

 

"Thus, social norms had to be enforced by other measures, and private sanctions were one of these means."

 

It would be fascinating to see the same study on women, to see if there are any differences.

 

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There's another interesting study regarding work, reward, and procrastination, here's the synopsis:

 

Using a new molecular genetic technique, scientists have turned procrastinating primates into workaholics by temporarily suppressing a gene in a brain circuit involved in reward learning. Without the gene, the monkeys lost their sense of balance between reward and the work required to get it...

 

The methodology of this study is astounding, they were able to temporarily shut down the expression of a specific gene in a specific brain area, which in and of itself is mind-boggling. But what they learned is also amazing, after knocking out a gene so as to disable receptors for Dopamine...

 

"The monkeys became extreme workaholics, as evidenced by a sustained low rate of errors in performing the experimental task, irrespective of how distant the reward might be," said Richmond. "This was conspicuously out-of-character for these animals. Like people, they tend to procrastinate when they know they will have to do more work before getting a reward."

 

As an aside, dopamine receptors are what are primarily altered by amphetamine drugs, in essence they enhance dopamine receptor response (whereas in this study they were shut down) and thereby bring about an extreme feeling of satisfaction and reward. Of course, such drugs work brain-wide, as opposed to this study where they targeted a specific brain area, so the symmetry isn't perfect. In motor areas of the brain, dopamine is needed for muscle control, it's lack in those areas is what causes parkinsons. An artificial replacement for dopamine (L-dopa) is what Oliver Sacks discovered in "Awakenings"

 

I managed to find a PDF of the study itself, if anyone's interested.

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The specificity of the receptor manipulation reported here suggests that this approach could be generalized in this or other brain pathways to relate molecular mechanisms to cognitive functions.

 

:shock: -- and it's reversible! Thanks for the summaries and the article link; it's very interesting. The possible benefits to people with clinical problems like OCD is great, but I'm looking forward to getting a "DNA antisense expression constructs"-pump installed in my skull for brain boosting powers.

 

"The monkeys became extreme workaholics [...]," said Richmond. "This was conspicuously out-of-character for these animals [...]"

 

No need to get nasty.

 

-j

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Originally posted by Robot Monkey@Aug 28 2004, 05:28 AM

The specificity of the receptor manipulation reported here suggests that this approach could be generalized in this or other brain pathways to relate molecular mechanisms to cognitive functions.

 

:shock: -- and it's reversible! Thanks for the summaries and the article link; it's very interesting. The possible benefits to people with clinical problems like OCD is great, but I'm looking forward to getting a "DNA antisense expression constructs"-pump installed in my skull for brain boosting powers.

 

I imagine a lot of employers are wondering if you can pump a 'productivity inhalant' through a ventilation system. :lol:

 

I can't wait to see these techniques brought to bear on other brain systems and networks...this is exactly the kind of tool that can help settle the major debates in neuroscience.

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Originally posted by FreakTornado@Aug 28 2004, 06:22 PM

I can't wait to see these techniques brought to bear on other brain systems and networks...this is exactly the kind of tool that can help settle the major debates in neuroscience.

Screw debates. I want to a brain pump installed. I will become a supervillain called the "Living Brain" or "Cognitor" or something. I like Cognitor. Sounds like someone Godzilla might fight.

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Originally posted by Robot Monkey+Aug 29 2004, 06:25 AM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Robot Monkey @ Aug 29 2004, 06:25 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-Sam P@Aug 29 2004, 12:56 AM

I would love to get rid of procrastination.

Yeah, I was going to do something about that one of these days. [/b]

Not to mention my OCD.

Not to mention my OCD.

Not to mention my OCD.

Not to mention my OCD.

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Originally posted by FreakTornado+Aug 30 2004, 11:36 AM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (FreakTornado @ Aug 30 2004, 11:36 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>
Originally posted by Robot Monkey@Aug 29 2004, 06:25 AM

<!--QuoteBegin-Sam P@Aug 29 2004, 12:56 AM

I would love to get rid of procrastination.

Yeah, I was going to do something about that one of these days.

Not to mention my OCD.

Not to mention my OCD.

Not to mention my OCD.

Not to mention my OCD. [/b]

Hahha!!

 

That is not even an exaggeration. For someone whose mind is constantly in that state, you can imagine how hard it is for that person to function.

 

When I was suffering, it was a living hell. You feel like you have no control over your thoughts or your mind and your existence is completely chained by repetitions and rituals. Nasty, nasty experience.

 

The expression "losing your mind" is apt.

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Sam,

 

I certainly don't mean to belittle your experience with my joke.

 

So you had OCD? How was it cured? (if you don't mind talking about it).

 

The expression "losing your mind" is apt.

 

I wonder if it's not so much losing your mind, but having too much access to it. Like repetitious "zombie" mental modules that would be normally be inhibited, are let loose, or at least aren't inhibited and so crowd out executive functions.

 

The brain is so overabundant with activity, the little window of awareness we have is usually so neat and tidy, but what's going on behind all of that is fairly chaotic and boisterous. Attention and awareness are primarily inhibitory, calming the activity of certain regions to effectively enhance the activity of the one's of interest (raise the 'signal' by lowering the 'noise' around it).

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