The Pleasure of the Tweet
David J. Linden is a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His laboratory has worked for many years on the cellular substrates of memory storage in the brain and a few other topics. He has a longstanding interest in scientific communication and serves as the Chief Editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his two children.
David is the author of The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams and God and most recently, The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good.
David Linden: It turns out that we humans are hardwired to get a pleasure buzz from uncertainty. You might think that when you gamble, you only see the pleasure circuit of the brain activated when you win. And that’s not true. So imagine if we have you in a brain scanner, and we’ve got a little video roulette wheel up on the screen. And it spins, and then the ball falls into the roulette wheel slot, and you win or you lose.
Well, it turns out that if we image your brain in that interval that while the ball is spinning on the roulette wheel, you have increasing activation of your pleasure circuit. You’re not just getting pleasure when you win; you’re actually getting a pleasure buzz during that period of uncertainty.
Now, I think that has a real important implication for email, text messaging, instant messaging and Twitter. So what happens? You’re walking down the street, your phone buzzes or beeps in your pocket. You pull it out. You look on your Smart Phone and you’ve got a message and then you get to read it. Well, the buzz in your pocket is signaling you’re going to get information pretty soon. You don’t know what it is, but you’re going to get it. And I think if we had you in a brain scanner during the time when you’re getting that out of your pocket and you’re opening up your phone and you’re getting to look at… we would see that same slow mounting activation of your pleasure circuitry that we see while the ball was spinning in the roulette wheel. And then depending on what the message is, well, that might be either pleasurable or not pleasurable depending on the content of the message.
But I think uncertainty and our predisposition for liking it is central to the addictive, pleasurable quality of modern electronic messaging.
Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd
Do digital media have any sweeping, unique pleasure-giving qualities? David J. Linden, Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says the effect is a lot like the pleasure we get from gambling.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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