Talk:James Olds

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While I confess that I am James Olds' son, I think this page is un-hyped and very well supported by citations. The principle information is linked directly to the site of the US National Academy of Sciences. This individual, James Olds, clearly was elected a member of the NAS, won the Newcomb Cleveland Prize and by the way, was featured on Sixty Minutes at the time of the discovery of the Pleasure Center. So I would welcome additions, but am pretty clearly not trying to hype my Dad's career. If you would like to add some further information, please be my guest.

Jim Olds (Jr) Director and Shelley Krasnow Professor of Neuroscience Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study George Mason University

I concur: his notability is not in question and the article is neutral, as it should be. It is also a good thing that you disclosed your relation to him upfront. GregorB (talk) 16:21, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Hi, I tagged the page for sources not because I doubted the notability (there's a special tag for that). As a neuroscientist myself, I am of course familiar with James Olds (both father and son, the latter appears to merit an article in his own right, by the way). It's just that the only reference listed that is generally accessible is Thompson's biographical note. So it appears in the article as if many statements are unsourced. Remember that even uncontroversial statements should be sourced (much as in a scientific publication). In any case, I have removed the "sources" tag, I certainly don't want to raise the impression that Olds' notability is somehow in question. Nevertheless, if possible, it would be good if some sources could be added. For instance, the statement "His thesis was focused on motivation " could be sourced by a reference to his thesis. Cheers, --Crusio (talk) 18:29, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Good point on the thesis. I'll try to dig up the right reference. And thanks for the complement:-)

Jim Olds Jr. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jlolds (talkcontribs) 18:47, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Alternative Interpretations of Brain Self-Stimulation Work

One is inevitably placed in a most awkward position when someone has to disagree with the son of a neuroscientist, himself a distinguished neuroscientist, about the interpretation of his father's work. It is in all honesty troubling to have the mesolimbic mesocortical dopamine system presented as "THE pleasure center" in the brain. There are several major problems with this. First of all, the evidence is overwhelming that there is no center for anything in the brain, only distributed networks that support a particular function. Indeed, even control over micturition is organized in a distributed network (there is no 'micturition center' in the brain!), so how could something at once both elemental and also complex as pleasure be anything but highly distributed?

Additionally, what Olds co-discovered (with Elliott Valenstein) was that animals would self-stimulate an entire trajectory of systems, starting with the VTA and running up through the lateral hypothalamus and into the ventral basal ganglia and nucleus accumbens (and even into some basal forebrain regions). The $64,000 question is what does it mean that animals experience such stimulation as positive and select it? Does that mean that the trajectory of these systems demarcates the substrate for all pleasure in the brain? I do not believe so, but this continues to be an appealingly simplistic conclusion. Instead, an alternative interpretation is that this trajectory of neural systems is the distributed network of systems required for basic motivational arousal, and that the stimulation of this generates a positive affective state, perhaps best described with terms like 'positive expectancy', 'enthusiastic exploration' or even simply 'hopefulness'. Unfortunately, these concepts do not sell as well as "pleasure center" concepts. However, this difference may be critical.

Recent work argues convincingly that this system is not "the pleasure center" but rather a system for generalized motivational arousal and for reward prediction/sensitization, what Jaak Panksepp has called a generalized expectancy or SEEKING system. There is a ton of other work underlining that this mesolimbic dopamine system is not particularly involved in the pleasure of consummation of rewards (that requires more opioid systems in the brain - see excellent work by Kent Berridge), but it is absolutely required for the SEEKING of rewards, and probably also for the avoidance of punishments (what one might conceptualize as 'the seeking of safety'). James Olds made a huge contribution, no question about that, but I do not believe that the current presentation of his findings (that this electrical brain stimulation work found "the pleasure center" for the brain is accurate. This equation of the mesolimbic dopamine system with the sum total of pleasures in the brain is recurrent in the popular media, and is frankly unsupported.

For the most thorough, detailed and erudite review of this subject as of this date, I would consult the following reference: Alcaro, A., Huber, R. & Panksepp, J. (2007). Behavioral functions of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system: An affective neuroethological perspective. Brain Research Reviews, 56, 283-321. this review offers a unifying hypothesis linking together addiction, brain self stimulation work, and tons of research on motivation, into a unifying hypothesis. Unfortunately this simplistic equation of the mesolimbic dopamine system with pleasure in the brain continues to be one of the most widely quoted misrepresentations of basic neuroscience available anywhere. One would only hope that the Wikipedia entry on this does better justice to the neuroscience. Olds clearly deserves considerable credit, but he should get credit for the interpretation of his work that makes the most scientific sense. (talk) 16:54, 23 June 2009 (UTC)DFWatt, Harvard Medical School

You raise very good points and I'm fine with edits to the article that reflect the notion that the idea of a center in the brain is overly simplistic (distributed systems) and reflects the more complex perspective of Alcaro et al. And I'm appreciative for the kind comments about my Dad. He would appreciate your caveats actually.

Cheers, Jim —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jlolds (talkcontribs) 18:46, 15 July 2009 (UTC)