Part 4: Dopamine: The Molecule of Addiction | Your Brain on Porn | Animated Series

Part 4: Dopamine: The Molecule of Addiction | Your Brain on Porn | Animated Series


Here’s the normal pattern of dopamine release. It looks something like a roller coaster because
in biology, ‘what goes up must come down’. It could be food, sex, even water when you’re
thirsty. So let’s say, you’re starting to get hungry. Well that causes dopamine to start rising
and then you think about a burger and it starts to rise more. Then you start making the burger and it’s
sizzling, and now it’s starting to go away up and right about at the peak is when you’re
taking your first bite, then you take some more bites and it starts to drop, drop and
finally drops back down to normal levels and you’re full. This graph could also represent masturbating
or having sex and the peak would be right about at orgasm. But I really want to point out that the experience
of orgasm is probably driven by other neurochemicals called opiate, not dopamine. So dopamine drives you to orgasm but the feelings
of orgasm and other pleasure are usually something else. Now, this rise and fall could also represent
anything new or novel because dopamine loves novelty: a new car, a just released movie,
the latest gadget. Heck, we’re all hooked on dopamine. You can have a spike of dopamine just when
you’re ordering dessert even though you haven’t finished what’s on your plate because it’s
something new and novel. In fact, dopamine surging in your reward circuitry
can override your feelings of what’s called satiety or fullness regardless of what your
rational brain may be thinking about overeating or even watching porn. As with everything new, the thrill fades as
dopamine levels drop. Back to the Coolidge effect. So, dopamine is what is behind the Coolidge
effect. If you look at our little graph here, we have
female number one and female number two and the yellow squiggly lines are representing
dopamine with each copulation. So what’s happening is that the reward circuitry
of the rat is squirting less and less dopamine with the current mate, female number one,
and then all of a sudden, it can’t do it anymore because there’s not enough dopamine. Dopamine is behind libido. Then you drop in female rat number two and,
boom, you get another squirt of dopamine and it comes back to work, his libido that is. So this is what is behind the Coolidge effect
and it’s also why you click on to new videos while you’re watching porn to get another
big squirt of dopamine with something novel. Okay, let’s give another nickname to dopamine. Let’s call it the ‘molecule of addiction’. It’s because changes in your brain caused
by changes in dopamine level that lead to addiction. Cocaine, alcohol and nicotine – they all feel
different but they all flood the reward circuitry with dopamine. All addictive chemicals and activities raise
dopamine levels. It’s what makes them potentially addictive. Of course, you need continued use of the addictive
substance or activity – the cause of physical changes that lead to addiction. Here’s an odd thing; we’ve mentioned it before. Dopamine is released in response to expectations
rather than actual levels of pleasure. It’s the drive to get it. It’s the craving. But as I’ve mentioned, the actual pleasure
of heating orgasm is probably opioids. Those are morphine-like neurochemicals in
the brain. Dopamine is wanting it. Opiates are liking it. Addictions are basically chasing after dopamine. So what happens is addiction is wanting more
but liking it less. Speaking of wanting and the power of the reward
circuitry, here’s an experiment. We have a rat and you can see there’s a wire
and then there’s this electrode that’s actually going to the reward circuitry of the rat. And the rat has its little paw on a lever
and whenever it hits that lever it sends electricity, just enough electricity, to the reward circuitry
to stimulate it. Now, what will happen is this rat will just
keep hitting the lever and hitting the lever thousands of times an hour until it drops. It won’t stop to eat, sleep, have sex or even
take care of the kids. It’ll give up everything just to press that
lever. As we know, this behavior is not unlike some
serious drug addicts. Here’s another experiment. They take the same rat or similar rats and
they have an electric bridge between the lever and the rat. So the rat has to get shocked in its little
paws to go over to the lever and press it. Well, the rat will cross the bridge and get
shocked. But if you take rats and you put an electric
bridge between them and food, they will not cross the electric bridge. They will not undergo the shocks to eat food. They would rather starve to death. Here’s more about the power of dopamine and
your reward circuitry. If you take rats and block their dopamine,
they have absolutely no motivation. They will not even eat. They won’t walk over to the food dish, they’ll
starve to death but they still like food. If you drop food into their mouths, they’ll
have little rats smiles but they have no motivation to go get it. They just lie around. They won’t have sex either. The male rats will have lost all of their
libido. Here’s a key point. You need the right level of dopamine to function
normally. It has lots of jobs. Dopamine gives you that positive outlook,
good attitude, keeps you motivated, keeps you happy. Just a note, many psychological problems involved
dopamine imbalances including addictions.

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