Lays me down with my mind she runs

side_lightbulb.jpgAn 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.

Sadly, the article is not freely available online, but the theory is outlined by neuroscientist Professor Irving Biederman in a pdf file he’s put online, and in a summary from Eureka Alert.

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.

Link to summary from Eureka Alert.
pdf of talk by Biederman outlining his theory.
Link to summary of Biederman’s American Scientist article.

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