In a brain that people love to describe as “awash with chemicals,” one chemical always seems to stand out, writes Bethany Brookshire in Slate.com:
“Dopamine: the molecule behind all our most sinful behaviors and secret cravings.Dopamine is love. Dopamine is lust. Dopamine is adultery. Dopamine is motivation. Dopamine is attention. Dopamine is feminism. Dopamine is addiction.
“Dopamine is the one neurotransmitter that everyone seems to know about. Vaughn Bell once called it the Kim Kardashian of molecules, but I don’t think that’s fair to dopamine. Suffice it to say, dopamine’s big. And every week or so, you’ll see a new article come out all about dopamine.
“So is dopamine your cupcake addiction? Your gambling? Your alcoholism? Your sex life? The reality is dopamine has something to do with all of these. But it isnone of them. Dopamine is a chemical in your body. That’s all. But that doesn’t make it simple.
“What is dopamine? Dopamine is one of the chemical signals that pass information from one neuron to the next in the tiny spaces between them. When it is released from the first neuron, it floats into the space (the synapse) between the two neurons, and it bumps against receptors for it on the other side that then send a signal down the receiving neuron. That sounds very simple, but when you scale it up from a single pair of neurons to the vast networks in your brain, it quickly becomes complex. The effects of dopamine release depend on where it’s coming from, where the receiving neurons are going and what type of neurons they are, what receptors are binding the dopamine (there are five known types), and what role both the releasing and receiving neurons are playing.
“And dopamine is busy! It’s involved in many different important pathways. But when most people talk about dopamine, particularly when they talk about motivation, addiction, attention, or lust, they are talking about the dopamine pathway known as the mesolimbic pathway, which starts with cells in the ventral tegmental area, buried deep in the middle of the brain, which send their projections out to places like the nucleus accumbens and the cortex. Increases in dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens occur in response to sex, drugs, androck and roll. And dopamine signaling in this area is changed during the course of drug addiction. All abused drugs, from alcohol to cocaine to heroin, increase dopamine in this area in one way or another, and many people like to describe a spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure.” But that’s not quite it. Really, dopamine is signaling feedback for predicted rewards. If you, say, have learned to associate a cue (like a crack pipe) with a hit of crack, you will start getting increases in dopamine in the nucleus accumbens in response to the sight of the pipe, as your brain predicts the reward. But if you then don’t get your hit, well, then dopamine can decrease, and that’s not a good feeling. So you’d think that maybe dopamine predicts reward. But again, it gets more complex. For example, dopamine can increase in the nucleus accumbens in people with post-traumatic stress disorder when they are experiencing heightened vigilance and paranoia. So you might say, in this brain area at least, dopamine isn’t addiction or reward or fear. Instead, it’s what we call salience. Salience is more than attention: It’s a sign of something that needs to be paid attention to, something that stands out. This may be part of the mesolimbic role in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and also a part of its role in addiction.”
More at: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/07/what_is_dopamine_love_lust_sex_addiction_gambling_motivation_reward.html
Not that everyone follows financial news, but dropping Apple stock prices have dampened enthusiasm about the company so many love (and others hate). Recent reactions could well result from a number of factors: the inevitable fall of any huge success, suspicions about the company without Steve Jobs, or simply the fickle nature of a stock market driven by flash-trading and emotion. Today’s Slate.com added a few more ideas:
“On Wednesday afternoon, Apple announced that during the last three months of 2012, it earned more money than any other non-oil company has ever earned in a single quarter. (Gazprom, Royal Dutch Shell, and ExxonMobil have each topped Apple’s earnings one time.) What’s more, during all of 2012, Apple’s profits topped $41.7 billion, which is also a record for any firm outside the oil industry. (ExxonMobil earned a few billion more in 2006, 2007, and 2008.) Continue reading “Where the Apple falls”
Four of ten American children are not born into married households.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we are talking “single-moms.” Definitions of family and parenting are rapidly changing, not to mention views of marriage itself.
Many of these issues are discussed by
Naomi Cahn and June Carbone in an article appearing in today’s Slate.com – on the 40th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court Decision Excerpted below, the story begins:
“As the co-authors of Red Families v. Blue Families, we often give talks about the recent rise in what’s called the “nonmarital birthrate,” or the idea that more than 40 percent of children are now born to women who aren’t married. Sometimes at our talks someone will come up to us, confess his or her encounter with single parenthood, and say something like: “When my daughter got pregnant and decided to keep the child, we were OK with that because we are Christians. Continue reading “Fewer married mothers”
This recent statistic of 345 gun deaths is about the average for a two week period in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The number comes courtesy of Slate.com, which has just started an online project to track gun killings. As Slate announced today:
“Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, we at Slate have been wondering how many people are dying from guns in America every day.
“That information is surprisingly hard to come by. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
, for example, has a tally atop its website of “people shot in America.” That number, though, is an estimate, based on the number of gun injuries and deaths recorded by the CDC in 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which statistics are available. It seems shocking that when guns are in the headlines every day, there’s no one attempting to create a real-time chronicle of the deaths attributable to guns in the United States. Continue reading “U.S. gun deaths since Sandy Hook: 345”
“When something momentous is unfolding—the Arab Spring, Hurricane Sandy, Friday’s horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut—Twitter is the world’s fastest, most comprehensive, and least reliable source of breaking news.” Says Slate.com in a step-back piece on net-coverage of the recent tragedy. “
“If you were on the microblogging site Friday afternoon, you were among the first to hear the death toll, watch the devastated reactions, and delve into the personal details of the man the media initially identified as a killer. But there’s also a good chance you were taken in by some of the many falsehoods that were flying, like a letter one of the young victims purportedly wrote to his mother Continue reading “Accuracy, sensationalism, and new media”