“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”
Many years ago I tried a medication that enhanced dopamine receptors and thought I’d found the holy grail. For the first time in decades I remembered what I had felt like BF (before fibro) . . . It was wonderful for a few years until I developed insatiable cravings for sweets, especially cinnamon rolls. I MEAN CRAVING which I was hard pressed to control for more than a few days at a time. I periodically told colleagues and doctors that something was wrong – my obsessional craving for all things sweet checked off all the boxes on the classic addition list (including hiding my sweet loot).
Everyone either dismissed my “confessions” or told me to eat more protein. It’s a long, long story but I started Googling, and finally discovered research showing the medication I was on created addictive behavior in 25% of people taking it. I stopped the meds, my cravings vanished and my fibromyalgia symptoms reappeared.
This research got my attention . . . obviously . . . .
UC Berkeley researchers have discovered that the brain neurotransmitter dopamine has a yin-yang personality, mediating both pleasure and pain. Credit: Christine Liu.
“For decades, psychologists have viewed the neurotransmitter dopamine as a double-edged sword: released in the brain as a reward to train us to seek out pleasurable experiences, but also a “drug” the constant pursuit of which leads to addiction.”
“The yin-yang nature of dopamine could have implications for treatment of addiction and other mental disorders. In illnesses such as schizophrenia, for example, dopamine levels in different areas of the brain become abnormal, possibly because of an imbalance between the reward and avoidance circuits in the brain. Addiction, too, may result from an imbalance in reactions to pleasure and pain.”
“Although some neuroscientists have long speculated about dopamine’s potential role in the signaling of aversive events, its dual personality remained hidden until recently because the neurons in the brain that release dopamine in response to rewards are embedded in a different subcircuit than the neurons that release dopamine in response to aversive stimuli.”
“”Having separate neuronal correlates for appetitive and aversive behavior in our brain may explain why we are striving for ever-greater rewards while simultaneously minimizing threats and dangers. Such balanced behavior of approach-and-avoidance learning is surely helpful for surviving competition in a constantly changing environment.”
Researchers used “fiber photometry which involves threading thin, flexible fiber optic wires into the brain and recording fluorescent signals given off by neurons and their axons that release dopamine. The fluorescent markers are inserted into the neurons via a virus that targets only these cells.”
“To their surprise, axons in the medial area released dopamine in response to an aversive stimulus – a mild electrical shock to the foot – while those in the lateral area released dopamine only after positive stimuli.”
The hope is these findings can be confirmed in monkeys and humans, and lead to new approaches to understanding and treating addiction and other brain maladies.
The latest neuroscience shows students who took part in spaced learning, where lessons are broken up by activities such as juggling, improved their attainment.
“A study involving 2,000 pupils revealed that information is more easily learnt if it is delivered in intense 12-minute bursts and broken up by 10 minute periods of an unrelated activity. The project, called SMART Spaces, is based on the latest neuroscience, which shows that information is better absorbed and more easily recalled when it is repeated a number of times, but spaced out with distractions.”
Whoops . . . wrong “space”
“In Sheffield England technique as part of their revision lessons ahead of students’ GCSEs. Pupils had an intense 12 minute Power Point lesson in chemistry, then juggled for 10 minutes. After that they had 12 minutes of physics before another 10 minutes of juggling. The lesson was then finished with 12 minutes of biology. This was then repeated over two more days. Other schools broke up their lessons with plasticine model making and games of Simon Says. Mr Gittner said the study led to some significant gains in learning, and there are plans to implement a full-scale randomised controlled trial involving up to 50 schools.”
“The idea for the project came after Monkseaton High School in Newcastle made headlines in 2009 for teaching its pupils to pass a GCSE after just three days of learning. They were able to pass a sixth of a GCSE in just 60 minutes. Distractions boost results Mr Gittner said such approaches were not to counteract shrinking attention spans, adding that the techniques were backed up by the latest developments in neuroscience.”
Dear EVERYONE, particularly those who love me enough to follow me on both my blogs Curious to the MAX and here,
Peggy and Judy have put my health at risk. I’ve had to keep the BIGGEST secret ever about this blog. My consultant -Dr. Allen Towfigh, a neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell Medical Center explained that keeping secrets is not healthy:
“Sleep may be disturbed, which could lead to emotional mood swings and a propensity to be ill-tempered or lose your cool. (Luckily, I can sleep all night and most of the day, consequently, nothing, including my mood, swings.) You may also have difficulty with memory and learning.”
“And the excess release of cortisol will cause a host of other ailments, including possible increase or loss of appetite and disruption of metabolism.” (Thank goodness I haven’t lost my appetite but who knows about my metabolism.)
Spiking cortisol levels have also been linked to:
Maui is still the “muse” but thankfully they renamed the blog to better reflect its mission, though I still think it should be named FREDDIE and the MIND:
The focus on both blogs is still the same:
MAX your MIND (formerly known as CATNip) – Tips, tools and techniques for health & wellness based on neuroscience and current scientific research.
CURIOUS to the MAX – Stuff that makes us smile, learn and gives expression to our more personal & “creative” sides.
For those of you who subscribe to both blogs (YEA YOU!) there will still be fresh content on each.
I’m swearing YOU to secrecy even though it’s causing me “EMOTIONAL BURDEN”: Don’t tell anyone . . . Peggy & Judy are creating a new blog banner, a new blog URL, a new blog concept . . . a new name for this blog.
Peggy and Judy originally named this blog CatNip in tribute to Maui, Peggy’s real life cat, who regained the use of his paralized back legs by repatterning his brain. I’ve always thought it a bit unfair that Curious to the Max is dedicated to another dog (Max), this blog to a cat and there are no blogs dedicated to me.