As there is the promise still of a new beginning, a do-over in the resetting of the previous year, that uplifting feeling and positivity can collectively be described as Hope. Hope is not necessarily the same for everyone; however, at some point every person in the world has experienced the internal dialogue and introspection and pushed the positive thoughts out into the universe hoping on hope. And maybe a mantra some of us call prayer.
From a brain perspective, hope is activated and is influenced from the neurotransmitter Dopamine.
The two specific receptors we will focus on here are D1 and D2 receptors. These receptors assist in the faciitation of the sense of well-being, which we label as hope. These have been implicated, along with oxytocin receptors, in both the maintenance and formation of social pair bonds, respectively. The density of these receptors in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens plays an important role in both mating and social bonds. The D2 type receptor is necessary to initially form the pair bond between two monogamous animals.
Hope then based on this study is not only a singular experience, or a personal experience. Rather, it’s a collective biological, mindful collective unconscious that connects from the youngest child to the oldest human.
A study that supports the social aspect of hope was one on primates conducted by Morgan et. al., 2002, Nature Neuroscience. They had singly housed monkey brains scanned for D2 binding capacity (n = 20). Then, the primates were allowed out of their individual cages for the first time so all the animals were now together, which meant there was an opportunity to create a social hierarchy.
After a stable hierarchy was formed the researchers re-scanned the primates brains. The high ranking animals D2 binding capacity increased by approximately 20% (the authors believe based on rat studies that singly housed animals have a lower than normal D2 levels at baseline, and therefore suggests that falling lower in the social hierarchy would cause a reduction in D2 levels if the animals start at a ‘normal’ baseline), however D2 levels in the low ranking individuals did not change.
In order too see if the changes in D2 levels had a functional effect in these animals, they offered the addictive drug cocaine to the animals.
The high ranking animals with high D2 levels were resistant to addiction while the low ranking animals with low D2 levels were more susceptible to addiction. These results are consistent with a large body of additional research that find low D2 levels is related with higher addiction rate.
Can one then be addicted to the feeling of hope or the idea of it? Can it be strong enough to actually influence the consciousness of one’s mind?
Not directly seems to be the response from the scientific community. Without an external supplement to the dopamine such as cocaine, maintaining the sense of hope to a point of addiction is controlled by the D1-D2 synaptic dance. The brains ability of course to regulate and maintain biological boundaries.
Efforts to investigate dopamine’s role in addiction and normal biological processes have been complicated by the fact that the nervous system contains multiple kinds of receptor molecules for dopamine as well as different types of nerve cells that use dopamine.
“Research in humans and other species has shown that increased vulnerability to drug addiction correlates with reduced availability of D2 dopamine receptors in a brain region called the striatum,” explains David M. Lovinger, Ph.D., chief of NIAAA’s Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience. “Furthermore, healthy non-drug-abusing humans that have low levels of the D2 dopamine receptor report more pleasant experiences when taking drugs of abuse.”
On another front, Quantum mechanics has determined that if you think it, it is. The thought of hope and the end product of hope are one and the same.
Quantum physics specifically states in the act of observing an object (events, conditions and circumstances) the cause for the thought to be there and the outcome is based only on how we observe it. An object or thought cannot and does not exist independently of its observer.
The Quantum Field is an “Infinite” field of potential. Anything and everything that has, does or will exist, begins as a wave in this field and is transformed into the physical realm, limited only by what can be conceived as truth by the observer.
Following this line of thinking, one can only hope for an experience that is being craved or an object that has not yet been retrieved. All within the realm of the subjective experience of what hope looks like to one person: from positive to negative hopes. Antithetical as this may sound, there’s a reality out there for negative hopes.
That would be best explained with a philosophy of thought called the Theory of Mind.
This theory has roots in philosophy, particularly in the groundwork for a science of the mind laid down by René Descartes (1596–1650). The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896– 1980) suggested that before the age of 3 or 4 egocentrism prevents children from understanding that other people’s thoughts and viewpoints may differ from their own. And in 1978 Nicholas Humphrey proposed that introspective consciousness has a specific function as it enables social animals to predict each other’s behavior.
Theory of mind is a theory as it is believed one’s mind is not directly observable. The presumption that others have a mind is because each human can only intuit the existence of his/her own mind through introspection, and no one has direct access to the mind of another. It is typically assumed that others have minds by analogy with one’s own, and this assumption is based on the reciprocal nature of social interaction, as observed in joint attention, the functional use of language, and understanding of others’ emotions and actions. Having a theory of mind allows one to attribute thoughts, desires, and intentions to others, to predict or explain their actions, and to posit their intentions.
Without a mind, one would either have negative or no hopes. Someone with a theory of mind (ToM) impairment would be someone having difficulty with perspective taking. This is also sometimes referred to as mind-blindness. This means that individuals with a ToM impairment would have a hard time seeing things from any other perspective than their own. Individuals who experience a theory of mind deficit have difficulty determining the intentions of others, lack understanding of how their behavior affects others, and have a difficult time with social reciprocity.
In the end, no matter which of these you adhere to, the ability to hope is a truly human faculty. Hopefully if will be one hopeful year for those of you with priceless hope.