We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Disrupting Dopamine Dogma

Just when we thought we knew dopamine...

By Mallory Locklear
Dec 20, 2016 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 5:57 AM
Dopamine molecule | Laguna Design/Science Source


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Neuroscientists may want to re-examine what they thought they knew about dopamine. The brain uses the chemical to communicate between cells, and dopamine signals different events depending on its location. It’s required for both major functions of the striatum, an area of the brain involved in movement and reward.

For a long time, scientists believed the same dopamine-releasing cells managed both behaviors. But in July, researchers at Northwestern University published a study in Nature that turned this model on its head.

Northwestern neuroscientist Daniel Dombeck and his team observed dopamine-releasing neurons firing when mice received rewards and when they were moving. They found that neurons typically fired during one event or the other, but not both. “For the most part,” Dombeck says, “they were completely separate populations.”

The discovery of two cell groups, each with a different job, could impact diseases where dopamine is a key player, like Parkinson’s disease or addiction. Because, as Dombeck points out, “knowing there are separate populations of neurons tells you that you should be applying treatments in a much more targeted way than we are right now.”

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.