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Unraveling The Brain's Reward System


Biolatto, L. (2022, May 27). The Brain’s Reward System: How Does it Work? Step to Health. https://steptohealth.com/the-brains-reward-system-how-does-it-work/

The human brain is a wonderful mechanism! Webbed with neurons and neurotransmitters, it houses the fascinating reward system. This system is responsible for orchestrating our pleasurable experiences and shaping our every individual behavior. Without it, we would not be human at all. In this article, you will learn about the rewards system's intricate nature, from its evolutionary origins all the way to its impact on our everyday responses to external stimuli.


The brain's reward system is rooted directly in evolutionary biology. It's a key mechanism developed over millennia that ensures the survival of individuals and prolonged species. This mechanism reinforces behavior for survival, consequently creating a built-in reward system responsible for motivating organisms to seek and engage in activities that benefit their well-being and reproductive abilities. Through these evolutionary foundations, we gain a deeper understanding of the brain and its evolution into a complex system that incentivizes behaviors, even those not necessarily beneficial for the organism.


At the heart of our system lie the neurotransmitters. Dopamine is the most famous of all. It plays a crucial part in the brain's reward pathway. It transmits neurosignals, mostly in areas associated with pleasure and reward. When triggered by stimuli, dopamine creates a cascade of sensations, molds our perception of pleasure, and links specific actions to this result.


The reward system is present in our daily lives; we cannot escape it. From listening to your favorite song, hugging your mom, or enjoying freshly baked cookies, dopamine triggers the pleasurable sensation and warm content feeling one feels from experiencing the simple good things life offers. It helps appreciate the small things in life!


However, despite its many wonders and the ability to promote good adaptive behaviors, it can be exploited. Addiction is the most prominent example of this exploitation. It hacks our nervous system, leading to an extreme elevation in levels of dopamine that a normal person does not experience. It is for this reason that addictive substances create a vicious cycle of artificial reward that, if left untreated, can lead to detrimental effects on the brain, behavior, and body.


Cravings, compulsions, and withdrawals are also parts of this intricate system. These psychological and physiological aspects delve into the significant motivators and simultaneous challenges that one faces when indulging in the forbidden seas of addiction. This shows the complicated interlinkage of the reward system and addiction when one makes tough decisions.


Neuroplasticity is key to understanding this cycle. It is the ability held by our brains to reorganize, becoming evident when delving into the way recurring experiences, rewarding or harmful, reshape our neural circuitry. Understanding these changes offers an insight into the relationship between the persistence of selected behaviors and the difficulties one experiences when trying to quit an addiction.


Yet hope is out there! One can overcome the challenges posed by addictive behaviors. There are many existing treatment alternatives to surpass it, ranging from medication-assisted treatments to cognitive-behavioral therapies and innovative technologies like neurofeedback. By understanding the risks at play, individuals can navigate the consequent complexities of addiction.


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