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The Thirteenth StepAddiction in the Age of Brain Science$
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Markus Heilig

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172363

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172363.001.0001

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Histories, Brains, and Behaviors

Histories, Brains, and Behaviors

(p.49) 6 Histories, Brains, and Behaviors
The Thirteenth Step

Markus Heilig

Columbia University Press

This chapter argues that the processes most obviously relevant for the clinical problems of addiction are also the hardest to measure in an objective and reliable manner. Until we have a more integrated understanding of how basic processes and complex behaviors are linked, we need to find a pragmatic level of simplification. On one hand, this simplified view should come close enough to the phenomena of drug seeking and relapse to help us make clinically useful predictions. On the other hand, this simplified view must be firmly grounded in what we currently know about basic molecular and cellular processes of the brain. It is not immediately obvious where this just-right amount of simplification lies. Useful guidance can, however, be obtained from a somewhat surprising source: evolution. A perspective on human behavior from the vantage point of our history as a species and the evolution of the brain is useful in learning how brain circuitry produces feelings, decisions, and behaviors that are at play every day of our lives. Yet it is that same circuitry and the same processes that make an addicted patient engage in the seemingly incomprehensible behaviors of addiction.

Keywords:   human brain, addiction, addictive disorder, evolution

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