From Medical Xpress:

Ball-and-stick model of the dopamine molecule, a neurotransmitter that affects the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Credit: Jynto/Wikipedia

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have reported measurements of dopamine release with unprecedented temporal precision in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease. The measurements, collected during brain surgery as the conscious patients played an investment game, demonstrate how rapid dopamine release encodes information crucial for human choice.

The findings may have widespread implications not just for Parkinson’s disease, but for other neurological and psychiatric disorders as well, including depression and addiction.

The researchers detected changes in the levels of dopamine a thousand times faster than had previously been recorded in humans. These rapid measurements, combined with enhanced chemical specificity, led the scientists to discover that dopamine – a crucial neurotransmitter involved in learning and decision-making – has a far more complex role than formerly thought.

The study was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“More than 20 years of research in nonhuman model organisms has painted a very specific picture of the suspected role of dopamine in guiding human behavior,” said Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and senior author of the paper. “And now, with these first-of-their-kind measurements, made directly in humans, we’ve discovered that this picture was woefully incomplete.”

Montague and his team worked neurosurgeons at Wake Forest University Health Sciences – Stephen Tatter, Adrian Laxton, and the late Thomas Ellis -…

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