Dopamine Jackpot – Anticipating Reward

Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, compares dopamine levels in monkeys and humans. Unlike monkeys however, humans keep those dopamine levels up for decades waiting for the reward.

Full video here

US Copyright Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107


9 thoughts on “Dopamine Jackpot – Anticipating Reward

  1. Schizophrenia involves a high degree of anticipation of reward/punishment-I know this by personal experience.The schizoid state can be very exciting-one can learn to enjoy it to a certain extent-do some schizophrenics initially set about seeking the pleasure of excitement-including the excitement of punishment–do they find excitement in their environment-at what point does exhaustion and depression set in-GAS etc?

  2. Oops, I forgot this-is the onset of schizophrenia made more likey through a history childhhood boredom and frustration-see seeking excitement? What I am saying is this-can schizophrenia arise out of something like operant conditioning?

    • That’s a good question and one I really can’t answer, but it certainly is fuel for thought. Anything I say would be conjecture. First, let me say that I appreciate you following my blog. I wanted to send you a thanks, but I couldn’t find any options to leave a comment. I read your blog yesterday. I admire your courage to talk about schizophrenia. Doctors really don’t have a handle on this disorder yet. It’s still a mystery in many ways, but neurotechnology is leading the way in gaining a better understanding about this disorder since they can see differences in specific areas of the brain.

      Btw, I’m not a physician. The fact that you have a biochemical background tells me that you probably know more about this than I do. However, I have spent countless hours researching dopamine and it’s effects on the brain and behavior. Since it’s the most addictive chemical on the planet, I think it’s been overlooked in explaining many of the problems we see today. Here’s an interesting website about dopamine. Based on some of the research I’ve read, there appears to be more to the disorder than too much dopamine, hence, the environment plays a part as well.

      Quote: “Studies involving both monozygotic and dizygotic twins have been conducted to determine the impact of genetics on schizophrenia. Although the dopamine hypothesis has been supported in some cases, the fact that one twin may develop schizophrenia and one may not suggests that environment also plays a role in this disorder.”

      However, I have read many studies that suggested that too much dopamine led to psychosis. I read in your blog that you though childhood boredom may have played a major role. Just my opinion, but I don’t think so. Children are naturally in a theta brainwave state and therefore often escape reality through fantasy and made believe. It’s true that heredity and genes play a role, but studies show that the environment plays a major role in determining what genes are turned on or off. I thing there were other factors in your environment that attributed to schizophrenia. For example, it could have been a hormonal imbalance of melatonin and lack of REM sleep? The post I made yesterday spoke of people who had recovered from schizophrenia, and had been interviewed. They all remembered a period of sleeplessness before their psychotic break.

      When you had your breakdown had you gone through a period of sleeplessness? Where you under a lot of stress? When you were a child (or adult), did you sustain a head injury, e.g., concussion or worse? Did you sleep with an electric blanket or experience trauma, such as child abuse, illness, or the loss of a parent? I don’t expect you to answer these questions, only to suggest that there are any number of reasons why you have schizophrenia, which is why doctors all agree that this is a very complex disorder; one they don’t fully understand.

      My late husband sustained a brain injury, and a few years later he started having delusions, hallucinations, and became obsessed with god and the Bible. He had never been religious before the head injury. About a year before his death, he also became paranoid. He later went into a deep state of depression and committed suicide. A few years after sustaining the head injury, he started having non-convulsive seizures which took the form of hallucinations and delusions, then progressed into schizophrenic type behavior. Temporal lobe epilepsy can lead to paranoid schizophrenia. Personally, I believe that a lot of people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia actually have temporal lobe epilepsy – non-convulsive seizures, although people who convulse can also experience hallucinations and delusions. TLE is underdiagnosed, yet has become an epidemic.

      Here’s an example of a young man who thought he was God after having a seizures. (part 1) (part 2)

      If you can find the BBC documentary “God on the Brain”, it also goes into detain about delusions and hallucinations with this disorder.

      Quote: “Neuropharmacological studies generally point to dopaminergic activation as the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity. Hyperreligiosity is a major feature of mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, temporal-lobe epilepsy and related disorders, in which the ventromedial dopaminergic systems are highly activated…”

      Here’s a link I though you might find of interest:

      Apologies for this post being so long. It’s a subject I find very interesting and I appreciate your questions. Please overlook any typos, etc. I’m terrible at catching them. =)

  3. Thankyou for your response.
    It is the case that I have experienced emotional trauma as a child and indeed there was a period of sleeplessness prior to the breakdown of about two months duration. I was under a lot of stress,my twin was evidently suicidal at the time and I was on a very low wage and experiencing deep depression due to a lost love affair.So those precursors fit the general picture. I am still skeptical,however,I am not convinced that a genetic malformation is necessarily involved in all cases,gene expression almost certainly must be.One further point-can an excitability be conveyed from the mother to the foetus during pregnancy via purely chemical means,by placental transmission-giving rise a kind of Lamarkian inheritance of characteristics ?
    I thought it only right to respond as the picture is now more complete..

    • You said: “can an excitability be conveyed from the mother to the foetus during pregnancy via purely chemical means”

      I read a study a couple of years ago where pregnant mice were subjected to stress (startled by loud noise) on a regular basis during the gestation period. After birth, scans showed the offspring had developed larger hindbrains. The mice who were not subjected to stress produced pups with larger forebrains. Now this is fascinating because the pups, while in utero, were apparently preparing for a ‘fight or flight’ environment after birth, due to the mother releasing cortisol and adrenaline; so in answering your question, I’d have to say, yes.

  4. Thankyou so much for that – this matter has been on my mind since I was a student at Manchester in particular the preparation of the neonate to cope with an unseen environment-almost as though seeing life through the mind of the mother.
    On the matter of variations of brain structure, I have heard that in PTSD alterations occur that are reversible in nature..I am never fully convinced by imaging techniques even though they have a colourful allure (especially as this is so).I am perhaps one of the few who have more faith in Lamarks results than is fashionable to admit.

    • You are most welcome. Regarding PTSD alterations that are reversed in nature, (if I’m understanding you correctly), I agree. Although traumatic memories will always remain, one can atrophy (prune) neural pathways and networks that were created by repetitive thoughts of remembering the traumas. It’s not always easy, and can take a while, but it’s effectual.

      The best way ( I’ve found) to reverse or reduce the negative effects of trauma is after a negative thought or memory comes to mind, immediately inject a good thought or pleasant memory. Neuroplasticity is an amazing discovery. We now know that people who have a lot of fear tend to have a larger (more circuity/synapses) and more active right amygdala (negative emotions). By doing this exercise, faithfully, the left amygdala (positive emotions) becomes more active and increases in volume, and the right amygdala decreases in volume and activity. The brain is literally being rewired.

      I really enjoy engaging in stimulating discourse, especially about subjects I’m passionate about, so I will also like to say thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

  5. I don’t wish to absorb too much of your time I’ll just say that maybe these structures could simply be dedicated processors embedded in the growth medium permeating the brain and except for their physical size,nothing truly abnormal.Maybe their formation,removal and reformation is just part of the normal processes that occur,Extreme and protracted environmental or introspective situations might promote excessive growth.

  6. Must be because we think too much I suppose. So when I come out of the house and the Vervet monkeys sees me, I am the ‘signal’, their dopamine levels go up because they know they are going to get their treats. 😉 They don’t ‘overthink’ things and their expecations are not that high. They just live for the moment. Wonderful what we can learn from nature as well. 😀

    Thanks for another lovely and interesting article Victoria. 😀

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