Dopamine fasting: why Silicon Valley is trying to avoid all forms of stimulation

Its the most recent developments trend in the worlds tech capital. But is it really possible to cut yourself off from everything in life that excites you and can it be any good for you?

They have done biohacking, clean sleeping and the keto diet, but now Silicon Valley types have coined a new health tendency- dopamine fasting. It is thought that depriving yourself of the neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that motivates us to do things, can help to reboot or rebalance the brain. Fasting might necessitate abstinence from technology, artificial lighting, food, drink, conversation, eye contact- basically anything that an individual discovers inducing. But is there any sense to the fad?

” Retreating from life probably attains life more interesting when you come back to it ,” says David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit in the division of brain sciences at Imperial College London.” Monks have been doing it for thousands of years. Whether that has anything to do with dopamine is unclear .”

It is possible to manipulate the production of dopamine through diet, Nutt says. He mentions the velvet bean, which contains high concentrations of a precursor to dopamine.” There is no question that you can have a dietary influence on the production of dopamine ,” he says. “Starvation would probably reduce dopamine to some extent.”

Dopamine is often thought of as a reward, but Joydeep Bhattacharya, who results the research group of cognitive and neuroscience at Goldsmiths, University of London, points out that dopamine is really” about learning the anticipation of the reward, and not the pleasure itself. It is primarily released in this anticipation phase .”

This could counteract dopamine fasting because abstinence might trigger a greater number of thoughts about the things from which a person is abstaining.” The moment we try to abstain, naturally our brain will crave that- so there will be more of a dopamine release .” Similarly, anyone who abstains and has a sense of occasion about the abstinence would be in danger of triggering the production of dopamine, as would a person who periodically congratulates themselves on their abstinence during the course of its abstinence.

Rather than casting this sort of intense, time-limited disengagement as a dopamine fast, it may be better seen as meditation. But dopamine-related hazards lurk there, too. As Nutt, who has studied the production of dopamine in monks, says:” If you transcend in meditation, you might get euphoria, a release of dopamine .” It would seem nowhere is safe.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Your ‘Sweet Tooth’ Is Really Your Brain Out To Get You

Having trouble maintaining your New Year’s resolution to trench the sweets? Blame your brain.

A new study from researchers at Duke University finds that a sugar habit leaves a lasting imprint on certain brain circuits, inducing it incredibly difficult to stop feeing sweet food. These marks, in turn, prime us to give into our cravings.

With this new knowledge of how sugar and other vices affect the brain, researchers may one day be able to target these circuits to help people kick bad habits and form healthy ones.

Scientists have known for some time that sugar can be addictive, hijacking the brain’s reward networkings and creating a cycle of vicious cravings. But the new examine, which was published in the journal Neuron on Thursday, is helping neuroscientists to better understand why it’s so hard to beat those cravings.

You could imagine a range of possibilities for using this information to help people with bad habits.”

For the study, the researchers trained mice to develop a sugar habit. They taught them to press a lever in order to receive tiny sweets. The mouse who became hooked on the sugar couldn’t stop pressing the lever, even after the treats were taken away.

Then the researchers compared the mind of the mice who developed a sugar habit with those who managed to break the habit, focusing specifically on the basal ganglia — a network of brain regions responsible for motor actions and compulsive behaviors, such as drug addiction.

In the basal ganglia, there are two main pathways: One that carries “go” signals, which spur us to action, and one that carries “stop” signals, which prevent us from taking action. In the case of habits and cravings, these “stop” signals are generally seen as the factor that will contribute prevent the behavior.

To the researcher’s surprise, both of these pathways were more active in the sugar-addicted mice.

However, the researchers noticed that in the brains of the addicted mice, the “go” pathway would turn on before the “stop” pathway. In the non-addicted mice, the “stop” signal preceded the “go” signal. The changes were so marked that the researchers could predict which mouse would be able to break the sugar habit when they looked at the isolated signals in their brains, according to study co-author Nicole Calakos.

“We found that the strengthening of both cell kinds was a strong predictor of whether the mice had behaved habitually or not, ” Dr. Calakos, an associate professor of neurology and neurobiology at the university, told The Huffington Post. “But we saw another feature that also strongly predicted how habitual the mouse were- and this suggested that the two cell types may be in a race to influence our actions, with whichever signals first winning. In the most habitual mouse, the ‘go’ cells tended to fire before the ‘stop’ cells. While in the least habitual mice, the ‘stop’ cells ran first.”

The researchers also found that changes in stop and run activity passed across the entire basal ganglia , not just in specific types of brain cells, which suggests that one bad habit might make the brain more susceptible to other bad habits as well.

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The basal ganglia in a female human brain.

The researchers concluded that weakening the excitability of “go” neurons could be helpful for violating bad habits.

“You could imagine a range of possibilities for using this information to help people with bad habits, from simple behavioral strategies that correlated with reduction in activity of this brain region to medications targeting these cells, ” Calakos said.

Targeting these circuits with deep brain stimulation — similar to the types of stimulation used for Parkinson’s Disease — could be another helpful possibility for violating bad habits. However, Calakos noted that a great deal of farther research is required before any such strategies can be devised.

The research also may have important clinical implications. For instance, while habits can help us to function more efficiently in our everyday lives, there may also be some psychological conditions that is a consequence of interruptions of normal habit learning in the basal ganglia, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

“We don’t know yet whether the brain changes we see in habit are involved in compulsive behaviours, ” Calakos said, “but we have a mouse that models features of OCD and are currently examining the similarities and differences of their brains to ‘a brain on habit.'”

Read more: www.huffingtonpost.com