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The Pleasure Center: Trust Your Animal Instincts
Kringelbach, Morten L.
Oxford University Press / Hardcover / 2008-10-01 / 0195322851
The Brain - for the layperson
price: $27.95 (may be subject to change)
192 pages
Not in stock - ships in 1 to 2 weeks.

Many people believe that pleasure and desire are obstacles to reasonable and intelligent behavior. In The Pleasure Center, Morten Kringelbach reveals that what we desire, what pleases us--in fact, our most base, animalistic tendencies--are actually very important sources of information. They motivate us for a good reason. And understanding that reason, taking that reason into account, and harnessing and directing that reason, can make us much more rational and effective people. In exploring the many facets of pleasure, desire and emotion, Kringelbach takes us through the whole spectrum of human experience, such as how emotion fuels our interest in things, allowing us to pay attention and learn. He investigates the reward systems of the brain and sheds light on some of the most interesting new discoveries about pleasure and desire. Kringelbach concludes that if we understand and accept how pleasure and desire arise in the complex interaction between the brain's activity and our own experiences, we can discover what helps us enjoy life, enabling us to make better decisions and, ultimately, lead happier lives.


"The Pleasure Center takes us on an illuminating journey into a crucial essence of human experience. It is a superb account and a lot of fun to read. This lively book captures the best scientific understanding of what pleasure is and how brains create it. Kringelbach is himself a prominent neuroscientist and is the rare brilliant expert who can translate laboratory discoveries into everyday life. He opens up the topic, from the latest findings on human feelings caused by stimulating an electrode deep inside an awake brain, to classic studies of psychology, evolution and neuroscience. This book is sure to inform and delight."--Kent Berridge, Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan

"In this highly accessible survey, Morten Kringelbach describes the brain's main emotional cogwheels, and explains how pleasures and pains--sometimes merely anticipated or imagined--shape our mental decisions. From the delights of chocolate to the depths of depression, this broad, fast-paced book should fascinate all readers interested in the mysteries of the emotional brain."--Stanislas Dehaene, Professor of Experimental Cognitive Psychology, College de France

"Morten Kringelbach is both a talented journalist and neuroscientist. His interests move effortlessly between philosophy, anthropology, psychology, and the brain sciences. In The Pleasure Center, an eclectic range of ideas and science introduce the reader to the excitement in the neuroscience community about the revelations of the brain systems' secrets underpinning pleasure, desire, and ultimately happiness, or the lack of it."--Sue Iversen, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Oxford University

"Despite its catchy title, this book is not a hedonistic celebration but a convincing case for the idea that, far from being reasons antithesis, emotional experiences of pleasure and pain are crucial to learning, making up the currency for our decisions and actions... Kringelbach manages an informative and entertaining primer for both novices and more knowledgeable readers, introducing classic experiments (Harlows monkeys, the metal rod in Phineas Gages frontal lobes) and covering work at the frontier of brain research (including a new view of the orbitofrontal cortex processing emotions and making rational choices, like when placing a bet). In 11 chapters, Kringelbach explores how the three fundamental elements of pleasurewanting, liking and learningunderlie human decision making as well as the subjective experience of pleasure, how memory works, the addictive effects of unpleasant drugs (wanting without liking) and mental illness."--Publisher's Weekly

"[T]his book is way above average for how seriously it treats the actual science behind its argument. I learned a great deal from it."--Marginal Revolution

"... far from being a dry medical overview, Kringelbach takes these neurological systems behind our desire, and makes them understandable and interesting."--Sacramento Book Review

"Kringelbach has created a wide-ranging and very accessible introduction to cognitive science that focuses on pleasure, desire, and emotions generally. The result of Kringelbach's craft is a fast-moving book that should inform and please (in equally large helpings) any educated readers with limited or no prior knowledge of the area... a very interesting and often exciting foray into the current state of research on how our brains work."--Metapsychology

". . . covers a wide range of psychological concepts, and provides a concise summary of the elements that constitute pleasure and desire. The Pleasure Center is a fast-paced book that will capture the attention of anyone interested in the emotional aspects of the human experience . . . the author does an outstanding job of detailing how the elements of pleasure, desire, and emotion come together to significantly influence our lives. Furthermore, Kringelbach sheds light on how an individual's assessment of a situation or life event is shaped by experiencing various emotions and feeling states. The Pleasure Center reflects Kringelbach's passion for science and is an excellent introduction into the wonderful world of neuroscience and psychology. It is an ideal book for readers who are just developing an interest in these disciplines." --Victoria Anderson-Barnes and Jack W. Tsaoa in the Journal of Neurological Sciences

"This is the accomplishment of The Pleasure Center: Trust Your Animal Instincts. Morten Kringelbach takes us back to the big questions of what makes us happy and what we find desirable....The Pleasure Center demonstrates how psychological science can address interesting questions that are useful to humanity."--PsycCRITIQUES

"...a concise, illuminating and...charming account of some of the science behind a central component of human nature." -- Quarterly Review of Biology

"Starting from the...premise that cognition and reason cannot exist without emotion..., the narrative that follows is a concise, illuminating and, I would say, charming account of some of the science behind a central component of human nature."--Qazi Rahman as reviewed in The Quarterly Review of Biology


1. The Challenge: Know Thyself?
2. Decisions: Social Intelligence in the World
3. Consciousness: Artificial Pleasures and Desires in Other Bodies?
4. Emotions: Happiness, Fear, and Trembling
5. Sensations: Making Sense
6. Memories: To Forget is to Remember
7. Learning: Emotions and Thoughts
8. Madness: Malignant Desires
9. Stimulants: Pain and Pleasure, Food and Drugs
10. Sex: Reproducing Love
11. Future Considerations: Where Do We Go From Here?

About the Author:

Morten L. Kringelbach is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, and a Professor at Aarhus University Denmark. He is also an extraordinary JRF and College Lecturer at The Queen's College, University of Oxford.

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