Researchers discover the science behind giving up

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What happens when we give up? 

Inside the brain, a group of cells known as nociceptin neurons get very active before a mouse’s breakpoint. They emit nociceptin, a complex molecule that suppresses dopamine, a chemical largely associated with motivation.

The nociceptin neurons are located near an area of the brain known as the ventral tegmental area. The VTA contains neurons that release dopamine during pleasurable activities. Although scientists have previously studied the effects of fast, simple neurotransmitters on dopamine neurons, this study is among the first to describe the effects of this complex nociception modulatory system.

“We are taking an entirely new angle on an area of the brain known as VTA,” said co-lead author Christian Pedersen, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the UW College of Engineering.

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