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We are addicted, quite literally, to information.Why is that? John Coates addresses the issue in his recently released book “The Hour Between Dog and Wolf.”
It’s all about dopamine — a much-researched neurotransmitter produced at the top of the brain stem which targets brain regions that control reward and movement.
“When we receive some valuable piece of information, or perform some act that promotes our health and survival, such as eating, drinking, having sex or making large amounts of money, dopamine is released along what are called the pleasure pathways of the brain, providing us with a rewarding, even euphoric, experience. In fact our brain seems to value the dopamine more than the food or drink or sex itself,” explains Coates.
There are dopamine-driven cravings too. Recreational drugs, for instance, trick dopamine neurons into providing their rewards. But they’re not the only thing that makes you yearn for more.
“What else besides drugs of abuse can create a dopamine-driven craving? If dopamine fuels a desire for information and unexpected reward, perhaps it also fills us with a burning curiosity.
“Perhaps curiosity itself, the need to know, is a form of addiction, making us race to the end of a good mystery novel, or driving scientists to work day and night until they discover insulin, say, or decode the structure of DNA, scientific breakthrough being the ultimate hit of information.
“When the Theory of General Relativity dawned on Einstein, he must have had the mother of all dopamine rushes.”
Dopamine doesn’t simply make us want more information. It surges most when we’re performing a physical action that leads to an unexpected reward, and this makes us want to repeat the actions we took to get to that point, or figure out new ways to do it. So, we’re always looking for different “search patterns” as we quest for information.
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