Role of brain’s emotional adaptation in fueling addiction

The behavior of a person reflects his or her emotions and feelings. When some people lie, it shows the problems and struggles they may be going through. Sometimes it just becomes a habit, where the brain is made to believe certain things that are not in tandem with goodness or honesty. For example, drinking alcohol can be a daily affair if the brain is made to believe that having a little of it does not harm the body. The tendency to lie, then becomes a mental condition or a regular affair of a person.

As per a recent study by the University College London (UCL) and the Duke University, telling small lies can cause changes in the brain structure that might lead towards increasing acts of dishonesty. The study, published in the Nature Neuroscience in May 2016, has warned people of serious consequences resulting from lying overtime.

The research compared the effect of constantly telling lies to an emotional adaptation in which telling small lies makes the brain adapt emotionally to commit bigger acts of dishonesty. Emotional adaptation refers to a biological effect that adapts humans to their environments due to increased repeated actions. The researchers used brain imaging to reveal a neural mechanism in the brain that may help explain why dishonesty grows with repetition.

Level of honesty and dishonesty is based on situation

The study clearly established that the level of dishonesty increased or decreased on the basis of the situation. The researchers found that dishonesty increased when it was self-serving and that lies only increased over time when the participants benefited.

The study enrolled 80 adults to play a game to test their level of honesty. The game involved participants estimating and advising a partner about the amount of money in a glass jar. The participants were shown high-resolution images of a glass jar, containing several pennies that amounted to around $18 to $43 worth of money, for three seconds and were informed that their partner would see a smaller picture of the jar for only one second.

During the first round, the participants were informed that their partner’s goal was to estimate the amount in the glass jar by taking participant’s advice. In the second round, the participants were provided with motivations to be dishonest.

By comparing estimates between honest and dishonest situations, the team was able to measure degrees of dishonesty in the participants. The team found that during the game, the participants lied when they benefited and also when only their partner benefited; however, this dishonesty remained constant. However, the participants lied more when both the parties benefited. It further suggested that the participants found this kind of dishonesty more acceptable.

Role of amygdala in influencing addiction

An MRI helped the team measure the brain activity and monitor an area of the brain called the amygdala. It is an almond-shaped set of neurons situated in the medial temporal lobe of the brain and a region known to respond to and process emotion. The scans showed that the amygdala initially reacted strongly to a lie but the effect decreased over time. The amygdala that is associated with our emotional state affects both our emotions and memory and plays an important role in addiction to alcohol and drugs.

Due to the ability of alcohol or drugs to affect the brain’s reward system by flooding the nucleus with dopamine, the hippocampus creates memories of this satisfaction. It results in creating good memories. Therefore, even when the effect created by alcohol or a drug subsides, the memory is connected to the desired effect and the cravings persists.

A potent cause of addiction can be attributed to storing of information by the hippocampus and the amygdala. The hippocampus and the amygdala store data related to environmental signs associated with the desired substance that helps in locating the desired substance. On encountering these environmental cues, these memories create an intense craving and a conditional response to the substance. The cravings further contribute to addiction and might even trigger a relapse post the addiction treatment.

Help at hand

Alcohol and other drugs, when used consistently over a period of time, have the ability to influence the brain structure and function. As telling small lies can lead people towards larger acts of dishonesty, regular use of drugs or alcohol can lead to addiction and overdose. A powerful force in influencing a person’s life and a difficult habit to break, addiction can be effectively managed.

If you or someone you know is seriously addicted, it’s time to seek professional assistance. Contact the Alcohol Addiction Get Help for evidence-based treatments on alcohol addiction. Call at our 24/7 alcohol addiction treatment helpline number 866-281-3014 or chat online with our addiction treatment experts to know more about the best alcohol addiction treatment centers.