Part One: The Sensation Brain
"I'm in a void. Could/should be doing something important. Feeling negative, stagnant. Reaching for meaning, experience, fulfillment, satisfaction."
"Take an action, then."
"None of the actions that seem possible or feasible, seems likely to produce what is sought."
"They are all too small, too insignificant. There would be no useful effect."
This is what I think of as my "Sensation Brain" talking.
Many chronic brain disorders have a common element of "stimulus/reward/craving" pattern associated with them. Substance addiction is the epitome of this, but there is a growing body of anecdote, analysis, and even a little research that a similar pattern is involved in what are called, variously, "process addictions" or "compulsive behavioral" disorders, such as gambling or pornography. Possibly also in Obsessive-Compulsive and related anxiety-type symptom complexes.
Science will continue to accumulate more authoritative and evidence-grounded descriptions through the formulation of testable hypotheses and winnowing through multiple test iterations. That'll take awhile. In the mean time, I construct the narratives that help me understand what's going on and build my own body of relevant anecdata and meta-hypotheses to cope with my disordered brain.
This is where the Sensation Brain comes in.
The phenomena I associate with the Sensation Brain (SB) involve gross (in the medical, not the aesthetic, sense) responses to stimuli: Rushes of cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine, endorphins, and other endocrinological substances that can transform mood quickly and dramatically. The SB is a brute-force, big-reward, fast-action model of physiological and emotional regulation.
I presume it evolved to help us survive, as in "here I am on the veldt, searching for edible roots to feed myself and my children, enjoying pleasant weather and... SNAKE!... and I'm halfway to the treeline before I even process that the snake was maybe completely harmless, but still, better safe than sorry."
The SB is mechanical in its operation. It doesn't involve a lot of higher thought, processing, analysis, parsing out the context, and so on. When a stimulus is present, the SB delivers clear and significant response that affects alertness, mood, or energy.
But I think these responses are inherently unsustainable. This might be because if my ancestral veldt-dwelling self instantly ran from everything that looked like a snake, we'd never gather enough roots to stay alive. Experience mediates response. Then, too, the ability of the body's various endocrine-production structures to keep up with demand may vary.
So if I rely on the responses of the Sensation Brain to manage my mood, I'm in trouble.
As, in fact, I often am. I feel dried out, static, empty. I'm craving that big-reward, fast-response model of mood change, delivered by a physiological process that requires no more effort than exposure to the right stimulus.
Sound like a kind of "addiction" to you?
I'm not saying it is the same thing, in brain-science terms. (First, I'm not a brain scientist, second, there's way too much pseudo-sciencey junk asserted about CBDs already.) But there is a working resemblance, and that stimulus/reward/craving model does seem to come in many guises.
The mechanical nature of the SB makes it seem easy. Find the stimulus, apply it, SB pushes an endocrinological button, mood changes.
But, as noted earlier, it's unsustainable. I need more frequent or intense versions of stimulus to elicit the response. And it's not always easy to find stimulus to apply-- and that leaves me vulnerable to the jerkbrain manufacturing stimulus or offering me stupid, painful choices for stimulus.
And, finally, in becoming dependent on the Sensation Brain to manage mood, I fail to build the effectiveness and power of the Perception Brain. And, like an unused muscle, it atrophies.
Part Two: The Perception Brain