Do you ever feel like you are addicted to email or twitter or texting? Do you find it impossible to ignore your email if you see that there are messages in your inbox? Have you ever gone to Google to look up some information and 30 minutes later you realize that you’ve been reading and linking, and searching around for a long time, and you are now searching for something totally different than before? These are all examples of your dopamine system at work.
Enter dopamine – Neuro scientists have been studying what they call the dopamine system for a while. Dopamine was “discovered” in 1958 by Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Ake Hillarp at the National Heart Institute of Sweden. Dopamine is created in various parts of the brain and is critical in all sorts of brain functions, including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, and motivation, seeking and reward.
The myth — You may have heard that dopamine controls the “pleasure” systems of the brain: that dopamine makes you feel enjoyment, pleasure, and therefore motivates you to seek out certain behaviors, such as food, sex, and drugs.
It’s all about seeking — The latest research, though is changing this view. Instead of dopamine causing us to experience pleasure, the latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases our general level of arousal and our goal-directed behavior. (From an evolutionary stand-point this is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps us motivated to move through our world, learn, and survive). It’s not just about physical needs such as food, or sex, but also about abstract concepts. Dopamine makes us curious about ideas and fuels our searching for information. The latest research shows that it is the opoid system (separate from dopamine) that makes us feel pleasure.
Wanting vs. liking – According to Kent Berridge, these two systems, the “wanting” (dopamine) and the “liking” (opoid) are complementary. The wanting system propels us to action and the liking system makes us feel satisfied and therefore pause our seeking. If our seeking isn’t turned off at least for a little while, then we start to run in an endless loop. The latest research shows that the dopamine system is stronger than the opoid system. We seek more than we are satisfied (back to evolution… seeking is more likely to keep us alive than sitting around in a satisfied stupor).
A dopamine induced loop – With the internet, twitter, and texting we now have almost instant gratification of our desire to seek. Want to talk to someone right away? Send a text and they respond in a few seconds. Want to look up some information? Just type it into google. What to see what your friends are up to? Go to twitter or facebook. We get into a dopamine induced loop… dopamine starts us seeking, then we get rewarded for the seeking which makes us seek more. It becomes harder and harder to stop looking at email, stop texting, stop checking our cell phones to see if we have a message or a new text.
Anticipation is better than getting — Brain scan research shows that our brains show more stimulation and activity when we ANTICIPATE a reward than when we get one. Research on rats shows that if you destroy dopamine neurons, rats can walk, chew, and swallow, but will starve to death even when food is right next to them. They have lost the desire to go get the food.
More, more, more – Although wanting and liking are related, research also shows that the dopamine system doesn’t have satiety built in. It is possible for the dopamine system to keep saying “more more more”, seeking even when we have found the information. During that google exploration we know that we have the answer to the question we originally asked, and yet we find ourselves looking for more information and more and more.
Unpredictable is the key — Dopamine is also stimulated by unpredictability. When something happens that is not exactly predictable, that stimulates the dopamine system. Think about these electronic gadgets and devices. Our emails and twitters and texts show up, but we don’t know exactly when they will or who they will be from. It’s unpredictable. This is exactly what stimulates the dopamine system. It’s the same system at work for gambling and slot machines. (For those of you reading this who are “old school” psychologists, you may remember “variable reinforcement schedules”. Dopamine is involved in variable reinforcement schedules. This is why these are so powerful).
When you hear the “ding” that you have a text – The dopamine system is especially sensitive to “cues” that a reward is coming. If there is a small, specific cue that signifies that something is going to happen, that sets off our dopamine system. So when there is a sound when a text message or email arrives, or a visual cue, that enhances the addictive effect (for the psychologists out there: remember Pavlov).
140 characters is even more addictive – And the dopamine system is most powerfully stimulated when the information coming in is small so that it doesn’t full satisfy. A short text or twitter (can only be 140 characters!) is ideally suited to send our dopamine system raging.
Not without costs — This constant stimulation of the dopamine system can be exhausting. We are getting caught in an endless dopamine loop.
Kent C. Berridge and Terry E. Robinson, What is the role of dopamine in reward: hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience?: Brain Research Reviews 28 1998. 309–369.
Originally published on WhatMakesThemClick.net.
There are a few things in this world that we can always rely on as constants: The sun will always rise each morning, the seasons will always change and time will inevitably march forward at its predictable clip. Except the sun doesn’t actually rise, seasons are disappearing and time … well, see, time is tricky, too.
Read more: 7 Theories on Time That Would Make Doc Brown’s Head Explode | Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_19659_7-theories-time-that-would-make-doc-browns-head-explode.html#ixzz1nHPc4Hva
Portable water purifier by Steripen
Steripen has produced ‘Freedom’, a highly portable purifier that uses UV light to sterilize water for drinking.
The company is well-known for its water purification devices, of which ‘freedom’ is the lightest and smallest
at 5.1 inches long by 1.4 inches wide and 0.8-inches deep (130 x 35 x 22 mm) and a weight of 2.6 ounces (74 g).
The device need only be immersed in up water and its UV lamp will illuminate, within 48 seconds (per 0.5 L of water) killing over 99.9% of bad bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. ‘freedom’ offers 40 treatments on a single charge, while the UV lamp and battery last for over 8,000 uses. the device recharges via a micro USB port, connectable to computers, solar chargers, or normal wall outlets. the device also features an LED flashlight.
Available in fall 2011, ‘freedom’ retails for 120 USD.
A must have for travelling! Christmas present for moi?
Breathable caffeine: aeroshot from Le Whif.
Invented by Harvard University professor David Edwards of Artscience Labs and in production via The Lab Store (creators of le whif breathable chocolates and vitamins), ‘Aeroshot Pure Energy‘ is an aerosol-based, calorie-free caffeine inhaler.
Each ‘Aeroshot’ contains 100 mg of caffeine, the same amount that is in a large cup of coffee. To use the device, one pulls on the lower, yellow-green section to extend it and inhales through the slit on the other end. Pushing the sections back together closes the device, so that users can determine how much caffeine
to intake at any given time (each ‘Aeroshot’ offers six to eight ‘puffs’ in all, for the total of 100mg).
Liquid-free, the device bypasses TSA regulations for flight travel.
‘Aeroshot’ is available beginning in Boston and New York, USA, in early 2012, for the expected price of approximately 2.50 USD each.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’d rather taste coffee’s deliciousness.
And no, it’s not a dating website.
OneMatch is a global stem cell and marrow network responsible for finding and matching volunteer donors to patients requiring stem cell transplants. It is part of Canadian Blood Services and is a member of an international network of registries, therefore allowing possible matches through searching more than 11 million donors on over 50 registries.
Fewer than 30% of patients needing a stem cell transplant find a compatible donor within their own family, and the chances of finding a compatible donor outside of your relatives are slimmer still. (Those darn HLAs!)
So, I’ve signed up.
And I urge you all to at least find out more information about stem cells and a stem cell registry in your country.
All you have to do is answer a questionnaire, then they will call you to confirm your information and send you a swab in the mail.
Why not, right?
To find out more information please go to OneMatch and it will answer a lot of the common questions from what are stem cells, how it’s done (i.e. if it’ll hurt), the risks, and the side effects. I realize that OneMatch is a Canadian registry but the page has a lot of useful background information.
The US registry, Be The Match / National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), website also contains very useful information and has a list of registries in other countries.
Let’s help each other out!
Scientists at Tufts University have refined a method that allows people to send messages using fluorescent strains of Escherichia coli. There’s enough color combinations to encode the entire alphabet, the numbers 0 to 9 and a few symbols.
The procedure, called steganography by printed arrays of microbes (SPAM), starts in the lab where the bacteria are arranged in color-coded messages and grown on a petri dish. The cultures are then transferred to a thin film that can be sent to someone else. The message is revealed when the recipient grows the bacteria in a fresh petri dish. And you can do so much more if you add in other genetic modifications.
According to research lead David Walt, scientists can create a self-destructing message by using fluorescent bacteria that lose their glow after a certain amount of time. Even antibiotic resistant strains can be used to add a security measure to a message. These strains require the recipient to add the right antibiotic to decode the message. If the wrong one is added, the resulting message would be gibberish.
It’s a simple, yet brilliant system that Walt says could lead to “all sorts of secret spy applications.”
http://ase.tufts.edu/chemistry/walt/Group%20Members/Group%20Members-revising.htm [New Scientist]
Spanish researchers have completed the first human trial of a new vaccine against HIV. It has been successful in 90% of the HIV-free volunteers during phase I testing. This vaccine brings great hope to eradicate this plague forever.
The team lead by Dr Mariano Esteban, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council’s Biotechnology National Centre, has been working on this method since 1999. They are using an attenuated virus called the MVA-B, a variation of the Modified Ankara Vaccinia, which was previously used to eradicate smallpox. The Modified Ankara Vaccinia also forms the base of other vaccines. The B refers to the HIV-B, the most common HIV subtype in Europe.
Dr Esteban’s team inserted the HIV genes Gag, Pol, Nef and Env in MVA’s genetic sequence. In 2008, they tried the resulting HIV nuke on mice and monkeys. It was a complete success.
Successful human test
The first human test results were published in Vaccine and Journal of Virology. In the experiment, scientists injected the vaccine in 24 of 30 HIV-free volunteers. Six volunteers were treated with a placebo vaccine—they didn’t experience any effect. But 90% of the treated subjects developed a very strong immunological response against the HIV virus. 85% kept the immunological reaction for at least one year, which is really good news.
According to their results, there were no significant secondary effects in any of the patients, which was one of the major objectives of to be tested in this clinical trial.
Despite the success, Dr Esteban is cautious:
[T]he treatment has only been tested on 30 volunteers and, while [the vaccine] provokes a powerful response in most of the cases, it’s still to soon if the resulting defense would be effective against an actual [HIV] infection.
The team will now start another phase I trial, injecting the vaccine in HIV-infected people. The objective of this trial is to test the therapeutical effect of the vaccine in these patients.
According to Dr Esteban, “in principle, the immunological profile of MVA-B satisfies the requirements for a promising vaccine against the HIV, like the creation of antibodies and the activation of key cells in the defense against the virus.” Sadly, it is still far away from commercialization: they need to test this on phase II and III trials, injecting vaccinated volunteers with the actual HIV virus on a larger scale.
Hopefully, one day this one will nail that HIV bastard down. [CSIC—In Spanish]
“Let’s get physics-al!”
Great Pick-Up Lines in Science
“Let’s get physics-al!”
technology.timesonline…. look what I found!!! CANADIAN POWER!!!
In the near future we will never have to leave the couch again!