Necessities and rewards drive human actions. Any activity, object, or event can be a reward if it leads to motivation and elicits pleasurable feelings. But how does the brain determine the value of a reward? Peak Brain Centers will explain in this blog how the brain determines what’s rewarding and how that translates into your everyday life and actions.
The Reward System in the Brain: A Brief Overview
The reward system of the brain consists of a group of structures that are activated when we experience something rewarding, such as sex or eating scrumptious food. These structures are located near the primary dopamine pathways of the brain, and when exposed to a stimulus that is rewarding, the brain releases dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and rewards).
The dopamine floods this pathway of structures, eliciting a chemical euphoria in the brain. In some respects, you can control what gives you that dopamine “fix.” But for many, this flood of pleasure chemicals comes from destructive behavior such as the use of drugs and alcohol – And that’s how addictions start.
The ventral tegmental area (VTA), is an area of the brain, located within the midbrain, and it is where dopamine is produced. Once it is produced, neurotransmitters send it to other parts of the brain via different pathways called mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine pathways.
The mesolimbic dopamine pathway is the most important reward pathway. When you experience something rewarding it means that dopamine is activated. This is then projected to the nucleus accumbens through the mesolimbic pathway. Eventually, dopamine makes its way into the same region of the brain as the hippocampus and amygdala. When dopamine rises in this region of the brain, it activates pathways to both emotion and memory, and thus your brain wants you to do it again.
For example, after having scrumptious food, the amygdala contributes to feelings of happiness and enjoyment. After having tasty food, our hippocampus helps in remembering where the tasty food was purchased from and keeps reminding us of our enjoyment of this tasty food.
How People Respond to Dopamine
Not everyone responds to dopamine the same way. While it’s a natural chemical reaction in the brain, no two people are going to receive the same amount or same euphoric sensations with any one given activity.
Take “Runner’s High” for example. People who love running and enjoy pushing their bodies or training for marathons get a higher level of dopamine and even endorphins than people who don’t enjoy running. But, when you add some other level of intensity or purpose to the action of running, such as playing football, soccer, or basketball, those who usually despise running get their dopamine levels up through other actions.
And the same can be said for motivations. What motivates one person’s mind does not necessarily motivate another person’s mind. No two brains require the same reward, nor do they create the same reward pathways that elicit positive emotions and memories.
Neurofeedback Works with the Reward Center
Neurofeedback training from Peak Brain Centers works with your brain’s reward system to create healthier, more stable neural pathways in the reward center. The brain is very simple in the sense that all it needs is simple sound rewards in order to learn a new way. By training your brain against a database of standardized brain wave activity, we can help create pathways in the brain that are more meaningful, less jumbled, and operate more efficiently.
Remember, any single activity can create an “unhealthy” reward pathway, but Peak Brain can help retrain the brain to not rely on the pathway. We proudly help residents throughout Marion, IN, overcome their anxiety, depression, addictions, and brain fog. So, get a free consultation from us today, and let’s get started!
Photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash