Thursday, March 23, 2006

Researchers find 'switch' for brain's pleasure pathway


Dopamine is the critical component in the reward system in the brain. When we experience something pleasurable, the dopamine neurons in your brain start firing. Up until now the mechanism that starts this reward system in the brain was unknown.

Pitt professor of neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychology Anthony Grace and Pitt neuroscience research associate Daniel Lodge may have discovered that one area in the brain stem, known as the laterodorsal tegmental nucleus, is critical to normal dopamine function.

"We've found, for the first time, the brain area that acts as the gate,
telling neurons either to go into this communication mode or to stop
communicating
," says Grace. "All the other parts of the brain that talk
to the dopamine neurons can only do it when this area puts them into the
communication mode."

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