Dopamine and Reward Prediction: What your brain looks like on Rickroll

Jun 14 2010 Published by under Behavioral Neuro, Neuroscience

Today Sci is going to blog a paper that she has been meaning to blog for a long time. It's one of those papers that people who do certain kinds of science snuggle with when they go to sleep at night.

(Sci and this paper)
But the real reason that Sci loves this paper is that it's the neurobiological equivilant of a RickRoll.

And the question behind this paper is: what is the mechanism behind reward prediction? Schultz, Dayan, and Montague. "A neural substrate of prediction and reward" Science, 1997.

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Dopamine: Reach out and Touch Someone

Jul 28 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

As some of you may know by now, Sci blogs a bit about dopamine. Dopamine seems pretty simple at first look (one chemical, one transporter, five receptors, how hard can it be?), but in fact, dopamine modulates a huge number of processes, particularly those related to learning and motivation. We talk a lot about dopamine being a "pleasure" molecule, and in a way it in, but it's more complicated than that. It's not just pleasure, it's motivation and reward processes, which in a way are deeper than just the pleasure you might feel at having sex or eating a pizza. Obviously dopamine can have some pretty big effects on things like, for example, motivated movement (Parkinson's), or disregulated motivational processes (drug addiction).
But what about touch? Can dopamine levels influence how you process touch, and how well you can do on a test for it?
Pleger, et al. "Influence of dopaminergically mediated reward on somatosenory decision-making" PLoS Biology, 2009.

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Things I like to Blog About: Addiction and the Opponent Process Theory

May 20 2009 Published by under Addiction, Neuroscience

Perhaps I should put a special category up for "things I like to blog about". Or maybe just 'basics'.
Sci's been a little out of her bloggin' groove lately, feelin' her stuff is not up to snuff. But with THIS, Sci will get her groove back. And she will get it back with pictures. Pictures that are drawn in powerpoint so they don't make your eyes bleed. I care.

So what is the opponent-process theory? The opponent-process theory (hereafter called the OP Theory) is one of the current theories we are using to understand addiction. Because, to be honest, we don't really understand it. Oh sure, we know about initial rewarding effects, we know about withdrawal, we know about tolerance. But do we really KNOW what it is that makes people walk away from their families and homes and jobs and sell themselves for their next hit? A next hit that, oftentimes, they HATE and need at the same time? ...nope. Still working on that.

But one of the theories out there to explain drug addiction and how it may work is the OP Theory.

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