A new study led by scientists at NYU Langone Health, the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, and New York University, highlights social adversity and elevated dopamine in the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala causes aberrant social behavior. Based on studies on infant rats reared in the presence of harsh maternal care or repeated mild shocks in the presence of the mother rat, the authors showed increased dopamine levels and activity in the basolateral amygdala and a progressive worsening of social deficits in rat pups. Shocks alone do not have this effect. The study offers insights into how specific brain mechanisms link stressful experiences during infancy to lifelong problems in social behavior.
Neuroscientists at University of California, San Diego, show that mice can learn to manipulate random dopamine impulses from the neocortex for reward. Earlier studies had shown dopamine released spontaneously exerts a permissive influence on neuronal processes actively engaged in preparation of self-initiated movements. These findings open a new dimension in the study of dopamine’s role in modulating neural activity and may one day result in a quantitative understanding of the logic of neuromodulators in facilitating cognitive processes and mental health.