Unique interaction discovered between brain regions involved in addiction, depression

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Science Spotlight


NIDA IRP researchers have discovered a unique interaction between a nerve cell in the brain’s ventral tegmental area and the lateral habenula - a pathway implicated in mental health disorders such as addiction and depression. This nerve cell releases both excitatory (glutamate) and inhibitory (GABA) chemicals, contrary to long-established theories assuming release of a single chemical (either glutamate or GABA). This previously undiscovered form of chemical communication allows for either increases or decreases in lateral habenula activity, which provides much more flexibility in modulating brain function compared to the single transmitter model.

These results open new avenues to examine the role of this pathway in a variety of mental disorders and may aid in the development of new mental health therapeutics.

For a copy of the article, go to: www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.3823.html. For more information on the lead author Dr. Marisela Morales, and research being conducted in her lab, go to: http://irp.drugabuse.gov/Morales.php.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245.