Brain News: New study reveals that our brain releases dopamine – a critical mediator of many psychiatric diseases – in response to stressful stimuli and not just pleasurable experiences.This pioneering research calls for revising textbook facts regarding the hormone’s role in the brain and rethinking treatment for psychiatric disease and addiction.
Bouts of studies in the past referred to dopamine as a ‘pleasure molecule’ or a ‘reward molecule.’ In the new study, researchers aimed to study an unprecedented diversity of neurobehavioral processes related to dopamine release. With the help of machine learning and computational modeling the research team analyzed the data, along with optogenetic manipulations, which use light to control activity of genetically modified neurons. The team established a novel computational model of behavior that shows “accurate prediction of the behavioral impact of optogenetic perturbations of dopamine release,” said Erin Calipari, who led the research.
A common belief underlying drug abuse is that it increases the release of feel-good hormone dopamine, which popularised dopamine as a reward molecule. But, the new research reveals a much more sophisticated role for dopamine and the research data rewrite facts about this neurotransmitter, including what it encodes within the brain and how it drives behavior. The findings indicate its time to rethink models of addiction that depend on the dopamine/drug reward mentality.
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Kutlu, M. G., Zachry, J. E., Melugin, P. R., Cajigas, S. A., Chevee, M. F., Kelly, S. J., Kutlu, B., Tian, L., Siciliano, C. A., & Calipari, E. S. (2021). Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens core signals perceived saliency. Current Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.08.052