Book Club

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain


John L. Ratey, M.D.

Front Cover

Chapter Seven:

Addiction: Reclaiming the Biology of Self-Control

Participate in the book club discussion of this chapter by doing the following:

1. Before reading the chapter, take a moment to write in your High Performance Journal.

 – Based on the title of this chapter, what do you imagine you might learn?

 – What thoughts or ideas come to mind?

 – What kind of effect do you anticipate it will have on you to read this chapter?

2. Read the chapter.

3. Write in your journal, reflecting on what you read.

 – What 3-5 things stood out to you?

 – What did you learn that was meaningful or important to you?

 – Do you want to do anything different in your own life as a result?

4. Participate in the discussion below, sharing your thoughts or ideas about the chapter.

– Share anything you want from what you wrote in your journal.

 – What related to or supported anything else within the dimension this book belongs to.

– What related to or supported anything in the dimension of achievement and the pursuit of your goals?

– Contribute to the discussion in a helpful, positive way.

1 reply
  1. Scott Baird
    Scott Baird says:

    There has been a good deal of debate on what constitutes addition. For counseling psychology students, for example would include alcohol, tobacco, and drugs as candidate substances that could lead to addiction. Sex and pornography, carbohydrates and eating are not considered in the same category. Others argue that all of these areas can be the focus of addiction. What is interesting to me is that there is likely brain evidence justification for both positions. First as Ratey says, “All the things people become addicted to–alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, drugs, sex, carbohydrates, gambling, playing video games, shaoppig, living on the edge–boost the dopamine in the nucleus accumbens…they all boost dopamine in the reward center.” Wow! All of that being true the degree or magnitude certainly makes the argument that other “reward center” stimulants are not equal to some addictive drugs like cocain. “..while sex increases dopamine levels 50-100 percent, cocaine sends dopamine skyrocketing 300 to 800 percent beyond normal levels.”

    Research that demonstrates the power of exercise not only to reduce the want–stave off craving but to actually structurally heal the brain is very exciting. Even 10 minutes can blunt an alcoholic’s craving–just 5 minutes is efficacious for smokers. In addition to blunting the craving “exercise can change brain chemistry and rewire connections in the pathways controlling mood, aggression, and attention as well as addition.” And, “Exercise also counteracts more direct toxic effects of addiction on the brain.” “The exciting news is that both exercise and abstinence from alcohol not only stop the damage but also reverse it–increasing neurogenesis and thus regrowing the hippocampus.”

    Again, 30 minutes a minimum of five days a week.

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