(Workbook Page 66)
The Nucleus Accumbens is a deep area of the brain that generates pleasure in other regions of the brain. It starts a circuit that moves from structures in the deep brain, below the level of consciousness, to the highest functioning areas of the brain. This allows pleasure to move from a purely sensory experience to the pleasure of thought, idea, concept, social interaction, altruism, creativity and spirituality.
Look at the graphic on page 70 of the Neuroplastic Transformation workbook. It shows one of the two Nucleus Accumbens located on both sides of the brain toward the midline. This is an area of the brain that does not process conscious thought. It sends nerve branches to several other areas of pleasure processing below the level of consciousness. These are called hedonic hotspots and are located all over the brain. These are small islands of nerve tissue in deep brain areas and include the Nucleus Accumbens, Ventral Pallidum, deep limbic structures and areas in the brain stem. Activating one area activates the others. Eliminating any one area does not eliminate the ability to experience pleasure. It is important that damage to any part of this pleasure network does not eliminate pleasure because avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure is such a basic necessity of survival.
Hedonic Hotspots are pleasure centers of the brain beneath the level of conscious thought. These set each other off during sensory pleasurable experiences.
The experience of pleasure and pain are on a continuum and are intertwined. The expectation of pain relief results in decreased pain. The relief itself is pleasurable and is generated in the Nucleus Accumbens. One of the distinctions between the pleasure of pain relief and appetitive pleasures, such as enjoying a beautiful walk or a great meal, is that pain relief activates the Nucleus Accumbens much more than the other pleasures.