Determining the mechanisms that cause what is being called "post-stimulus activated release" and how they maintain dopamine levels could have important implications for understanding and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders caused by an imbalance of dopamine function including schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette's syndrome, Parkinson's disease and addiction.
According to Bita Moghaddam, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience and psychiatry, who led the study, in addition to its clinical benefits, post-stimulus activated release can be used to explain how brief events that activate neurons for short periods of time can influence brain function long after the events. For example, it can be used to explain how smelling freshly baked cookies could evoke childhood memories of spending time with a beloved grandparent, leading a person to reminisce long after the smell is gone and take the unplanned or impulsive action of baking or buying cookies.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with learning and memory, motor control, reward perception and executive functions such as working memory, behavioral flexibility and decision making. When a novel or salient stimulus occurs, the dopamine neurons in the brain increase their firing rate, boosting the release of dopamine. The dopamine is diffused into the extracellular space of the brain until it can be transported or metabolized.
In a rat model, the researchers have been attempting to understand increases in extracellular levels of dopamine during behaviorally active states, such as completing a cognitive task or experiencing stressful situations and in response to the electrical stimulation of neurons. In their studies, they have observed that dopamine levels remain above the baseline long after neurons had been stimulated – from five to 20 minutes in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and 40 to 100 minutes in the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex.
Attempting to discern the cause of the elevated levels, researchers stimulated the VTA of the brain of a rat model by using an electrode. The VTA is a nucleus in the midbrain where dopamine neurons are located. After stimulating the neurons, the researchers measured the amount of dopamine in the extracellular fluid of the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex – two areas where the VTA is known to send signals. They found that dopamine levels increased during stimulation, and remained elevated for an hour after stimulation.
Dopamine levels wane as dopamine is taken back into cells by an active transport system. Yet this active transport system is not abundant in the ventral striatum and prefrontal cortex areas, leading researchers to think that perhaps the dopamine levels remained elevated due to an excess that had yet to be absorbed. To test this hypothesis, they applied tetrodotoxin (TTX), a neurotoxin that blocks the active release of dopamine, to the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex. TTX caused dopamine levels to drop, indicating that the dopamine levels remained elevated because dopamine was being actively released after the neurons fired and not because there was residual dopamine in the brain.
Dr. Moghaddam and colleagues are currently conducting experiments in efforts to identify the exact mechanism causing post-stimulus activated release.
Jocelyn Uhl | EurekAlert!
Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance
25.09.2017 | Institut Pasteur
MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer
25.09.2017 | Case Western Reserve University
Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
26.09.2017 | Life Sciences
26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.09.2017 | Information Technology