In a recent study issued yesterday in the journal Science, the researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, part of Montefiore, revealed, for the first time, that the cerebellum is influencing addictive and social behavior. As the scientists reported, the brain’s cerebellum is not only involved in coordinating movements, but it’s also having a significant role in the reward processing in the brain.
Previous studies suggested that the cerebellum is more than just the fist-sized part of the brain that coordinates movements. In some functional MRI studies, the scientists noticed that the cerebellum reveals blood-flow changes in people recovering from addiction who were viewing images related to their habits. In those scans, the cerebellum presented signs of activity, indicating that it has something to do with addictive and social behavior.
According to the researchers, cerebellum plays a role in the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine in brain areas that receive rewarding stimuli.
Cerebellum Is Influencing Addictive and Social Behavior
“The notion that the cerebellum did much beyond controlling movement was met with a lot of skepticism—and no one had any real clues as to how the cerebellum might affect dopamine release,” explained Kamran Khodakhah, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience and the Florence and Irving Rubinstein Chair in Neuroscience, and the leading author of the study.
The researchers conducted their study on mice. The scientists taught mice that they would receive a reward every time they were heading to bright areas.
“Even though mice normally shun bright areas, now they preferentially ran toward the light, because that’s where they remembered getting a reward. This suggests that the cerebellum plays a role in addictive behaviors,” said Dr. Khodakhah.
“Cerebellar abnormalities are also linked to a number of other mental disorders such as schizophrenia, so we want to find out whether this pathway also plays a role in these disorders,” Dr. Khodakhah added.