Curiosity, Dopamines, and Chocolate

December 20, 2014

 

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”  
                                      ― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

 

There is compelling evidence that curiosity is the benchmark of the youthful brain. To continue to be curious helps the aging brain to stay youthful and flexible.

 

Doctor Oz and Dr Roizen, our popular mass media health doctors that we all wish we had as personal physicians, wrote an interesting article about curiosity. And, thank the Spirits!, they linked it all back to chocolate – a real attention getter in even this most distracting world we find ourselves in.

 

They wrote, “If you don't know what year Bob Hope and Shirley Ross originally sang "Thanks for the Memory," but are curious to find out, chances are you'll remember once we tell you.

 

They sang the memorable tune (it won the Oscar for Best Original Song) in a movie called "The Big Broadcast of 1938." And "Thanks for the Memory" became Hope's theme song for the next 65 years of his life.

 

What's the reason, if you're curious, that you're likely to remember that the year is 1938? It turns out that when you are curious and when that curiosity is satisfied, it activates your brain's dopamine reward system, just like chocolate does. According to new research published in the journal Cell, when curiosity (defined as an intrinsic motivation to learn) stimulates production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, what you learn sticks with you longer. That sharper brain function can increase your memory of other things happening around you, too.

 

Speaking of stickier: In addition to juicing up your dopamine response, chocolate seems to improve your memory because the flavonols it contains increase blood flow in the brain. That causes dendrites (the parts of neurons that receive messages) to grow, and that translates to increased brainpower.

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But have you noticed how difficult it is to find an answer to a question these days? The odds are stacked against you precisely because there is so much information out there. How many times have you sat down to google something and gotten distracted by Facebook, email, or a sidebar? How often have you had to scrunch up your forehead, trying desperately to remember, “now why did I sit down at this computer?”

 

Is there a solution for this? How can we wade through and find satisfaction in answering our deepest most questions about, for example, Stephen Colbert’s last show?

 

There IS a solution. Drum roll please!!!

 

It takes determination and persistence, a type of revolutionary resistance. An insistence that what I need to find out is so very important, even the computer with all its marketing wiles and ever expanding rabbit holes will not distract me.

 

Here is your challenge: for one day, notice how often your attention is challenged, how often you drift off course, how often you go down the rabbit hole. And how far do you diverge from your original intent.

 

And then, for you willing to be the most brave, how do you stay on course, how do you resist? And how often do you satisfy that inner longing to know the answer to YOUR question, not where some conniving marketeer wants you to go?

 

I’ll be wondering what you find . . .and, by the way, Stephen Colbert's last show was a douzy!

 

 

 

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