Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The brain finds pleasure in novelty.......

Humans are informavores, and derive pleasure from novel auditory and visual stimulation. Biederman and Vessel note that novel visual images rated most highly by observed also cause stronger activation of the parahippocampal gyrus, where they are interpreted in the context of stored memories, and this activation fades as the same image is repeated and becomes more familiar. This area is also rich in mu-opioid receptors (involved in pleasure and reward, and activated by morphine and endogenous morphine-like substances - endomorphins - in the brain). They suggest that the rate of endomorphin release in the parahippocampal cortex partially underlies our human preference for experiences that are both novel and richly interpretable.

Legend: Visual information flows from the primary visual cortex (bottom, orange) towards parahippocampal regions where it is interpreted (middle, purple). Credit: American Scientist.

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