SCIENCE: The Chemistry of Addiction - a video by SciShow

Scientists say we are experiencing something of a Golden Age with regards to brain research. The human brain is arguably the most advanced piece of technology in the known universe, and better understanding it is the most exciting step towards better understanding who we are.

The Chemistry of Addiction is a well-presented video brought to us by SciShow – a channel that is quite addictive itself. This particular video about the human brain and brain chemistry offers great insight into why we behave the way we do.

The Chemistry of Addiction

I'm sure the above video is rewarding enough, but I provide a summary below just to reinforce my own understanding of The Chemistry of Addiction. I have also written similar articles such as I drink therefore I am and Web Addiction 2.0 if you're interested in brain chemistry, pharmacology and addiction in general.

The Chemistry of Addiction: A Summary

Learning what chemicals make us feel good (in terms of their affects on the human brain) has essentially lead us to inventing addiction. Eating, sex, gambling, smoking, drinking and even the Internet are all examples of behaviours that can become hugely addictive.

There are over 100 neurotransmitters in our brains that respond to new information by releasing chemicals. These are often in response to how we feel in particular situations. If a particular situation or behaviour is key to our survival (loosely speaking), our brain is likely to reinforce this by releasing 'feel good' chemicals or hormones so that we will repeat certain behaviours in the future.

Getting high on dopamine

Dopamine is the most powerful excitory neurotransmitter that is released whenever our brain believes that we should take strong note of our current behaviour in order to remember it. Eating, sexing and running away from danger are examples of dopamine-releasing situations. However, dopamine is also primarily what drives addiction.

Chasing 'artificial highs' via excessive substance use or excessive pornography viewing for example, may fool our brains into releasing excess amounts of dopamine; however, it will become desensitised over time as it continuously tries to restore balance. The result is that more of a particular substance or behaviour is required in order to feel the same effects recorded to memory from first use.

Why smoking is so addictive

Nicotine has the effect of releasing large amounts of dopamine in our brains. However, in order to leverage this effect, our brains also release a chemical (glutamate) which plays an important role in memory formation. This has the addictive effect of telling our brains to remember that smoking makes us 'feel good' and reinforces the habit.

The effect of alcohol on our brains

Alcohol interferes with the neurotransmitters that allow our bodies and brains to function as one. More alcohol results in slower communication between neurons, which is why we slur, crab-walk and often speak without thinking when we've had too much to drink.

There is a separate SciShow video dedicated to bath salts, which apparently contain an artificial stimulant that combines the effect of both cocaine and meth simultaneously! So think twice before you buy bath salts for your loved one this Christmas!

SciShow - The Chemistry of Addiction

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WATER: Can positive thoughts affect water molecules?

In last week’s column, A dummies guide to quantum physics, I put forward the main theories and ideas of quantum physicists. Of these were the theory that we all collectively play a role in creating reality, that our brains are only able to see what we believe is possible or have experience of, and the idea that thoughts can have real effects on physical reality.

A popular example of the latter was an experiment conducted by Japanese author Dr Masaru Emoto who published his findings in a book called Messages from Water. Emoto was studying the effects of music on water molecules. He found that water molecules seemed to take on different shapes depending on the music they were exposed to. This is interesting when we consider the effect of music on plant growth and the effect of Mozart on milk production in cows.

Emoto then began experimenting with the effects that words, prayer, thoughts and blessings might have on water molecules. Again, he claimed that the molecules took on different shapes depending on their labels and affirmations offered (see images). Some of the labels consisted of simple words or statements such as “thank you” and “peace”. Emoto’s published results indicated that water crystal formation was sensitive to these things and concluded that water molecules “are affected by our thoughts, words, and feelings”. The science that affects water­ molecules in this way is still unknown.

Water molecule formation (thoughts?)
Can thoughts affect water molecules?

Emoto’s work has, however, been met with controversy within the scientific community. It was found that he did not publish the entirety of his photographs­. It is also unknown whether or not he ruled out or ignored crystals that did not support his hypothesis. It is sadly something that cannot be soundly verified.

However, Emoto’s experiments still hold interest when we consider that the human body (as well as plants and other animals) are almost entirely made of water. I’m sure we all also know of someone who says they’ve experienced spiritual or alternative healing. We could also consider how we heal faster or get sick less frequently with a positive state of mind, or how subjective pain is. All these secrets may lie in the molecular make-up of water.

What’s more is that water is one of the most complex and unique compounds known to science and chemistry. It may just be a simple combination of hydrogen and oxygen, but the intricacies of water are far more complex. It is not only the most receptive element, but also the only one that can be in all known states (e.g. solid, liquid, gas).

Can thoughts affect water molecules?We can take things a step further and consider how the human brain is almost entirely water and may then too be subjected to thoughts or emotional conditioning in profound ways. The brain is a vast system of neural networks which communicate with each other electrically and chemically. They respond to stimuli picked up from our environment by our sense organs and proceed to send chemicals from the brain throughout the body. Each cell is covered in receptors which absorb chemical combinations (called peptides) and respond accordingly. It can be said the behaviour of our watery cells change depending on the peptides they receive.

Following this process we all build up models of how we see the world outside of us. These are refined according to the information we have or receive. This is how we each form our own personal world view or ideology. However, any new information we pick up from the environment is always coloured by previous experiences that we’ve had as well as the emotions associated with those experiences. People may think of love very differently, for example, if their associations and experiences of love differ.

However, what quantum physics and biology have shown, is that these neural networks are able to rearrange themselves according to the emotions we feel and experiences we have on a daily basis. If we experience anger and despair often, our neural networks will adapt to provide more of the chemicals that cause these emotions. Similarly, if we manage to control our thoughts and maintain more of a positive outlook on a daily basis, more favourable arrangements will be made. And that is something that science does agree with.

Do you believe thoughts can affect water molecules?

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