Category Archives: Brain Reward Circuitry

How Godly Promises Create New Behaviors

Reticular Activating System

Psalm 16:6 – The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

Matthew Chapters 3 & 4 – The attacks against Jesus Christ was against his person and character, which makes up his divine identity.

The Lord addressed and surnamed Simon to Peter and addressed him in a new identity.

When Andrew introduced his brother Simon (Peter’s original name) to Jesus, we are told, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter)” (John 1:42). The meaning of the words Cephas (Aramaic) and Peter (Greek) is ‘rock’. Reading the Gospel stories, one gets the impression that Peter was anything but a rock. He was very much aware of his own sinfulness (Luke 5:8), an impetuous character, often speaking out of turn (e.g. Mark 8:32, 33; 9:5, 6). Finally he denied his knowledge of Jesus three times, after boasting he would die for him (Mark 14:29-31; 66-72).

However, when Jesus looks at us he sees not so much what we are, but what we can become if we are willing to let him manage our lives in his way. Therefore, he gives Simon the new identity of Peter, the rock, and sets about working on him to produce the character that is in line with that identity.

Humans have the unique ability to define their identity, choose their values and establish their beliefs. All three of these directly influence a person’s behavior. Conscious use of effective biblical promises can modify any and all of these three behavior controlling factors resulting different responses than would have occurred previously to a given situation.

“From the brain and the brain alone arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains and griefs” Hippocrates

Our frame of mind:

Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ; we only know life and death through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or our death, of God or of ourselves.

Humans have the unique ability to:

1) Define their identity

2) Choose their values

3) Establish their beliefs.

A fundamental principle of psychology is: “People are internally compelled to respond to situations in ways that will support or be consistent with their beliefs.”

When a person reaches to turn-on a light switch or turns the key in a car’s ignition, his action is motivated by the belief, based on past experience, that light will be produced or that motor of the car will begin to run. A person with no belief of light being produced by changing the mechanical position of a lever or that transportation is possible would not be motivated to take these simple actions.

One definition of values is: “A value is a principle that promotes well-being or prevents harm.”

Another definition of “values” is “They are our guidelines for our success about what is acceptable.”

One resource on values defines Personal Values as:

“Emotional beliefs in principles regarded as particularly favorable or Important for the individual.”

Our values associate emotions to our experiences to guide our choices, decisions and actions.

“When the will and the emotions are in conflict, the emotions most often win.” Consequently, a person’s actions rarely conflict with their values and distress is felt when they do conflict.

A person’s observations of their environment are filtered through his Values to determine whether or not he should expend energy to do something about his experiences.

“Values are the scales we use to weigh our choices for our actions,

Whether to move towards or away from something.”

One of the things a person holds most important is her/his “identity.” People will behave in accordance with their definition of themselves or their self-image. A person’s beliefs, values and identity are usually acquired unconsciously based on his personal experience or observations of others’ experiences as to that produces desirable or undesirable results in the environment.

Physiologists have been able to identify the parts of the human brain that are involved in producing behavior in accordance with beliefs, values and identity.

Reticular Activating System 2

All information collected by human senses is passed through a net-like group of cells, known as the Reticular Activating System (RAS), located near the top of the brain stem. The RAS compares the data received with accepted values, positive and negative (threats), and beliefs stored in memory and determines whether or not immediate action is required. These nuclei receive input from most of the body’s sensory systems (eg sight, smell, taste, etc) and other parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum and cerebral hemispheres. The results of the RAS’s comparison are communicated to the amygdala near the mid-brain.

The Gatekeeper to consciousness or the spark of the mind, the reticular formation connects with major nerves in the spinal column and brain. It sorts the 100 million impulses that assault the brain each second, deflecting the trivial, letting the vital through to alert the mind. The mind cannot function without this catalytic bundle of cells. Damage to them results in coma the loss of consciousness.

When these impulses are registered in our emotional brain, we begin to feel or allow ourselves to be conscious of what we are feeling. When they are registered in our neo-cortex, we begin to think, imagine, relate, or intuit. It is also possible that we do not become conscious of much of the incoming energy until later. At night, entering into the deep relaxation of sleep, we may allow ourselves to access more information, which may appear in images or verbal messages we call dreams — the most subtle language coming from this brain.

The amygdala produces neuro-chemicals that cause emotions consistent with the nature of and proportional to the match between environment and values and beliefs. The neuro-chemicals initiate the chemical processes needed for the action to be taken. If the emotions produced are strong enough, the perceived information is blocked from reaching the logical, rational and conscious executive center of the brain, the pre-frontal lobes.

In which case, the resulting behavior will be automatic, not necessarily logical or rational, and completely in accordance with the person’s strongest held beliefs, values and/or identity.

A person’s beliefs about his/her identity and what is important determines his or her response to the stimuli received from the environment. These beliefs are stored in the subconscious mind and are subject to change by the conscious mind. Before a child learns to count correctly, he only knows the names of numbers not the sequential order for them.

Once he makes a conscious decision to count correctly, he memorizes the correct order through repetition and positive reinforcement. Through these methods the belief is built

The same process of repetition using biblical promises can modify or create New beliefs about a person’s identity and/or what is important to him (His Values).

Simple verbal repetition of statements intended to become new Beliefs, values or identity will result in these being stored for use by the RAS for comparison with the environment being experienced. The longer the period of time affirmations are repeated the higher the priority they are given in a person’s value system and therefore the more they influence the person’s behavior.


Although extremely complex, the brain is largely made up of only two principal cell types: neurons and glial cells. There are over 100 000 million neurons in the brain and an even greater number of glial cells It is estimated that there are more than 10 000 million cells in the cerebral cortex alone

The cell type specialized for the conduction and transmission of electrical signals. Neurons do not function in isolation, they are assembled into circuits that innervate (To supply an organ or a body part with nerves or nervous stimulation, eg the cervical nerves innervate the arms.)the body to transmit sensory and motor signals to all areas of the body.

axon The structure of neurons, including the axons (The long, thread-like part of the nerve cell that extends from the cell body. The axon is covered by a sheath of myelin (The soft, white, partially fatty material which makes up the sheath surrounding a nerve axon.) It insulates the axons and enables signals to be conducted along them at a faster rate and is specialized for signal transduction; at the end of the axon, the nerve impulses are transmitted to other neurons or to effector organs and dendrites (The treelike dendriteextensions of a neuron. Most neurons have multiple dendrites, which are short and typically highly branched. Dendrites are specialized for receiving information and form synaptic contacts with the terminals of other nerve cells to allow nerve impulses
to be transmitted, help to form these circuits.

Typically, consistent daily repetition over a minimum period of 3 of 5 weeks is necessary to create new behaviors.

The greater the difference between the current beliefs, values and identity and the intended ones; the longer is the time needed for repetition to produce the new behaviors. Ultimately, the affirmation will dominate over the previous beliefs, values or identity trait in the person’s subconscious and will automatically produce the corresponding behavior.

This process can be accelerated by doctrinal promises that produce emotional responses and vivid images when they are verbalized. The more intense the emotion the quicker the realization of the promise. The clearer and more complete the image that is triggered by the promise, the more accurately and quickly the intention will be realized.

In His Grace Forever,
Pastor Teddy Awad, CMHP
Young Adult Crisis Hotline
and Biblical Counseling Center


Brain Reward Circuitry

Brain Reward Circuitry

The activation of brain reward systems is largely responsible for producing a drug’s potent addictive properties. Personality, social, and genetic factors may also be important, but the drug’s effects on the central nervous system (CNS) remain the primary determinants of drug addiction. Other factors are likely to be important in influencing initial drug use and in determining how rapidly an addiction develops. For some substances, factors may interact with the drug’s action to produce compulsive substance use. In these cases, “addictive behavior” may involve use of substances that are generally not considered addictive.

Addictive drugs activate brain reward systems. However, the activation is much more intense causing the individual to crave the drug and to focus their activities around taking the drug. The ability of addictive drugs to strongly activate brain reward mechanisms and their ability to chemically alter the normal functioning of these systems can produce an addiction.

An addicted brain is different physically and chemically different from the normal brain. A cascade of neurobiological changes accompanies the transition from voluntary to compulsive drug use. They alter the brains pleasure center. Activating this circuit also called the reward circuit produces a feel good sensation. Drugs OF abuse change the brain, hijack its motivational SYSTEMS AND EVEN HOW ITS GENES FUNCTION.

This pleasure circuit communicates in the chemical usage of dopamine: this is the neurotransmitter zips neuron to neuron in the circuit producing feelings from mild happiness to euphoria.

More dopamine’s means more firing of circuits of neurons in the pleasure circuit.

Chronic use produces enduring changes it produces the number of dopamine receptors. Withdrawal is a resetting of the brains dopamine system. The production of joy is decrease thus; life does not seem worth living.

Relapse occurs because the brains regions that become activated where the memories are stored. Cue induced craving turn on these memory centers that trigger addicts to respond in learned behavior.

Dopamine is one of a number of neurotransmitters found in the central nervous system. Dopamine has received special attention because of its apparent role in the regulation of mood and affect and because of its role in motivation and reward processes. . This releases small amounts of dopamine into the synaptic cleft. The levels of dopamine produced when the cells are active at this low rate may be responsible for maintaining normal affective tone and mood. Some scientists speculate that some forms of clinical depression may result from unusually low dopamine levels.

The insights about the role of our brain in the process of addiction centers on something called neurotransmitters. These are chemicals that impact on the electrical messages being transmitted in the brain from one neuron to another. It is these messages that determine our thoughts and feelings.


Dopamine is one of a number of neurotransmitters found in the central nervous system. Dopamine has received special attention because of its apparent role in the regulation of mood and affect and because of its role in motivation and reward processes. . This releases small amounts of dopamine into the synaptic cleft. The levels of dopamine produced when the c

ells are active at this low rate may be responsible for maintaining normal affective tone and mood. Some scientists speculate that some forms of clinical depression may result from unusually low dopamine levels.

Ø Heroin-Enhanced Dopamine Activity

Heroin increases the neuronal firing rate of dopamine cells. The increased numbers of action potentials produce an increase in dopamine release. The increased dopamine activity increases the effects mediated by postsynaptic dopamine. The heroin user experiences the enhanced dopamine activity as mood elevation and euphoria. When the pharmacological action terminates (i.e., the heroin is eliminated from the brain), the drug user is highly motivated to repeat this experience.

Ø Cocaine-Enhanced Dopamine Activity

Cocaine inhibits the reuptake of dopamine. This increases the availability of dopamine in the synapse and increases dopamine’s action on the postsynaptic neurons. The enhanced dopamine activity produces mood elevation and euphoria. Cocaine’s effect is usually quite short, prompting the user to repeatedly administer cocaine to re-experience its intense subjective effects.

Ø Combined Heroin- and Cocaine-Enhanced Dopamine Activity

Because heroin and cocaine work on different parts of the dopamine neurons, they can be combined to produce even more intense dopamine activation. (The heroin increases cell firing and dopamine release, while the cocaine keeps the released dopamine in the synaptic cleft longer thereby intensifying and prolonging its effects.) The combination of heroin and cocaine is known by users as a “speed-ball.” This combination of drugs is extremely dangerous, and users show very rapid psychological and physiological deterioration.

Although speed-ball use produces extremely intense activation of brain reward systems, it is often short-lived because this drug combination is associated with a very high fatality rate. The combination of cocaine and heroin is perhaps the most dangerous form of illicit substance use.

Addicts can no more suppress their craving for drugs than the rest of us can suppress the urgings of hunger, thirst, or libido. Indeed, research indicates that this craving actually mimics our appetites by “hijacking a normal process in the brain” and becoming a part of the addict’s fundamental biochemistry.

When ingested, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, for instance, trigger neurotransmitters—“brain chemicals” like dopamine—which initiate a “complex orchestration of events” in the brain, she says. The most obvious effect of that orchestration is euphoria: the high. But at the same time the drug is activating certain genes, common to all humans, whose switches are normally flipped by such on-again/off-again pleasure-producing behaviors as eating, drinking, and sex. Those activated genes in turn produce proteins which accumulate in the brain. They Produce proteins which accumulate in the brain.

Even after an addict has detoxified—long after the body has flushed itself of any residue of the drug—these proteins persist in the brain and are fully “integrated into the biochemistry of its nerve cells.” The very structure of the brain changes, in a reconfiguration which neuroscientists believe accounts for the cravings of addicts months or even years after they’ve stopped taking drugs. In short, addicts desire the drug as much as the rest of us desire food, their brain wants the drug as much as it wants food, and—deep in its biochemistry—it may always want the drug.

They must learn—or re-learn—not only how to act but how to think appropriately and productively. They must address the recklessness or loneliness which originally led them to experiment with drugs. And always the chance occurrence of an environmental cue from the bad old days—hearing a song maybe, meeting a drug buddy—will threaten to undo months or years of sobriety.

Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”WHAT IS GOD’S STANDARD FOR THE MIND?
Six times the New Testament describes or implies what the Christian’s mind is to be like. In each case the passage mentions the word MIND. As you read what the New Testament says about the mind, check your mind to see if these adjectives describe you.
#1 Our first adjective is ALIVE, Re: Romans 8:6 “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”
#2 Our second adjective is PEACEFUL, The spiritual mind is set on peace of the mind. Note again that we set our minds. Peace is a fruit, not an attainment. Our work is setting the mind; God’s work is the peace.
#3 Our third adjective is SINGLE-MINDED, 2Corinthians 11:3 describes the mind. But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. Paul is telling us that the mind of Christ is single-minded. Jesus’ entire life is a flawless example of single-mindedness. He said He had completed the work God gave Him to do (John 17:4).
From beginning to end, nothing could deflect Him from God’s purposes. Are we like that?
#4 Our fourth Adjective, is LOWLY, Philippians 2:3 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. The mind is to be lowly. Believers cannot be humble unless they are lowly; humility follows lowliness of mind. Humility speaks of a relationship to others and to God; Lowliness is a state of MIND!
#5 Our Fifth Adjective, is PURE, Paul speaks about the mind in Titus 1:15 “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” Here purity is described as the natural state of the Christian. Impurity is reached by corruption. In our times, the “natural” spiritual state, or being filled with God’s Spirit and growing in Christ, is harder to maintain for several reasons. Tempters have always abounded, but they now have resources within our environment to take us into unprecedented realms of sin. Strength comes before, not during, temptation. Overcoming is a prior act.
#6 Our sixth Adjective, is RESPONSIVE, When Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening of the resurrection, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). The disciples did not always learn quickly, but they were teachable and they were responsive. Responsive implies a spiritual sensitivity to God. This quality, responsiveness to God is indispensable for progress in the spiritual life. We need for God’s spirit to sensitize us to Himself. One way to cultivate sensitivity is to give God a chance by dwelling in His Word. Specifically, what Jesus “opened their minds” to the Scripture. Jesus was sensitive to His Father in the utmost degree. Please pray that God will make you more sensitive to Him.

In His Grace Forever,
Pastor Teddy Awad, CMHP
Young Adult Crisis Hotline
and Biblical Counseling Center