Scientists Find Brain Circuit That Drives Pleasure

Posted: Mar 23 2017, 6:24am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Scientists Find Brain Circuit That Drives Pleasure
New findings contradict the consensus that the central amygdala is involved primarily in fear-related behavior, the researchers say. Credit: Getty Images
  • Researchers identify the “Feel Good” Center of the Human Brain

Researchers seem to have identified the “feel good” center of the human brain.

The central amygdala which is located at quite some depth in the brain was thought to react to fear and shock. Yet now scientists have discovered that it also contains a sub-section that is a reward center.

Mice were studied in a lab. They showed that when this center in their brain was activated, they kept up the task for long periods of time since it was so pleasurable. Although a part of this center was responsible for fearful reactions, it was mainly a pleasure center of the brain.

It came as a surprise that the brain responds to positivity on such a consistent basis via this pleasure center of the brain. There are apparently two sets of neurons in a different section of the amygdala known as the basolateral amygdala (BSA).

These two classes of neurons respond to fear and pleasure in the form of unpleasant and good memories. These two areas send messages to the central amygdala.

The central amygdala was further divided into seven groups by the experts. This was dependent on the genetic markers and site in the anatomy.

Optogenetics was then used to determine the functions of each population of neurons. Reward seemed to be the name of the game. Take light for example.

When the neurons were stimulated by light, the mice in the lab wanted more of it since they were receiving positive vibes. Fear and memory centers lay closeby to these neurons as well. There was even a population of neurons which had nothing to do with reward or fear.

Thus this study explodes the myth that the central amygdala is only a fear and shock sensing area of the brain. It is on the contrary a pleasure and memory center as well as we now know.

Thr paper on this study titled "Basolateral to Central Amygdala Neural Circuits for Appetitive Behaviors" got published in the journal Neuron.

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