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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dopamine and Individual Styles of Response

Contrary to popular belief, researchers have found that the differences in individuals' styles of response to environmental cues can influence chemical reward patterns in the brain. This has a great impact for future treatment and prevention of a number of compulsive behaviours.

The age old question: to what extent is the dopamine released by the rat's brain related to the lever's ability to accurately predict the food. They concluded that it depends on your style!

An example the researchers used: "Some people will see a sign for an ice cream shop and for them it's simply that, an indicator that ice cream is available nearby. But other people will have a stronger reaction to the sign -- the tantalizing association between the sign and ice cream is so powerful, they can already taste the treat and often hurry to buy some."

Similar reactions could be said to occur when people are addicted to harmful substances, not just food.

Using a technique called 'fast-scan cyclic voltammetry,' researchers measured the dopamine responses in the rats' brains - Analysis showed that the rats that were fixated on the environmental cue (the lever) got a jolt of happiness just from the lever, while the other rats did not. This desire for the lever continued even after the food reward was removed - showing how the environmental cue was enough for some rats to be rewarded, but not for others.

So it seems that although maybe we all seem the same on the outside, inside we could all have vastly different chemical processes occuring, based upon our reaction to the world around us..

Journal Article

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