Simple Aesthetic Sense and Addiction Emerge in Neural Relations of Cost-Benefit Decision in Foraging

Students in the News: Ekaterine Gribkova, Neuroscience Graduate Student
Professor Rhanor Gillette & Neuroscience Graduate Student, Katya Gribkova

Published- Scientific Reports June 15, 2020



A rudimentary aesthetic sense is found in the stimulus valuations and cost-benefit decisions made by primitive generalist foragers. These are based on factors governing personal economic decisions: incentive, appetite, and learning. We find that the addictive process is an extreme expression of aesthetic dynamics. An interactive, agent-based model, ASIMOV, reproduces a simple aesthetic sense from known neural relations of cost-benefit decision in foraging. In the presence of very high reward, an addiction-like process emerges. A drug-like prey provides extreme reward with no nutritive value, initiating high selectivity and prolonged cravings for drug through reward learning. Varying reward experience, caused by homeostatic changes in the neural circuitry of reward, further establishes the course of addiction, consisting of desensitization, withdrawal, resensitization, and associated changes in nutritional choice and pain sensitivity. These observations are consistent with the early evolution of addiction mechanisms in simple generalist foragers as an aesthetic sense for evaluating prey. ASIMOV is accessible to inspection, modification, and experiment, is adaptable as an educational tool, and provides insight on the possible coevolutionary origins of aesthetics and the addiction process.

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