Spring 2024

Pleasure and Addiction

Listed in: Neuroscience, as NEUR-117


John-Paul Baird (Section 01)


​This course will explore the brain mechanisms underlying motivated behaviors and the dysfunctions that can lead to addictive and compulsive behaviors. Why can some people be casual gamblers while others are hooked into a spiral of addiction after just one betting experience? Are these the same brain circuits as those affected by drugs, and can we look to them to also understand eating disorders, pathological social media use, etc.? The course will use a neurobiological orientation to study the neurocircuitry and neurochemistry underlying addiction in its many forms. We will explore topics in motivation considering theories of motivation and addiction; how drugs such as opiates, stimulants, and depressants function in the brain to lead to addictive behaviors; and how cravings, hedonics, and withdrawal influence addiction. We will also explore the roles of stress, fear, and inflammation in the development of addiction. The neural systems underlying basic learning processes such as conditioning and habit formation will be reviewed and we will assess how they become dysfunctional in addiction. Finally, what is the role of decision-making in sustaining or resisting addiction—why is the decision to quit, made with the strongest of convictions, often not enough? The merits and limitations of current approaches to treatment will be evaluated with the goal of finding what more is needed and ways to achieve it. The readings and discussions will be based on primary research articles published in scientific journals. ​This course is for non-science majors and will not count toward the Neuroscience major.

Spring semester. Professor Baird

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Course will involve writing papers based on published research articles, oral presentation, discussion, and open-book tests.

NEUR 117 - LEC

Section 01
W 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM SCCE A011
F 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM SCCE A011