Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Needle and the Damage Done

I got a sickness
Sweet as a love note
I got a headache
Like a pillow

Much of 20th century experimental psychology was dominated by the behaviorist school of B.F. Skinner. They saw essentially all behavior as a product of a life history of rewarded and punished actions. At the time, scientists were very interested in understanding the brain circuits that process rewards. Olds and Milner made a crucial breakthrough by discovering a technique known as 'intracranial self stimulation' or ICSS. This discovery emerged from experiments that involved implanting a stimulating electrode into a rat's brain and zapping it every time the rat went to a specific location. They found that the rat started spending most of its time at that location. So then they decided to hook the stimulator to a lever that they rat could press itself and the results were terrifying.  Pretty quickly the rat figures this out and subsequently it doesn't give a shit about anything but pressing the lever. It will do almost anything for free access to the lever, including enduring painful electric shocks and forgoing food. Yes that's right. The rat will sooner literally starve to death than stop pressing the lever.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

When I Win the Lottery

In a fast German car
I'm amazed that I survived
An airbag saved my life

Time and again on my blog I've embarrassed myself by copping to being deeply moved by maudlin and sentimental art, so why stop now? In the final scene of Saving Private Ryan, Matt Damon as an old man visits the graves of his fallen buddies and says to his wife, "Tell me I lived a good life." That scene just wrecked me.