Thursday

The Dopamine Squirt


Was driving down the street this morning, just kind of observing those on the same path.  I counted about a dozen people who were walking with their cell phones in front of them.  Mind you, this isn't unusual anywhere on the planet now, but ten years ago would have been unheard of.


My Indian cellphone. Can you hear me now?

What are they looking at?  What are they looking for?  There was only one person on the sidewalk who wasn't eyeballing an object in her hand while she moved through space.  She was about 6 years old, and was in one of those fake cars that she could pedal herself.

Here I am in a giant car, about ten feet from her, she's in a tiny car on a sidewalk.  Both moving through space.  Both looking in front of ourselves to see what's up ahead.  While everyone around us had their heads down, sleek machine in hand, watching the world unfold through this dopamine squirt inducing machine.

You've heard about the dopamine squirt?  It's what your brain does whenever you get a text.  I thought it was such a funny concept I got the website "thedopaminesquirt.com" - but with regard to schizophrenia, it's a pretty dramatic theory.  That somehow the ability to create dopamine is related to the mental affliction.

But I'm referring to the dopamine "squirt" we get when our cell phone goes off.  According to this doctor, "seeking information" causes dopamine to give off a squirt in the brain. 

"Neuro scientists have been studying what they call the dopamine system for a while. Dopamine was “discovered” in 1958 by Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Ake Hillarp at the National Heart Institute of Sweden. Dopamine is created in various parts of the brain and is critical in all sorts of brain functions, including thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, and motivation, seeking and reward.

The myth — You may have heard that dopamine controls the “pleasure” systems of the brain: that dopamine makes you feel enjoyment, pleasure, and therefore motivates you to seek out certain behaviors, such as food, sex, and drugs.


It’s all about seeking — The latest research, though is changing this view. Instead of dopamine causing us to experience pleasure, the latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases our general level of arousal and our goal-directed behavior. (From an evolutionary stand-point this is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps us motivated to move through our world, learn, and survive). It’s not just about physical needs such as food, or sex, but also about abstract concepts. Dopamine makes us curious about ideas and fuels our searching for information. The latest research shows that it is the opioid system (separate from dopamine) that makes us feel pleasure."

And according to the same doc in an article in Psychology Today, this is why we're addicted to our cell phones: 

"Why We're All Addicted to Texts, Twitter and Google
Dopamine makes you addicted to seeking information in an endless loop. Post published by Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. on Sep 11, 2012 in Brain Wise"

Here is the original program where I was driving along in my car, and extended my travels just to listen to the story. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129384107 - and a transcript of the show:

This more or less jumped out at me:

MATT RICHTEL:

Physiologically, some have called it in research the dopamine squirt. You hear your phone and you get a little kind of neuro-chemical burst that says, ooh, how exciting. That's physiological.


On the psychological level, and let's assume for a second we can divide psychology from physiology, but the lure of the phone has something that researchers call the lottery ticket syndrome. You never know when the good email's gonna come in, so you are compelled to check every one.

BOB GARFIELD (interviewer):

We've become accustomed to being connected, you know, more or less 24/7. And the bonus of being in the car is that it's no longer dead time; you can be productive.

MATT RICHTEL:


There's a guy named David ****. His son was in the back seat of a car that his mother was driving, and a woman who was on the phone with, of all things, her church, hit the car, killing David's son. And David used to commute in the car and talk on the phone a lot. And after this happened he got in the car and he realized he couldn't resist the ping of his phone. And he was like, what is going on, can it be so powerful that, having lost my son, I still can't avoid the phone?
********************
A closed loop of consciousness... or a sparkler.

The question becomes: who's in control?  Is it our addictive personalisties?  Is it nature vs nurture?  Can we overcome addictions in the body? What keeps us from being focused on the road ahead when we're so busy getting that dopamine squirt from our cell phone?

From the research that's been talked about on these pages, and in my books, we find that we choose our lifetimes for a variety of reasons.  To overcome addiction perhaps. Or to examine the effects of addiction on others. Or to help others overcome those addictions.  There's a myriad of reasons why we choose to be on the planet.

Then let's examine the reality of what's in the cellphone.  We can hear our loved ones voices - we can even get footage of them wherever they are.  As one person put it during their between life session "contacting people on the other side is just like using a cellphone. You pick it up and push the buttons and you hear your loved ones voice." 


That was Howard Schultz's mom who said that to him prior to his passing.

You don't spend time thinking about how that happened - the ones and zeroes moving through space and time to bounce off a satellite and into your loved one's hand.  It just happens.

But it's also in the research that we spend time here on the planet examining the nature of reality in this artificial construct. We're on a stage, we choose the costumes, props and basically what our characters is supposed to achieve or accomplish. Sometimes we do so brilliantly, sometimes less so.  But when the play is over, or the class is over, we bow, we graduate and move on up to the next play or the next class.  We don't want to have to come back and do the class all over again, or even do the play all over again to learn the same lesson.


My peeps in Moscow

So as you're walking down the sidewalk with your head staring at a screen on your phone - try to imagine for a moment that your higher energetic self, for lack of a proper way to put it - is observing you from above.  Watching as you walk through this amazing environment.  There's birds, trees, flowers, living creatures - or as I like to refer to trees - LUNGS - that are actively making your path easier. Giving shade, giving oxygen, giving leaves, giving fruit... and what are we giving?


Giant Lungs in Huntington Gardens

Our footsteps, our heads bent, staring at ones and zeroes moving across time and space into a handheld device that may or may not harm us with its radiation and heat signature, but most certainly can harm us when the dopamine squirt kicks in and we focus on it while driving a car, walking through an intersection - or any of the other crazy ways that we've suddenly become fascinated with moving through the planet while being simultaneously on a cellphone, or apple watch, or eletronically connected to the planet - when in actuality we are ALREADY CONNECTED to everything and everyone on the planet.  We may not be able to see it - but it's there. 

Just lift up your chin.

My two cents.

1 comment:

surrealchereal said...

Great blog today Rich, real food for thought.

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