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Optogenetics illuminates pathways of motivation through brain, Stanford study shows
Date:11/18/2012

nment, the same stimulation had no effect. The pathway was not merely linked to any action, or to agitation; it was, more specifically, helping to "set the effort that the organism was willing to put forth to meet a challenge," Deisseroth said.

Researchers were also able to produce the opposite effect reduced effort in response to challenge by stimulating prefrontal neurons that project to the lateral habenula, a region perched atop the brain stem that is thought to play a role in depression. When this region was getting signals driven optogenetically from the prefrontal cortex, rodents put forward less effort.

Larger puzzles

These findings are part of a larger puzzle that Deisseroth and his team have pieced together by using optogenetics to model human behavior in animal subjects. The work has already helped clinicians and researchers to better understand what is going on in a patient's brain.

Connecting depressive symptoms with brain pathways may be helpful in the development of drugs, but according to Deisseroth, the most important part of this research is its insight into how motivation works in both depressed and healthy people.

He has observed that this insight alone can be helpful to those dealing with mental illness and seeking an explanation for troubling symptoms that feel deeply personal. For those patients, he said, simply knowing that a biological reality underlies their experience can be a motivational force in itself.


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Contact: Andrew Myers
admyers@stanford.edu
650-736-2245
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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