An article in last month’s American Scientist offered an interesting theory of why some people are driven to find knowledge – because of the kick of natural opioids in the brain.
The idea is that the moment of finally understanding something causes a release of natural endorphins in the brain, providing a response to knowledge acquisition that conditions us to want more.
In other words, intellectual curiosity may be driven by an addiction to an opioid high.
Biederman’s theory was inspired by the well-known discovery that opioid receptors increase along the ventral visual pathway in the brain – the one that is most strongly associated with recognition and meaning.
At the moment, the theory is still largely speculative, although remains an interesting take on why humans are naturally curious.