The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History

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What does it mean to be human? There are many theories of the evolution of human behavior which seek to explain how our brains evolved to support our unique abilities and personalities. Most of these have focused on the role of brain size or specific genetic adaptations of the brain. In contrast, Fred Previc presents a provocative theory that high levels of dopamine, the most widely studied neurotransmitter, account for all major aspects of modern human behavior. He further emphasizes the role of epigenetic rather than genetic factors in the rise of dopamine. Previc contrasts the great achievements of the dopaminergic mind with the harmful effects of rising dopamine levels in modern societies and concludes with a critical examination of whether the dopaminergic mind that has evolved in humans is still adaptive to the health of humans and to the planet in general.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of the challenges of evolutionary theory is to explain how we humans have come to occupy our exalted place on earth. What other species can even begin to speculate on its own evolution? Most accounts have focused on such characteristics as brain size, language, tool use, or cerebral asymmetry. In this extraordinary book, Previc puts the onus on the dopaminergic system, and builds the case from there. Written with enthusiasm and verve, this book will cause us to rethink our ideas about where we came from, and how we got here."
—Michael Corballis, The University of Auckland

"Whether you agree with Fred Previc's theories or not, his astonishingly ambitious history of the role of dopamine in the development of human consciousness is one of the most thought provoking and deeply informed science books I've read in years. A bold synthesis of evolutionary theory, genetics, and musings on war, technology, culture, and mental illness, this book will shake you up and make you see the timeline of human development - and the dynamics of your own mind - in startlingly fresh ways."
—Steve Silberman, Senior Writer for Wired Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521360890
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/30/2011
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 226
  • Sales rank: 1,142,907
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Fred H. Previc is currently a science teacher at the Eleanor Kolitz Academy in San Antonio, Texas. For over 20 years, he was a researcher at the United States Air Force Research Laboratory where he researched laser bioeffects, spatial disorientation in flight, and various topics in sensory psychology, physiological psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. Dr Previc has written numerous articles on the origins of brain lateralization, the neuropsychology of 3-D space, the origins of human intelligence, the neurochemical basis of performance in extreme environments, and the neuropsychology of religion.

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Table of Contents

List of figures vii

List of tables viii

Acknowledgments ix

1 What makes humans special? 1

1.1 Myths concerning the origins of human behavior 3

1.1.1 Was human intelligence genetically selected? 3

1.1.2 Did our larger brains make us more intelligent? 10

1.2 The evolution of human intelligence: an alternative view 13

1.2.1 Dopamine and advanced intelligence 13

1.2.2 The rise of dopamine during human evolution 17

2 Dopamine in the brain 19

2.1 The neurochemistry of dopamine 19

2.2 The neuroanatomy of dopamine 23

2.3 Dopamine and the left hemisphere 31

2.4 Dopamine and the autonomic nervous system 33

2.5 Summary 35

3 Dopamine and behavior 37

3.1 Dopamine and distant space and time 38

3.1.1 Dopamine and attention to spatially and temporally distant cues 41

3.1.2 Dopamine and goal-directedness 46

3.1.3 Dopamine and extrapersonal experiences 49

3.2 Dopamine and intelligence 53

3.2.1 Motor programming and sequencing 57

3.2.2 Working memory 59

3.2.3 Cognitive flexibility 59

3.2.4 Abstract representation 61

3.2.5 Temporal analysis/processing speed 62

3.2.6 Generativity/creativity 63

3.3 Dopamine and emotion 64

3.4 The dopaminergic personality 66

3.4.1 Ventromedial dopaminergic traits 68

3.4.2 Lateral-dopaminergic traits 69

3.4.3 Dopamine and the left-hemispheric (masculine) style 71

3.5 Summary 73

4 Dopamine and mental health 75

4.1 The "hyperdopaminergic" syndrome 75

4.2 Disorders involving primary dopamine dysfunction 79

4.2.1 Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder 79

4.2.2 Autism 81

4.2.3 Huntington's disease 83

4.2.4 Mania (bipolar disorder) 84

4.2.5 Obsessive-compulsive disorder 86

4.2.6 Parkinson's disease 88

4.2.7 Phenylketonuria 90

4.2.8 Schizophrenia 91

4.2.9 Tourette's syndrome 95

4.3 Summary 97

5 Evolution of the dopaminergic mind 101

5.1 The importance of epigenetic inheritance 101

5.2 Evolution of the protodopaminergic mind 104

5.2.1 Environmental adaptations in the "cradle of humanity" 104

5.2.2 Thermoregulation and its consequences 108

5.3 The emergence of the dopaminergic mind in later evolution 114

5.3.1 The importance of shellfish consumption 117

5.3.2 The role of population pressures and cultural exchange 119

5.4 Summary 121

6 The dopaminergic mind in history 123

6.1 The transition to the dopaminergic society 123

6.2 The role of dopaminergic personalities in human history 130

6.2.1 Alexander the Great 134

6.2.2 Christopher Columbus 136

6.2.3 Isaac Newton 139

6.2.4 Napoleon Bonaparte 142

6.2.5 Albert Einstein 144

6.2.6 Dopaminergic personalities in history-reprise 147

6.3 The modern hyperdopaminergic society 149

6.4 Summary 153

7 Relinquishing the dopaminergic imperative 155

7.1 Reaching the limits of the dopaminergic mind 155

7.2 Tempering the dopaminergic mind 161

7.2.1 Altering dopamine with individual behavior 161

7.2.2 Knocking down the pillars of the hyperdopaminergic society 165

7.3 Toward a new consciousness 170

References 173

Index 208

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