- Nov 2021
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The dopamine reward system has also been shown to bestimulated by most drugs of abuse and plays an important rolein addiction . An important question is whether jhanameditators are subject to addiction and tolerance effects thatcan result from stimulation of the dopamine reward system.
The question of potential addiction to self-induced states that activate the dopamine (and/or other neurochemical) reward system(s) is important. From a more philosophical angle, should we welcome beneficial addictions that, if cultivated, might significantly improve individual and group quality of life? Isn't this related to our high regard for replacing detrimental with positive habits? Habit formation and maintenance also depends on activation of neural reward systems (see Nir Eyal's book, Hooked).
imaging the brain of an individual who claims to generatejoy without any external rewards or cues could point the waytoward improved training in joy and greater resilience in theface of external difficulties. Of particular interest is the neuralmechanisms by which happiness is generated.
Such a self-administered neural 'technology' of happiness should be driving much more related research but I see no other neuroscientific studies delving into jhanas.
We report the first neural recording during ecstatic meditations called jhanas and test whether a brain reward system plays a rolein the joy reported. Jhanas are Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) that imply major brain changes based on subjective reports:(1) external awareness dims, (2) internal verbalizations fade, (3) the sense of personal boundaries is altered, (4) attention is highlyfocused on the object of meditation, and (5) joy increases to high levels. The fMRI and EEG results from an experienced meditatorshow changes in brain activity in 11 regions shown to be associated with the subjective reports, and these changes occur promptlyafter jhana is entered. In particular, the extreme joy is associated not only with activation of cortical processes but also with activationof the nucleus accumbens (NAc) in the dopamine/opioid reward system. We test three mechanisms by which the subject mightstimulate his own reward system by external means and reject all three. Taken together, these results demonstrate an apparentlynovel method of self-stimulating a brain reward system using only internal mental processes in a highly trained subject.
I can find no other research on this particular matter. It would be helpful to have other studies to validate or invalidate this one. This method of reward requires a highly-trained participant and involves no external means.
- subjective reporting
- reward system
- subjective experience
- brain imaging
- external awareness
- neural correlates
- inner monologue
- altered states
- beneficial addiction
- ecstatic states