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Jewish Journal

Obama’s Big Brain Map

by Beit T'shuvah

April 3, 2013 | 9:26 pm

By Ben Spielberg

On Sunday, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times about a potential 10-year project proposed by the Obama Administration. In ten years, we could see fully detailed and clearly landscaped images and movies of a human brain in action. In ten years, we could view neuronal connections, digitally adjust them, and analyze the results. In ten years, though, will we know any more about addiction?

There is no doubt that a part of addiction lies in the heart of the cerebral cortex. Folded in the ridges and gyri of a couple pounds of cellular matter may be the understanding to the reason why people get addicted to substances and behaviors. But does the origin matter?

When I think about the “cause” of my addiction, it takes the responsibility away from myself. Was my collection of pill bottles a result of my mother’s coddling? My bottles of alcohol a helpless response to inferior biology? Getting sucked into the cause ignores the solution. Some people are predisposed to addiction, and some are not. Regardless, everyone should work on the same healthy coping mechanisms--predisposition or not. If you shoot enough heroin, you will inevitably become an addict.

I’m all for the billion dollar brain map, but I don’t think it will paint the picture of addiction much clearer--it will only give us more details. It will answer many of our questions, but mostly it will lead to exponentially more questions. I just hope that by the time the map is done, my brain is strong enough to understand it all.

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