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Distinguishing Brain From Mind - Sally Satel - The Atlantic


Stashed in: Brain, Science!, Alzheimer's, Robert Downey Jr., Brain, Addiction, Drugs!, Awesome, Science

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Sometimes the neural level of explanation is appropriate. When scientists develop diagnostic tests or a medications for, say, Alzheimer's disease, they investigate the hallmarks of the condition: amyloid plaques that disrupt communication between neurons, and neurofibrillary tangles that degrade them.

Other times, a neural explanation can lead us astray. In my own field of addiction psychiatry, neurocentrism is ascendant -- and not for the better. Thanks to heavy promotion by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, addiction has been labeled a "brain disease."

The logic for this designation, as explained by former director Alan I. Leshner, is that "addiction is tied to changes in brain structure and function." True enough, repeated use of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol alter the neural circuits that mediate the experience of pleasure as well as motivation, memory, inhibition, and planning -- modifications that we can often see on brain scans.

The critical question, though, is whether this neural disruption proves that the addict's behavior is involuntary and that he is incapable of self-control. It does not.

Take the case of actor Robert Downey, Jr., whose name was once synonymous with celebrity addiction. He said, "It's like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger's on the trigger, and I like the taste of gunmetal." Downey went though episodes of rehabilitation and then relapse, but ultimately decided, while in the throes of "brain disease," to change his life.

I did not realize it was Brain Disease that caused him to change his life.

If drugs can alter neural circuits for the worse, could they also alter neural circuits for the better?

seems so.  didn't geege post the stomach leads to brain article a few days ago

I was thinking more of a neural-rewiring like the episode of Futurama where Fry becomes smarter.

But probiotics are nice, too.

Pistachios and Garbanzo Beans?  Brain food nummmmm >> Brain as food?  Cabeza tacos please...

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