Image: Stuber Lab, UNC-Chapel Hill
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have identified the role of GABA neurons in a part of the brain known as the ventral tegmental area, or VTA. Activation of these cells stifles the pleasure and reward response by suppressing dopamine release. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that plays a significant role in reward driven responses and learning. It is believed that this discovery may lead to new methods of treatment for those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia.
According to lead author of the study, Garret D. Stuber, "So basically, it appears that these GABA neurons located in the VTA are just microns away from dopamine and are negative regulators of dopamine function. When they become active, their basic job is to suppress dopamine release. A dysfunction in these GABA neurons might potentially underlie different aspects of neuropsychiatric illness, such as depression. Thus, we could think of them as a new physiological target for various aspects of neuropsychiatric diseases." The researchers made this discovery while manipulating GABA neuron activation in transgenic animals.
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