That Pleasure Center: How Addictions Change The Brain

Thanks to science, it is now outdated to view addiction in all its forms as a moral scourge. Before, addicts are cast out for their supposed lack of willpower in conquering drug dependence. Neuroscience forwards and persistently substantiates the biomedical view of addiction as a result of a cognitive dysfunction, rendering moot any values-based judgment of it.

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The biomedical view pits addiction as a chronic disease with a physiological explanation, altering the brain and its functions. Furthermore, it is triggered by a natural response of the brain to pleasurable stimuli. The so-called “pleasure center,” the nucleus accumbens, is infused with dopamine when a pleasurable experience registers in the brain. Thus, addiction can take on many forms and is not exclusive to drugs and alcohol. The most benign, everyday activities, such as sex, and even sports, can escalate into full-blown addiction as long as the brain registers pleasure from these and triggers the release of the happiness hormone, dopamine.

Neurosurgeons and neuroengineers then direct their addiction recovery research toward methods that target this “pleasure center.” In China, for instance, a still-risky but roguish procedure called “stereotactic ablation” seeks to obliterate parts of the nucleus accumbens. While well-intentioned, the procedure presents both biomedical and ethical issues. One is that it affects or inhibits other emotional and physiological responses stemming from the pleasure center, such as sexual desire, motivation, and in extreme cases, even happiness. This innovation presents a fundamental problem in neurosurgery: the inherent sensitivity and susceptibility to damage of brain tissue.

Other neuroengineering techniques treating addictions are more holistic and bio-social in their approach. Modern imaging methods allow a comprehensive examination of the brain’s many aspects, including cognitive abilities and brain processing speed and regulation. Data from such are then compiled with personality and lifestyle factors in the development of appropriate treatment programs for addiction.

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Dr. Curtis Cripe developed an integrated cognitive rehabilitation/development/neurotherapy training program targeted at brain recovery and brain development for children, adolescents and adults with brain dysfunctions. For more on neuroscience and methods of cognitive neurorepair, visit this website.


Other Dangerous Drugs And Their Effects

So far, the most commonly used illegal drugs are cocaine, marijuana, crack, and heroin. But there are a lot more drugs that are considered just as dangerous and have been destroying lives over the years.

Opium comes from immature seed pods of opium poppies. The latex that comes out of these pods has around 15 percent morphine. It has been a drug of choice for centuries but has since been overtaken by more purified and chemically modified varieties.

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Ecstasy or MDMA is a relatively new designer drug that’s proven on several occasions that it is indeed dangerous. This semi-synthetic psychedelic entactogen is not as visual as its psychedelic cousins, but it is a potent stimulant. It has gained massive popularity in the club scene since it’s recreational properties also help in stimulating people and enhancing sex drives. It also increases the awareness of the senses, as well as euphoria, mental clarity, and heightened positive emotions. It has also killed individuals, a lot of them underage, through overdose.

Like ecstasy, LSD or Lysergic acid diethylamide is a semi-synthetic psychedelic drug, but is more of a hallucinogen. LSD is probably the most popular psychedelic hallucinogen in the market and has reached its peak in the ‘60s with the rock movement. Just like other chemically-based illegal drugs, LSD has been known to be harmful to a person’s mind and can cause people to do things they are not aware of.

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Dr. Curtis Cripe is a neuroengineer with a background that includes addiction recovery among many other specializations. He also heads the Research and Development team at NTL Group for advanced technology for brain and cognitive treatment and repair. For more about him and the work that he does, check out this website.

Brains, Computers, And The Future

Scientists are getting closer and closer to creating an interface between the human brain and a computer that can translate what people are thinking. This is especially helpful for people who are unable to communicate, such as those with complete locked-in syndrome.

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Some researchers have tried to see if an interface that uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy, or NIRS, would work. Essentially, this method would measure brain hemodynamic responses that are usually associated with neuronal activity.

Scientists have tried to use brain-computer interfaces that depended on neuroelectrical tech, like an electroencephalogram, or EEG. The endeavor ultimately failed in its goal of helping completely locked-in syndrome patients communicate.

This latest technique though seemed to give hope to the study. It is a non-invasive brain-computer interface that combines the NIRS and EEG tech. This technique measures frontocentral blood oxygen levels, as well as electrical changes that occur in the brain. Although brain-computer interfaces in the past have helped patients communicate, the NIRS is the only technique that works on people with complete lock-in syndrome.

This also comes as great news for people who are unable to communicate, such as those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which can lead to paralysis later on, or those paralyzed because of a stroke or a spinal cord injury.

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Another encouraging fact to note is that this is merely the beginning, as such studies are projected to have broader applications in the future.

Dr. Curtis Cripe is a neuroengineer and the head of the Research and Development department of NTL group for advanced technology for brain and cognitive treatment and repair. To find out more about him and the NTL group, check out the blogs on this site.

Common Myths On Drug Abuse And Treatment

Drug abuse and its treatment are very serious, which is why utmost understanding and knowledge are required when dealing with these issues. Any misconceptions have to be clarified. Let us go through a few of the myths associated with drug abuse and treatment.

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Prescription drugs

The myth is that prescription drugs aren’t addictive. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Any prescribed medication is okay, as long as it’s taken in the prescribed dosage. But more than that, it won’t be just addictive, it can also be very dangerous.


The myth here is that natural, organic drugs such as marijuana and mushrooms are safer than synthetic drugs. That is not entirely accurate. People should keep in mind that marijuana, mushrooms, and other organic drugs that are grown can change a person’s brain chemistry. This can lead to harmful side-effects.


The most prevailing myth about detox is that it “cures” addiction. No, it doesn’t. Detox is actually an early step on the lifelong road to recovery. Take note, addiction needs to be treated throughout one’s life.

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This myth depends more on the person than the actual information. Those in recovery would often experience moments of weakness. If he or she relapses, it doesn’t mean he or she’s addicted again. It may very well happen that he or she may realize his or her mistake and strengthen their resolve.

Dr. Curtis Cripe is a neuroengineer with a multi-disciplinary background that includes drug abuse treatment. He is also the head of the Research and Development department of NTL group. Find out more about Dr. Cripe’s work by following this Facebook page.

A Brief History Of World Autism Awareness Day

Let’s take a short moment from all the medical articles to talk about a very important date in human history.

Every April 2, the world celebrates World Autism Awareness Day. It is a day recognized internationally by members of the United Nations. The goal is of course to raise awareness for individuals worldwide who are in the spectrum.

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The resolution was passed on the first day of November in 2007 by the United Nations General Assembly, and was adopted on December 18 of that same year. World Autism Awareness Day was originally proposed by the UN representative from Qatar, Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, and it was supported by every member state. The resolution itself was conceived as an addition to already-passed UN initiatives for the sake of human rights. Autism awareness has increased and research, improved, as a result.

The first World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated in 2008, and many of the biggest events took place in UN Headquarters in New York City. The panel discussion, sponsored by Her Highness, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, also included the World Health Organization (WHO), and the NGO Autism Speaks. Another event was a briefing held for NGOs that have helped increase awareness for the disorder. All these events emphasized the need to raising awareness as well as eliminating negative social stigma.

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Dr. Curtis Cripe is a neuroengineer with a multi-disciplined background that includes child neurodevelopment. He heads the Research and Development department of NTL group, for advanced technology for brain and cognitive treatment and repair. Learn more about mental disorders by visiting this blog site.

The Biggest Myths About The Human Brain

So much about the human brain has baffled scientists and researchers. Although the advancement of modern science has allowed for more discoveries, a lot about the human brain remains undiscovered. A lot of questions persist. Probably, due to the mix of frustration and eagerness, a few myths have come about, which have misled people about the human brain. Here are two of the most prevalent ones.

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The Left- and Right-Brained

Humans use both sides of their brains. It is false that there are people inclined to use one side more. The concept of rational people using the left side while artists using the right side is a huge myth that many have come to believe. Studies show that whether a person is being creative, or is into reading or mathematics, both sides of the brain are being used.

Language learning process

Many people (wrongly) believe that a person should speak a language before they learn a different one. This theory is mostly utilized when observing children and how learning one language may interfere with the acquisition of another, and that the areas of the brain are competing. The opposite is true, though, as it has been found that children who learn multiple languages early generally become smarter later on.

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Dr. Curtis Cripe is the head of the NTL Group and a neuroengineer with a vast knowledge in several other disciplines. He uses this approach to study brain development and come up with a number of practical and cutting-edge applications. Learn more about him and his work by checking out this blog.

Brain Facts That People May Not Know

Very few things intrigue people as much as the human brain. How come people can do the things they do? What compels people to feel the way they do? How come some people are born with disabilities such as autism? And how can these disabilities be cured? Here are some of the facts about the human brain that people may not know.

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  • Amazingly, there are no nerves in the human brain. No other human organ can claim the same. It cannot feel any pain.
  • The human brain consumes a fifth of the energy generated by the human body. That is the largest portion of energy to any body part. What’s unbelievable about this is that the brain is only 2 percent of a person’s body weight. This energy can even light up a light bulb.
  • There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the brain. That’s over 15 times the human population of the world.
  • Around 60 percent of the brain is fat, which is why it the fattest (or fattiest) human organ.
  • Three-fourths of human brain mass is made up of water.
  • The neocortex makes up over 75 percent of the human brain. This part is where language and consciousness come from.
  • When the heart pumps blood, around 750ml of it heads towards the brain every 60 seconds.
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Dr. Curtis Cripe is a neuroengineer and the current director of Research and Development at NTL Group. For more on Dr. Cripe and the work he does, click here.