Studies have shown that dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta and ventral tegmental area respond to administration of rewards and guidance of behaviors to obtain rewards. In a seminal 1995 work, Houk and colleagues set forth a theory that explains how animals might learn that certain events tend to predict reward. The theory is quite complex and should be read in its entirety. Briefly, this theory suggests that cortical activity associated with events that might predict reinforcement creates a receptivity to dopamine in striatal spiny neurons residing within striosomal units. When reinforcement occurs, dopa-mine is released and instantiates a change in synaptic strength. This change at the synaptic level is posited to make firing of the striosomal spiny neuron more likely the next time the predictive event occurs. The hypothesis that synapses related to specific events are strengthened in striosomal neurons implies that patterned neuronal activity is required for this basal ganglia function. Continued study of the relationship between reward and dopaminergic activity in the basal ganglia promises not only to shed light on mechanisms involved in motor skill learning but also to reveal underlying motivational mechanisms for a variety of behaviors.

Breaking Bulimia

Breaking Bulimia

We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.

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