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Beyond Dopamine: New Brain Reward Circuits of Neurons Discovered


Published on: September 9, 2021,

We only know 2% of what our brain does. Secretion of dopamine in our brain can make us feel good. Even overcoming addictions and psychiatric disorders lies deep in the core of our brain. This is an interesting part of brain just like space and this need to be explored. The oldest and most known pathway is mesolimbic system which is composed of neurons. This is key structure in meditating emotions and motivation processing.


Dopamine is released when a brain expects rewards. It can make us feel like shopping, eating pizza and dancing when a spike of it is released. In search of new therapies to treat addictions and psychiatric illness researchers have found pathways beyond dopamine that can play a role in reward. As per researchers from Bruchas Lab at UW Medcine have found another such pathway.


The researchers found 30% of cells in VTA are GABA neurons. They are fundamental units of brain and nervous system which is responsible for sensory input from external world and sending commands to our muscles and for transforming and relaying electric signals. “ This study opens a new avenues to understand reward circuitry  which can be altered in nicotine abuse or other form of abuse as well as neuropsychiatric diseases that affects reward processing including depression,” said Dr. Michael Bruchas, professor of anesthesiology at University of Washington School of Medicine. In male and female mice reserchers showed long range GABA neurons from VTA to ventral are engaged in reward and reinforcement behavior.


VTA GABA neurons can treat addiction, depression and other stress linked disorder. They have been recognized as involved in reward and aversion. What we found are cells that project broadly to nucleus accumbens but projections only a specific portion to reward enforcement,” said lead author Raajaram Gowrishankar, a postdoctoral scholar in the Bruchas Lab. In male and female mice researchers showed long range GABA neurons from VTA to ventral are engaged in reward and re enforcement behavior. These findings has provided further understanding of neurons circuits that are impacted in neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and addiction. Gowrishankar said the findings are allowing scientists to understand sub regions of the brain and to visualize how specific neuromodulators are released in reward processing.


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