Your Lizard Brain Makes You Read This

Doctor Irving Biederman is a neuroscientist at USC. He's been studying volunteers' brain activity while showing them a series of pictures of various subjects. His human guinea pigs had the greatest brain activity when shown a scene that "presented new information that somehow needed to be interpreted," and were offered in the format of a "good vantage on a landscape and an element of mystery." Viewing such images literally releases pleasure-causing chemicals in your body, and work on the most primitive parts of our brain. Behold: it's the reason you can't stop reading the Internet.

When he hooked up volunteers to a brain-scanning machine, the preferred pictures were shown to generate much more brain activity than the unpreferred shots. While researchers don't yet know what exactly these brain scans signify, a likely possibility involves increased production of the brain's pleasure-enhancing neurotransmitters called opioids.

In other words, coming across what Dr. Biederman calls new and richly interpretable information triggers a chemical reaction that makes us feel good, which in turn causes us to seek out even more of it. The reverse is true as well: We want to avoid not getting those hits because, for one, we are so averse to boredom.

It is something we seem hard-wired to do, says Dr. Biederman. When you find new information, you get an opioid hit, and we are junkies for those. You might call us 'infovores.' "

For most of human history, there was little chance of overdosing on information, because any one day in the Olduvai Gorge was a lot like any other. Today, though, we can find in the course of a few hours online more information than our ancient ancestors could in their whole lives.

Especially if you read HotHardware. We've noticed Cro-Magnon men didn't know anything about motherboards.

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