How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explores the relationship between pleasure and addiction. The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good combines an evolutionary perspective with cutting-edge research in neuroscience and explores how the two connect. 


David Linden

Comments [19]

Amy from Manhattan

Around the time Anthony Weiner stepped down, "All Things Considered" had a segment about how a feeling of power affected people's perception of whether other people are sexually attracted to them ( It ends, "In other words, when you say 'hello' to someone, an ordinary person thinks you said hello. A powerful person thinks you meant helllloooooo." So apparently it's not just sex addiction.

Jul. 20 2011 12:45 AM
lulu from greenwich ct

China has legalized gambling mainly for the profit of the dynasty. It served as a venue for the government mainly to get money from the citizens without the guilt feeling because citizens voluntarily do it and no foce has been done for them to join in gambling activities, like our lotto which probably began in China.

Jul. 19 2011 06:04 PM
Mr. Bad from IL

This "addiction" nonsense is part of the "noble lie", i.e. a socially useful falsehood propagated by scientists to maintain social cohesion. The notion that wants and desires can't be resisted is ridiculous, we do it every day, the real problem is that the people we designate as "addicts" don't want to not want, it gives their life meaning, especially when they're bereft of stronger emotional ties in their lives. Addiction is a slur, an insult, not a diagnosis. It means that as social animals an "addict" is shunned for preferring him/herself to the company of others. If addiction can be applied to any dependent behavior than it can be applied to all, from reading to listening to Lenny on the radio.

Jul. 19 2011 12:46 PM
Debbie C from NYC

What about war & violence ??? Does this trigger the pleasure principle ?

Jul. 19 2011 12:46 PM
Robert from brooklyn

what triggers that people take drugs which make them feel bad producing terrible trips and repeat this many time over?

Jul. 19 2011 12:44 PM

Why do some learn from bad experiences of alcohol &/or drugs and cut back or stop while some keep repeating the bad experiences?

Jul. 19 2011 12:44 PM
Michael from Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY

The game Angry Birds, that is sweeping the country, seems to play very well with dopamine levels and our need for rewards.

Jul. 19 2011 12:43 PM
matt from Kew Gardens

The guest is still supporting Skinner, although he doesn't seem to realize it :) Skinner was not all about putting creatures in a Skinner Box only to force them to perform an action repeatedly. His idea, as I understand it from having read much of his work, was to show how the environment (meaning both the socio-cultural and physical milieux in which we find ourselves) shapes our behavior by reinforcing/strengthening certain behaviors and how we in turn are likely to shape our environments based on what we find reinforcing. He even posited that one day neuro-scientists would show what was happening in the brain when a behavior being reinforced. Eh voilà.

Jul. 19 2011 12:37 PM
Mr. Bad from IL

Sadly he is still peddling the "addiction" myth...

Jul. 19 2011 12:37 PM

What makes television so addictive? Is that all about pleasure, too, or is it more complicated than that? For instance, if you're watching a very suspenseful series, is it the suspense that's addictive, and if so, what does that mean is happening neurologically?

Jul. 19 2011 12:33 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

Could it fairly be said that everyone seeks to get "high"?

For one example beyond the ones you have mentioned, do teetotalers who fully submit to religion feel a sense of pleasure from that religious experience? Do they, in effect, get high? ("...opiate of the masses...?")

Jul. 19 2011 12:32 PM
Charles Imbimbo

Fascinating show! Does meditation affect the same parts of the brain as the drugs of which you speak, Professor Linden?

Jul. 19 2011 12:32 PM
Craig from Manhattan

I mean that it resembles the death drive when drug usage no longer is pleasurable and the side effects become severe enough to contribute to self destruction. In a sense the pleasure principle seems to be the engine that powers the death drive, at a neurophysiological level.

Jul. 19 2011 12:31 PM

How does the endorphin effect relate to this topic? Is there a connection to acupuncture, nipple clamps, and binder clips on the finger?

Jul. 19 2011 12:27 PM
Mr. Bad from IL

Nice to see that the guest is not anti-drug, the stupid puritanical propaganda that the typical mass media "talking heads" disseminate has been harshing my buzz since 8th grade.

Jul. 19 2011 12:26 PM
matt from Kew Gardens

The pleasure circuit also seems to support B.F. Skinner's radical behaviorism, which focused on operant conditioning based on reinforcers. The activation of the pleasure circuit is the neurological answer to the question, "What makes something reinforcing?"

Jul. 19 2011 12:22 PM
Capper from nyc

Catnip for cats.... why not something for dogs?

Jul. 19 2011 12:19 PM
Jeremy from New York, NY

I hate to make a blanket statement but Caucasians seem to be really big on drug use. Has that always been historically?

Jul. 19 2011 12:19 PM
Craig from Manhattan

Could this not be explained as the Death Drive described in Freud's "Beyond the Pleasure Principle?" It is good to see neuroscience supporting his early ideas in some ways.

Jul. 19 2011 12:14 PM

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