Link #121: You Can Get Addicted to Information Too!

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Link #121: You Can Get Addicted to Information Too!

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Info symbol. Author: Amada44/CC0 Public Domain Image.

In our last post, we explained how Gordon Cooper managed to land a spaceship in orbit on Earth with only his brain and a wristwatch, and without the help of any modern equipment. The human brain is celebrated for its ability to handle tough tasks and assignments.

The brain improves upon its capabilities as it is given more information and knowledge. In fact, most of us think that getting new information can only be good for us, and try to strive for it all the time. However, this thirst for knowledge can be problematic too. For example, did you know that you can get addicted to information?

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What Is Information Addiction Like?

Google Search Engine
Google Search Engine by Simon/CC0 Public Domain Image.

You might wonder how information addiction can be bad for you. After all, reading about, watching or learning new things is considered to be good in the modern world. However, gaining new information can only be helpful if the information you’re gaining is useful and constructive.

For instance, Googling random questions and subjects that have no constructive bearing on life may not be useful. Similarly, reading emails, watching statistics, or even visiting social media websites amounts to information addiction because the information you gain will be unimportant for your life.

Why Does Information Addiction Happen?

Dopamine 3d-CPK
Dopamine 3d-CPK. Author: Sbrools/GFDL.

There are different types of addictions ranging from food to drugs. One thing is common with all types of addictions, and that is the release of dopamine in the brain. Take addiction to food, for example.

Every time a person addicted to eating takes a bite of something he/she loves, dopamine is released in the middle portion of the brain. Dopamine can be called the pleasure hormone of the body because every time it is released, the person feels good.

Effectively, when individuals get more information, more food and more drugs, they get the pleasant sensation that comes with the release of dopamine. As a result, they start trying to get this sensation again which causes them to seek even more of that thing.

This creates a loop where dopamine motivates the individual to get more information while more information causes the release of more dopamine.

How Was Information Addiction Tied to Dopamine?

Rhesus Macaque (Macaca Mulatta)
Rhesus Macaque by smerikal/CC BY-SA 2.0

For a long time, the concept of information addiction didn’t exist or wasn’t taken seriously. Moreover, even when people started suspecting this condition, they couldn’t figure out why it happened. However, this changed when scientists found a solid connection between dopamine release and search for information.

They did this by testing thirsty rhesus monkeys. These monkeys were trained to choose targets on a screen, after which they were rewarded with some juice. The drink could either be large or small, but one of the targets would give them some information on their upcoming drink.

The size of the drink was varied, but the information preceding it remained accurate. After a few days, the monkeys consistently picked the target that gave them information on their upcoming drink over the other target which gave random pictures.

Throughout all this, the scientists monitored some dopamine neurons located in the middle section of the monkeys’ brains. They found these nerves to be extremely excited when the monkeys saw the symbol.

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