I’m an Info Junky

Literally, as it turns out.

Neuroscientists have proposed a simple explanation for the pleasure of grasping a new concept: The brain is getting its fix.

The “click” of comprehension triggers a biochemical cascade that rewards the brain with a shot of natural opium-like substances, said Irving Biederman, professor of neuroscience in USC College, who presents his theory in an invited article in the latest issue of American Scientist…

The brain’s craving for a fix motivates humans to maximize the rate at which they absorb knowledge, he said.

“I think we’re exquisitely tuned to this as if we’re junkies, second by second.”

Biederman hypothesized that knowledge addiction has strong evolutionary value because mate selection correlates closely with perceived intelligence.

Only more pressing material needs, such as hunger, can suspend the quest for knowledge, he added.

The same mechanism is involved in the aesthetic experience, Biederman said, providing a neurological explanation for the pleasure we derive from art.

“This account may provide a plausible and very simple mechanism for aesthetic and perceptual and cognitive curiosity.”
Nothing, but nothing, has the capacity to depress me like boredom. Mr. Shakes is the same. We’re both like sharks, constantly on the hunt for new information—always reading, writing, discussing. The only reason hunger doesn’t stop us is because we can debate or read or watch a documentary on some esoteric subject about which neither of know anything while we eat, but there have been far too many nights when we’ve had a conversation instead of sleeping, muttering tiredly every hour or so, “We really ought to get some sleep.” If we really enjoy a film, our discussion about it afterwards can easily last longer than the running time of the film itself.

In other words, this theory makes perfect sense to me—and I’m lucky my parents were teachers and not crack dealers.

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