Scary Events Might Also Activate Brain's Reward
THURSDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- The brain's so-called
reward center actually responds to both good
and bad experiences, even experiences causing fear, finds a
new study in mice.
The team of American and Chinese researchers said the finding
may help explain why some people are thrill-seekers.
Pleasurable or exciting things, such as eating chocolate or
bungee jumping off a bridge, can trigger the production of
dopamine, a neurotransmitter chemical that can increase heart rate
and motivate behavior, the researchers explained.
In experiments with mice, the team examined dopamine neurons in
the brain's ventral tegmental area, which is widely studied for its
role in reward-related motivation or drug addiction.
The study authors found that essentially all the dopamine
neurons had some response to good or bad experiences, while a
fearful event excited about 25 percent of the neurons, prompting
more dopamine production.
"We have believed that dopamine was always engaged in reward and processing the hedonistic feeling. What we have found is that the dopamine neurons also are stimulated or respond to negative events," Joe Z. Tsien, co-director of the Brain & Behavior Discovery Institute at Georgia Health Sciences University, said in a university news release.
The study appears in the journal
For more on the psychology of thrill-seeking behavior, visit the
archives of the
American Psychological Association.
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