Here’s what happens in the brain when we give up

A new study published in Cell gives us some information regarding the processes that activate in the brain when we give up or give up something. Within the brain, particular neurons emit nociceptin, a particular complex molecule that suppresses dopamine. The latter is a substance that is instead associated with motivation.

Neuriceptin-producing neurons are located near a particular area of ​​the brain called the ventral tegmental area, an area that is already known for containing neurons that release dopamine during pleasant activities.
This study “opens up a whole new perspective” on this area of ​​the brain, as Christian Pedersen, a bioengineering student at the University of Washington and one of the authors of the study, says.

According to the researcher, the most important information related to this study is that “the large complex neurotransmitters known as neuropeptides have a very robust effect on animal behavior” acting on the ventral tegmental area. The researchers examined the neurons of mice. The latter, in order to obtain sucrose, had to insert their snouts in a narrow space. An activity that the researchers made more and more difficult for the mice so that as the rodents gave up.

During these activities, the researchers recorded the neural activities and noted that there were specific neurons responsible for demotivation or frustration that became more active as the task of the mice became more difficult, enough to stop them from trying.

This is a behavior that the evolution itself has modeled: persisting in looking for food in disadvantageous, if not prohibitive, situations can expose animals to predators or to a useless expenditure of energy.