Why does the brain prefer alcohol or another drug to broccoli?

The research is in, proving beyond a doubt that most people will not eat enough broccoli to interfere with work, family, relationships, lifestyle.

• The answer involves the nucleus accumbens, a big ole cluster of nerve cells that lies beneath the two cerebral hemispheres. When a human being or other animal performs an action that fulfills a basic need, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released into the nucleus accumbens and produces a warm and fuzzy sense of pleasure or at least the perrception of tingly feel-good pleasure.

This interaction in the mid brain is retained and is posted as a sort of sentinel to alert the body to danger and that the action (of consuming alcohol or another drug)  ensures survival or reproduction. This system is called the reward pathway.

When we do something that provides a reward or masks the threat of danger, the brain records the experience and we are likely to do it again. Damage to the nucleus accumbens and drugs that block dopamine release in the region make everything seem like a threat because this part of the brain gets soft and is either unable or highly limited in its ability to produce dopamine naturally.


And  as we all learned when we were kids….broccoli never gave even a hint that pleasure lurked beyond the first bite.

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