The Addictive Brain

Watch The Addictive Brain

  • 2015
  • 1 Season

The Addictive Brain, part of The Great Courses Signature Collection, is a fascinating and informative look at the various ways in which addiction impacts the human brain. The course is presented by Thad A. Polk, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, who takes viewers on a tour of the brain's reward circuitry, examining the biological mechanisms that underlie addictive behaviors.

Over the course of 12 half-hour episodes, Polk explores the neuroscience of addiction, examining substance abuse, gambling addiction, and even social media addiction. He starts by examining the brain's natural reward system, explaining how the brain releases dopamine and other chemicals in response to pleasurable stimuli. He also explains how this reward system can become hijacked by addiction, leading to compulsive behaviors and a host of physical and psychological problems.

Through a combination of research studies and real-world case examples, Polk illustrates how addiction can impact people of all ages and backgrounds. He explains why some people are more prone to addiction than others, and examines the different types of addiction, from drug and alcohol addiction to behavioral addictions such as gambling and internet addiction.

Polk also delves into the psychology of addiction, exploring the ways in which environmental and social factors can contribute to addictive behaviors. He examines the role of stress, anxiety, and trauma in addiction, as well as the way that social and economic factors can influence the prevalence of addiction in different communities.

Throughout the course, Polk offers practical advice for those struggling with addiction, as well as for health professionals and those seeking to understand and treat addictive behaviors. He discusses the importance of early intervention and offers strategies for preventing addiction from taking hold in the first place.

The Addictive Brain is a thought-provoking and insightful course that offers a comprehensive look at the biological and psychological factors that contribute to addiction. It is a must-watch for anyone interested in the science of addiction, as well as for anyone who has been impacted by addiction in their own life or the life of a loved one. The course is presented in an engaging and accessible style, making it accessible to viewers of all backgrounds and levels of knowledge.

The Addictive Brain is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (12 episodes). The series first aired on March 6, 2015.

The Addictive Brain
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Junk Food, Porn, Video Games - Addictions?
12. Junk Food, Porn, Video Games - Addictions?
March 6, 2015
The course concludes with an exploration of other potentially addictive behaviors. Professor Polk argues that some artificial stimuli - junk food, pornography, and video games to name three - are "supernormal," meaning that they actually activate the brain's reward circuit more strongly than natural stimuli do, leading to some of the same neurological effects as drug use.
The Gambler's Brain
11. The Gambler's Brain
March 6, 2015
Are drugs the only thing humans can get addicted to? What about behaviors? To answer this question, take a look at what happens inside the brain of a compulsive gambler. As this case study reveals, many of the same neurochemical processes of drug abuse - from genetic predisposition to dopamine release - also accompany addiction to behaviors.
The Science of Poppies, Pleasure, and Pain
10. The Science of Poppies, Pleasure, and Pain
March 6, 2015
Round out your survey of the world's major drugs with an examination of opium and its derivatives, from regularly prescribed painkillers like codeine and morphine to heroin, often considered the most harmful drug of abuse in the world today. Learn about the neurological effects and treatment options for opiate drugs.
Stimulants - From Cocaine to Ritalin
9. Stimulants - From Cocaine to Ritalin
March 6, 2015
From the original recipe for Coca-Cola to treatments for attention deficit disorder, psychostimulant drugs have had remarkable uses. But they have also been dangerously abused in the form of crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and related drugs. Find out how stimulants work in the brain and why they can be so harmful.
The Science of Marijuana
8. The Science of Marijuana
March 6, 2015
Although there is no shortage of controversy around marijuana, whose legal status now varies from state to state, the science of this drug may surprise you. Through the lens of the neuroscientist, Professor Polk tours the effects, and the possible medicinal value, of marijuana.
Alcohol - Social Lubricant or Drug of Abuse?
7. Alcohol - Social Lubricant or Drug of Abuse?
March 6, 2015
Alcohol is often discussed separately from other drugs, but as you'll discover in this lecture, alcohol affects the human body in many of the same ways. Take a close look at your brain on alcohol to explore dependence, withdrawal, and genetic susceptibility. Then review several treatment options for alcohol abuse.
Why We Crave Coffee and Cigarettes
6. Why We Crave Coffee and Cigarettes
March 6, 2015
Caffeine and nicotine are two of the most common psychoactive drugs in our society. How do they work? How dangerous are they? After reviewing how each of these drugs affects the brain - and why nicotine in particular is so addictive - Professor Polk offers several strategies to quit tobacco use.
Your Brain on Drugs
5. Your Brain on Drugs
March 6, 2015
Shift your attention from the nature of addiction to the nature of drugs. Here you'll delve into the process of neurochemical transmission and see how drugs mimic this activity by binding to neural receptors. This process is responsible for everything from a drug's physical and psychological effects to its potency.
Genetics - Born to Be an Addict?
4. Genetics - Born to Be an Addict?
March 6, 2015
Investigate how people may be susceptible to addiction on a genetic level. Thanks to studies of twins and DNA analysis, scientists are homing in on the genes that predispose us toward addiction. While there is no single "addiction gene," our DNA can significantly influence whether we become addicts.
How Addiction Hijacks the Brain
3. How Addiction Hijacks the Brain
March 6, 2015
Here you'll examine the ways addiction alters the brain by numbing the pleasure center, sensitizing the dopamine system, and inhibiting the prefrontal cortex. Combined, these altered brain functions lead to strong cravings and a reduced ability to control one's actions. This foray into neuroscience will forever change the way you think about addiction.
The Psychology and Neuroscience of Reward
2. The Psychology and Neuroscience of Reward
March 6, 2015
Explore the brain's mechanisms for learning from reinforcement. You'll start with the psychological aspects, discovering the way humans learn by a series of trials and rewards. Then you'll find out what parts of the brain process pleasure, self-control, and craving, and see how the psychology and neuroscience of reward processing converge.
Addiction 101
1. Addiction 101
March 6, 2015
Begin your course by defining "addiction," which is diagnosed based on characteristics such as abuse, dependence, and craving. Professor Polk then surveys the history of drug use, from ancient history through the development of synthetics in the 19th and 20th centuries. Finally, he reviews government regulation and the substantial costs of drug abuse, both to the individual and to society.
Where to Watch The Addictive Brain
The Addictive Brain is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch The Addictive Brain on demand at Amazon Prime and Amazon.
  • Premiere Date
    March 6, 2015