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Flashcards in Pleasure and Pain Deck (40)
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What are the two major systems of human motivation?

the reward circuit and the punishment circuit

Together these two circuits form the behavior approach system to motivation.


What is the evolutionary need for pleasure?

Pleasure serves as a reward for the body having undergone the vital functions required to stay alive.

Things like eating, drinking, responding to aggression, and reproducing all elicit pleasure as motivation to undergo these necessary life functions.


the reward circuit 

The reward circuit is the interconnected loop in the brain that coordinates all the various brain structures that deal with reward and pleasure.  


What are the two major centers of the reward circuit?

The ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens 

Other various brain structures involved in the circuit include the septum, the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, and the thalamus. 

Describe the location and functions of:

the ventral tegmental area in the reward circuit

The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is located in the very center of the brain; it receives information about how human needs are being satisfied and communicates this information to other structures of the brain. 


What chemical messenger is used by the reward circuit?



To what brain structures does the ventral tegmental area send dopamine?

The ventral tegmental area sends dopamine to the following structures:
  1. The nucleus accumbens 
  2. The amygdala 
  3. The septum
  4. The prefrontal cortex


What effect does an increase in dopamine have on the reward circuit?

An increase in dopamine causes the current behavior to be rewarded and reinforced.

Describe the location and functions of:

the nucleus accumbens in the reward circuit

The nucleus accumbens is a bundle of neurons located slightly anterior to the hypothalamus; it receives reward information from the VTA, activates motor functions, and further relays the information to the prefrontal cortex. 

Describe the function of:

the prefrontal cortex in the reward circuit

When stimulated by dopamine from the ventral tegmental area, the prefrontal cortex responds by increasing conscious awareness and attention.

Describe the location and function of:

the medial forebrain bundle in the reward circuit

The medial forebrain bundle (MFB) connects the various structures involved in the reward circuit; it helps to strengthen the association between the structures in order to promote repetition of the action.

Describe the function of:

the punishment circuit 

The punishment circuit enables humans to cope with unpleasant situations and avoid future painful experiences.


What activates the punishment circuit?

The punishment circuit is activated by aversive stimuli that also initiate the body's fight or flight response.


What brain structures are involved in the punishment circuit?

The brain structures involved in the punishment circuit are the following:

  1. The thalamus
  2. The hypothalamus
  3. The grey matter surrounding the cerebral aquaduct 
  4. The amygdala 
  5. The hippocampus 


What chemical messenger is used by the punishment circuit?



Regarding the punishment circuit, what effect does acetylcholine have on the body?

Acetylcholine causes the anterior pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

ACTH stimulates the secretion of epinephrine from the adrenal glands, in order to prepare the body for fight or flight. 


When is the behavioral inhibition system activated?

The behavioral inhibition system (BIS) is activated when both fight and flight seem ineffective, and the only effective response to ensure survival is to submit passively. 

The BIS causes an overall inhibition of behavior, thereby working against the behavioral action system of the reward and punishment circuits.


Which brain structure is most closely involved with drug dependency?

the nucleus accumbens


What do drugs do to the level of dopamine in the body?

The level of dopamine increases.

An increased level of dopamine has a notable effect on the brain's reward circuit. 

Describe the effect of drugs on:

the ventral tegmental area

Drugs target receptors on the VTA that cause an increase in dopamine production.

Describe the effect of drugs on:

the prefrontal cortex

The prefrontal cortex modulates planning and motivating action and is controlled by dopamine. When drugs initiate an increase in dopamine, the profrontal cortex is even more stimulated, causing a rise in motivation.

Describe the effect of drugs on:

the locus coeruleus

The locus coeruleus plays an important role in drug addiction, as it is stimulated when there is a lack of the drug, and causes the addict to do anything possible to obtain the feelings associated with the drug.


What three limbic system structures are highly involved in drug dependency?

  1. The amygdala 
  2. The hippocampus
  3. The insular cortex


Does the brain contain a single pain center?

No, the brain does not contain a single pain center. Instead, there appears to be a pain matrix, whereby many brain structures are interconnected and coordinated. 


According to modern scientists, what seems to be the purpose of pain?

The purpose of pain is to make a person aware that his/her body is damaged or is about to be damaged, allowing them to change his/her actions.



Nociception is the sensory process that produces nerve signals that are sent to the brain as pain.


a nociceptor

A nociceptor is a dense network of free nerve endings that function as the sensory receptor for pain. 



Pain is a negative sensation felt in a particular part of the body that results from nociception.

Nociception and pain are not the same; nociception is the process by which humans feel pain. 

Describe the function of:

the reticular formation in the processing of pain

The reticular formation is involved with the alertness associated with pain; it alters heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and other bodily functions affected by pain.

Describe the function of:

the ventral posterolateral nucelus (VPL) of the thalamus in the processing of pain

The VPL projects axons to the somatosensory cortex, helping to locate and determine the intensity of pain. It also functions to relay the sense of touch to the cortex.