Dopamine is a crucial hormone for our existence as human beings. The chemical is responsible for our perceptions of what we find pleasing and rewarding. Our bodies naturally create dopamine, and the hormone also takes part in our ability to think and make plans.
According to a new article from SciTechDaily, neuroscientists reveal that mice are able to learn to manipulate dopamine impulses for reward. There’s no wonder why the hormone is known as the brain’s “feel good” chemical. It triggers the feeling of pleasure and excitement even for apparently insignificant events. Knowing that food is on the way or finding a fun activity will trigger the dopamine effects.
The “feel good” hormone doesn’t only exist in humans. Dopamine is also synthesized when it comes to plants and most animals.
Answers needed for spontaneous dopamine impulses
Researchers from the University of California San Diego set out to investigate some of the conundrums of spontaneous dopamine impulses. They discovered that mice are able to willfully dictate random dopamine pulses.
The scientists put mice on a treadmill. If the little animals showed they’re able to control the dopamine signals, they were given a reward. Surprisingly, the mice were aware of the dopamine impulses. Even so, they learned to anticipate the pulses and willfully act upon some of them.
The researchers explained in their paper, as quoted by SciTechDaily:
Critically, mice learned to reliably elicit (dopamine) impulses prior to receiving a reward,
These effects reversed when the reward was removed. We posit that spontaneous dopamine impulses may serve as a salient cognitive event in behavioral planning.
According to the scientists involved in the new study, the findings open a new dimension in exploring dopamine, as well as brain dynamics. The next goal is to explore if and how unpredictable dopamine events can drive foraging.
The new results were published in Current Biology.