Researchers Discover New Brain Reward Circuitry

Researchers Discover New Brain Reward Circuitry

Deep within our minds and the circuits which make us happy lies the secret to overcoming addictive behavior and mental illnesses. However,  this area of the mind requires further research. The earliest and best rewarding route is the mesolimbic network of dopamines consisting of neurons projecting from the VTA to the nucleus acumens, which is a fundamental framework of communication of affective incentive.

Scientists are exploring routes outside of dopamine that might have a function in incentive and strengthening in the hunt for a new treatment for addictions and mental disease. Scientists at UW Medicine from the Bruchas Lab published an article published in Nature Neuroscience that explored the science regarding our reward paths and identified another means of doing so.

“What we found are unique GABAergic cells that project broadly to the nucleus accumbens, but projections only to a specific portion contribute to reward reinforcement,” explained the co-lead author of the study, Raajaram Gowrishankar.

Around 30 percent of cells in the Ventral Tegmental Area were revealed to be GABA neurons. Neurons are electrically activated cells in the brain that transmit information along a nerve cell membrane. They transmit signals along nerve fibers in the brain. Neurons provide much of the knowledge we acquire and store in our minds. They also allow us to interact with other people and their ideas — something essential for survival.

What is dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in those aspects of life where we have control over our actions and emotions, including appetite, motivation, movement, and emotion. While brain scans have shown that dopamine levels naturally increase during certain activities, they can also be increased by specific drugs and medical procedures.

Dopamine helps drive rewards such as eating in the presence of a prized treat or social approval. When dopamine levels are high, it increases your desire and ability to obtain rewards even when there is no direct financial gain. Low dopamine can cause symptoms such as sleep problems and depression. It is critical to understand how dopamine impacts your brain and how changing brain chemistry can lead to conditions such as an eating disorder or addiction.


I am a pop culture and social media expert. Aside from writing about the latest news health, I also enjoy pop culture and Yoga. I have BA in American Cultural Studies and currently enrolled in a Mass-Media MA program. I like to spend my spring breaks volunteering overseas.

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