If you like having sex, eating chocolate, or taking drugs (or all of the above), you are going to love learning new words.
No, seriously, learning is just as stimulating and exciting as either of these “fun-filled” activities. Not saying that drug use is good or anything, it’s just that the high of reaching drug euphoria is only as good as learning something new.
The orgasm is no better than this either. It seems that something amazing occurs when you are introduced to a new word. If you have paid attention at all, you would notice that when the word makes that connection in your brain, your mouth slightly opens and your nostrils flare. These are true indications of pleasure. Let’s take a closer look, shall we!
What’s the deal?
So, going back through time, what makes us different from other creatures in existence? Our language is the unique characteristic; this sets us apart from all other beings in existence. Words may not seem all that amazing, but if you only knew what occurred inside the body, you would know the true worth of language.
The fact that we communicate with each other is simply astounding. Some people theorized that language learning mechanics were linked to pleasure-inducing circuits within the body. Thing is, this is only a theory and still holds great mystery.
Testing the theories
Researchers from both Germany and Spain teamed up to study the brains of 36 adult participants. With the use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), these participants were studied performing two different activities – gambling and learning the meaning of new words.
The ventral striatum is a brain region known as the center for reward and motivation. There are many activities that affect this area, including sex, drug use, and also basic activities, such as eating flavorful foods.
According to the results of the experiment, when learning new words, the ventral striatum syncs with the cortical language region, strengthening the pleasure bond. Those who keep a strong connection between these regions experience an easier language learning ability – stronger and more frequent.
A pleasurable evolution
Results such as these point toward another thought. Maybe the ability to feel pleasure when learning prompted evolution toward a destiny, otherwise undiscovered. There is a possibility that who we are today, stems from the bond between learning and pleasure.
Antoni Rodriguez, the lead author of the study, states that the findings suggest emotion could have played a very important role in language acquisition. Not only did the ability to achieve intellect just occur, but it may also very well have been a popular activity.
There, among the basic desires to have sex and gain the euphoria of tasting hearty rich foods, we also enjoyed the incredible thrill ride of knowledge.
Music was found to have similar effects on the brain
It is remarkable that except for learning new words, music seems to trigger our brain in similar ways. The reward center of the brain is activated when we hear the music we like, just in the same way as during sex or eating delicious food, claim Canadian scientists.
Volunteers were offered to listen to music, while their brain activity was monitored. After their brain scans were analyzed, it was found that when listening to songs they liked, their brain activity in the so-called nucleus accumbens increased. The same occurs while having sex or eating delicious food.
“We knew that the nucleus accumbens is associated with the reward. But music is an abstract concept. Listening to music does not feel like when you are hungry and getting ready to eat, being happy about it, or when you are having sex, or when you are getting money.
In such cases, we do expect activity in this brain region. Now, the striking fact is that the same thing happens with something as abstract as music. We look forward to the next sound and activate the reward center,” says Valorie Salimpoor, a scientist at the Neurological Institute of Toronto, where the study was conducted.
“Even before the volunteers said what they thought about music, we knew the answer since their brains were ‘betraying’ their opinion” says Salimpour.
The results of the study were published in the journal «Science».
Which of these pleasurable activities do you prefer, learning new words or listening to music?
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