Libraries: The Next Front in the Drug War

A neuroscientist at the University of Southern California is proposing the hypothesis that learning new ideas may actually generate natural opiates in the brain.

Neuroscientists have proposed a simple explanation for the pleasure of grasping a new concept: The brain is getting its fix.

The “click” of comprehension triggers a biochemical cascade that rewards the brain with a shot of natural opium-like substances, said Irving Biederman of the University of Southern California. He presents his theory in an invited article in the latest issue of American Scientist.

“While you’re trying to understand a difficult theorem, it’s not fun,” said Biederman, professor of neuroscience in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“But once you get it, you just feel fabulous.”

The brain’s craving for a fix motivates humans to maximize the rate at which they absorb knowledge, he said.

“I think we’re exquisitely tuned to this as if we’re junkies, second by second.”

Once this research is finalized, no doubt the same lovely cast of characters that have brought us the drug war will be pushing for a ban on learning and comprehension. After all, it’s not like they need any of that fancy book larnin’, right?

(link via Warren Ellis. Fair warning–this link is safe for work, but his main site is usually not.)

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. “Once this research is finalized, no doubt the same lovely cast of characters that have brought us the drug war will be pushing for a ban on learning and comprehension.”

    On many days, it feels like we already have a ban on learning and comprehension, given how many stupid people I run into.