Brain Reward System

What is the Brain Reward System? 

It is a matrix of structures in the brain that involve the desires and cravings of a reward involving the release of the brain neurotransmitter, dopamine. Those intense cravings then result in emotions with pleasurable feelings such as joy, ecstasy, and euphoria. It can be a happy moment, but can lead to addictions. 

Dopamine is produced within the midbrain, dopamine neurons of the Brain Reward Center, also called the mesolimbic system (Adinoff B, 2004). When the brain receives a stimulus it then releases dopamine and causes reward seeking behavior. 

Animal research has evaluated dopamine in the brain and how it acts in addictions and stimulation of rewards. It was discovered that all of the brain cells in the region responded to both good or bad experiences. Also, more dopamine was produced with fear (Wang DV et al, 2011). 

Motivation can be triggered by the Reward System 

When the reward system is activated it regulates how one will respond to rewards such as food like chocolate, drink, social interaction, and sex and is important for motivations and incentive. The reward process has determined that a person’s “motivation” is divided into 3 different processes, a process of generating motivation, maintaining the motivation, and third regulating the motivation (Kim S, 2013). If a person is in a state of depression because of a relationship or an event in their life, they may turn to the food or something else that stimulates dopamine release for comfort. A helpful thing to do is to create a list in advance of things a person can do instead of turning to that addictive food or thing such as taking a walk, reading a book, calling a friend, etc. 

Research shows that social networking using websites and applications committed to interacting with other users is associated with addictive behavior (He Q et al, 2017). Social networking addiction has been compared to gambling, which has an effect on the brain’s structure and can bring a positive stimulus, but then may cause anxiety and depression. Some of the social media companies have employees hired to determine how to stimulate dopamine release. When a friend likes, reacts or comments on a post or photograph, some surge of dopamine is released. Having the knowledge and education of this helps one to be aware of the potential addiction that they may be developing.

Food triggers 

Investigators have found that foods high in fat and eating what is called the “cafeteria diet” can produce an addiction like effect and cause dysfunction in the brain reward function (de Macedo IC et al, 2016). These high fat foods show that they motivate overeating and provide cause for obesity. 

What can a person do to gain control of their Reward Center? 

It’s great to have that feeling of satisfaction, but one should be aware if something is becoming addictive. Admitting that something has a hold on you is the first step to freedom and the next step is seeking ways to change the behavior. 

There are brain neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, which may be involved in helping one bring control. It has been shown that releasing acetylcholine can reduce food cravings and increase satiety, which may be involved with acting as a stop signal (Wiss DA et al, 2018). 

There are certain dietary supplements including amino acids that are considered the building blocks of neurotransmitters and provide support to neurotransmission, which may help to provide a dopamine homeostasis (Blum K et al, 2017). 

In conclusion, the Brain Reward System is made up of a group of structures in the brain, where dopamine is released to increase desires and cravings and pleasurable feelings of joy, ecstasy, and euphoria. Having satisfaction is a wonderful feeling, but one should be aware if desires and craving is leading to an addiction. Being aware is the first step of taking control. More research needs to be performed to determine ways to prevent addictive behavior.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is not for advertising purposes. 

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