Grasping The Pleasure Principle
A Theory of Perceptual and Cognitive Pleasure
People generally seek out, with every visual fixation, and decision as to what to read or what movie to see, new but interpretable information. What is the neural basis for such behavior? What makes us infovores?
PERCEPTUAL PLEASURE AND THE BRAIN
Irving Biederman [REF]
ABSTRACT – From hand-held DVD players to hundred-inch plasma screens, much of today’s technology is driven by the human appetite for pleasure through visual and auditory stimulation. What creates this appetite? Neuropsychologists have found that visual input activates receptors in the parts of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, and that the brain associates new images with old while also responding strongly to new ones. Using functional MRI imaging and other findings, they are exploring how human beings are ‘infovores’ whose brains love to learn. Children may enjoy Sesame Street’s fast pace because they get a ‘click of comprehension’ from each brief scene.
Figure 2. Within the brain, the ventral visual pathway [top; red arrows] is involved in the recognition of an object or a scene. Early stages of visual processing [in areas V1 to V4] analyze an image’s contours, colors and textures. Intermediate stages [the lateral occipital area and ventral occipito-temporal cortex, or VOT] integrate local information to detect surfaces, objects, faces and places. Within the VOT, a region within the collateral sulcus [CoS] responds strongly to images of places, such as buildings, houses and vistas. Later stages of recognition, in areas such as the parahippocampal cortex and rhinal cortex, are activated when the brain interprets the stimulus in the context of stored memories. Surprisingly, these visual areas also contain mu-opioid receptors [bottom; black dots], which are involved in the modulation of pain and pleasure in other parts of the brain. They are sparse in the earlier stages and grow increasingly dense in the later stages. According to the authors’ hypothesis, visual stimuli that contain a great deal of interpretable information should activate many opioid receptors in the later stages and so provide the greatest pleasure. [At top, edges of ventral areas are projected onto the lateral surface and denoted by dashes. Exact locations of all areas may differ from one individual to another.]
VISUAL PATHWAYS IN THE BRAIN – [PPT]