Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: addicts who couldn’t internalize their prediction errors were the most addicted. This suggests that it is the inability to learn from mistakes – even when these mistakes are destroying our life – that makes addiction so damn hard to escape.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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Brain structures involved in dealing with fear and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I think one reason AA is successful, at least...
Brain structures involved in dealing with fear...
Brain structures involved in dealing with fear and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I think one reason AA is successful, at least for many of those who commit to the program, is that it’s designed to force people to confront their prediction errors.
The alcoholic brain wasn’t nearly as adept. Park et. al. found that, at least in this small group of addicted patients, there appeared to a connectivity problem between the striatum and the prefrontal cortex. As a result, when these subjects made a mistake, their prefrontal cortex wasn’t fully informed – there was a reduced amount of “feedback-related modulation” – and this lack of modulation correlated with 1) an inability to succeed at the simple learning task and 2) the magnitude of their alcohol craving. (This data extends similar results observed in smokers.) In other words, the addicts who couldn’t internalize their prediction errors were the most addicted. This suggests that it is the inability to learn from mistakes – even when these mistakes are destroying our life – that makes addiction so damn hard to escape.
Now here’s some blatant speculation. I think one reason AA is successful, at least for many of those who commit to the program, is that it’s designed to force people to confront their prediction errors. Just look at the twelve steps, many of which are all about the admission of mistakes, from step number 1 (“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable”) to step number 8 (“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”) to step number 10 (“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”). I’d suggest that the presence of these steps helps people break through the neuromodulatory problem of addiction, as the prefrontal cortex is forced to grapple with its massive failings and flaws. Because unless we accept our mistakes we will keep on making them.

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