David Linden

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David Linden is professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He is chief editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology, and the author of two books: The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God (2007), and The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good (2011).

Publisher's blurb for The Accidental Mind states[1]:

A guide to the strange and often illogical world of neural function, The Accidental Mind shows how the brain is not an optimized, general-purpose problem-solving machine, but rather a weird agglomeration of ad-hoc solutions that have been piled on through millions of years of evolutionary history. Moreover, Linden tells us how the constraints of evolved brain design have ultimately led to almost every transcendent human foible: our long childhoods, our extensive memory capacity, our search for love and long-term relationships, our need to create compelling narrative, and, ultimately, the universal cultural impulse to create both religious and scientific explanations.

The Compass of Pleasure examines the neurophysiology of the experience of pleasure, asking why people prefer, and in some cases become addicted to, certain food, chemicals and behaviors. "There are variants in genes that turn down the function of dopamine signaling within the pleasure circuit," Linden explains. For people who carry these gene variants, their muted dopamine systems lead to blunted pleasure circuits, which in turn affects their pleasure-seeking activities. People with blunted dopamine systems are driven to overindulge. Linden explains, "In order to get to that same set point of pleasure that others would get to easily — maybe with two drinks at the bar and a laugh with friends — you need six drinks at the bar to get the same thing."

"Any one of us could be an addict at any time," Linden says. "Addiction is not fundamentally a moral failing — it's not a disease of weak-willed losers. When you look at the biology, the only model of addiction that makes sense is a disease-based model, and the only attitude towards addicts that makes sense is one of compassion."[2] This viewpoint is, of course, disputed by conservatives.


  1. http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674030589
  2. http://www.npr.org/2011/06/23/137348338/compass-of-pleasure-why-some-things-feel-so-good
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