The Pleasure Center of the Brain: What Role Does it Play in Addiction
Addiction is one of the worst problems that continue to plague a large part of our population. Millions are already struggling with various substances and more people are developing addictions every single day. Realistically, this is far from a new issue, as it has been going on for centuries. Of course, the problem has grown worse as many substances have become more prominent and potent. With how long addiction has been an issue, there has been quite a lot of effort directed toward addressing it. Over the years, there have been numerous studies, tons of research, trials, and much more in attempts to resolve or better treat addiction. Some of this has resulted in more modern forms of treatment that have better handled it, but there has never been any uniform handling discovered for addiction. Although, research and studies have definitely lead to professionals being better able to understand the contributing factors behind addiction. Within the physical realm, one of the largest of these factors is how addiction and substances interact with the pleasure center of the brain.
Addiction and the Brain
The pleasure center of the brain was originally discovered in 1954 during experiments with rats. It was discovered that rats became addicted to pushing a lever due to stimulation of the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) after they had implanted electrodes in the septal area of rat’s brain. In more simple terms, stimulation in certain areas of the brain triggers a dopamine release within the NAcc. Addictive substances like drugs and alcohol, and pleasurable activities like sex and gambling, also trigger dopamine release in this same part of the brain.
When a person consumes a drug, the dopamine production in their brain increases greatly, which gives them a good feeling. This can lead to them repeatedly using that substance to feel this again. This essentially follows the pattern of something called reward seeking. Essentially, when something is good for our body or rewards us, it can influence us to seek that out again. In many scenarios, this can be a positive feature of our brains, but with substances, it can end up causing the individual to dangerously pursue the use of their substance of choice.
How Understanding the Pleasure Center of the Brain Could Help in Addressing Addiction
Previously, it was somewhat difficult for us to determine the exact mechanics of this in the brain, but recent technologies have shed more light upon it. A doctor by the name of Jonathan Britt was able to use a new brain imaging method called “optogenetics” to determine whether reward seeking was receiving a positive or negative effect. In addition, he identified inputs connected to pleasure and addiction in different parts of the brain. In other words, he was able to determine ways that the NAcc was integrating dopamine reinforcement signals along with stimuli from the environment. He found that these signals depend upon another chemical within the brain called Glutamate, which essentially sticks or hard wires neurons that generally fire together. If scientists can determine exactly how this neurochemical bonds these networks, it can bring us a new understanding of addiction and the potential for better cognitive and pharmaceutical treatments.
It can be incredibly despairing to struggle with addiction, but it can be overcome through treatment. Here at Best Drug Rehabilitation, we offer numerous treatment modalities, which allows us to create a custom program for virtually any individual. Every case of addiction is unique, and we aim to address the particularities of each person’s struggle. Call today and we can answer any questions that you may have about our program. The road to sobriety is just a phone call away!