“Organisms need to exert effort to overcome response constraints that separate them from biologically relevant stimuli and must constantly make effort-related decisions involving cost/benefit assessments across a wide variety of stimuli and responses.”

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How to Choose Your Work and Projects – Nurturing Your Real Self

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This is a good summary of how to explore ones work.  It written by a bench scientific but teh principals apply to all work and projects and what we spend out time on.

Choosing good problems is essential for being a good scientist. But what is a good problem, and how do you choose one? The subject is not usually discussed explicitly within our profession. Scientists are expected to be smart enough to figure it out on their own and through the observation of their teachers. This lack of explicit discussion leaves a vacuum that can lead to approaches such as choosing problems that can give results that merit publication in valued journals, resulting in a job and tenure. Continue reading

Dopamine Is “Seeking” Neurotransmitter Not the “Reward” N-transmitter

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Previously, dopamine in the ventral portion of the striatum  was considered to be the “pleasure” neurotransmitter involved in the action of all abused drugs.  However, clinical findings suggest that drugs that block the dopamine receptor do not block methamphetamine “liking.” The dopamine story continues to evolve, with dopamine now viewed by some as a chemical involved in the motivational “wanting” aspect of drug-taking behaviour.*

Salamone JD, Correa M, Farra A, et al. Effort-related functions of nucleus accumbens dopamine and associated forebrain circuits. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2007;191:461-82.

Sex/Money Have Different Brain Areas

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This is very interesting.  Just look at the spatial relationship relative to the eyes and the brain stem.  Sex/mating stimuli processing is right behind where the come in the eyes and are real close to the brain stem where behavior is driven.  But money stimuli is processed “far” above and farther out “front” of the brain and well away from the brain stem.  In fact the money processing is about as far away from the brain stem as possible, and on the left side which is more analytic.

Wny would money be so far removed from the behavioral centers?  Distance in the brain means much longer processing time and much newer capabilities – in evolutionary time.  Fascinating.

Specific brain areas for sex, money

Specific brain areas for sex, money

This image illustrates the dissociation between primary and secondary rewards in the orbitofrontal cortex, a frontal region of the brain that is known to play a role in the evaluation of gratification.

  • The more primitive region (in the back, shown in yellow) represents the value of erotic images shown to the participants
  • while the most recent region (in the front, in blue) represents the value of monetary prizes won by the volunteers in the experiment.

… first evidence that the orbitofrontal cortex (located in the anterior ventral part of the brain) contains distinct regions that respond to secondary rewards like money as well as more primary gratifications like erotic images. ….

In our everyday lives, we often encounter various types of “rewards”….Moreover, we must often choose between them, or trade one for another.  To do this, we must be able to compare their relative value on a single consistent scale, which suggests that all types of rewards are assessed in the same .  At the same time it is possible that, due to their individual characteristics, different rewards may activate distinct cerebral regions. In particular, there could be a dissociation between so-called “primary” gratifications such as food or sex, which satisfy basic vital needs and have an innate value, and more “secondary” rewards such as money or power, which are not essential for survival and whose value is assessed by association with primary gratifications. Continue reading

OFC Makes Spur of Moment Decisions

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Study pinpoints brain area’s role in learning

An area of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for decisions made on the spur of the moment, but not those made based on prior experience or habit, according to a new basic science study…The distinction is critical to understanding the neurobiology of decision-making, particularly with regard to substance abuse. The study was published online in the journal Science. Continue reading

Significant Gender Differences in Genes, Structure and Expression of Brain

Video

This video lecture is a bit long and complex but very important topic and very good research.

Dr. Nirao Shah is interested in understanding the molecular and neural control of instinctual social behaviors. Using mice as a model organism, his lab focuses on dissecting the mechanisms that generate sexually dimorphic behaviors such as mating, aggression, and parental care. Continue reading