The human brain is an amazing piece of hardware that scientists are still learning about. The more we understand how our brains are wired, the more likely we are to solve mental illnesses and thus the need for more research on the subject.
A team of scientists from the Wake Forest School of Medicine set out to understand how dopamine and serotonin affect the decision-making process in the human brain. Scientists already know that dopamine is a neurotransmitter that facilitates communication between nerve cells. It is also the hormone responsible for pleasure and the brain’s reward system. Serotonin is often referred to as the chemical responsible for happiness and wellbeing.
The two hormones are also linked to various mental disorders such as depression and addiction. For example, addiction occurs when individuals become too dependent on dopamine. The scientists therefore set out to determine how dopamine and serotonin influence decision making so that they can better understand how to tackle related mental disorders.
“This study provides us a unique window into the human brain that has been inaccessible until now,” stated Dr. Kenneth T. Kishida, the lead investigator in the study.
What the researchers found in the recent study
Dr. Kishida also noted that everything known about dopamine and serotonin before the recent study was based on previous studies on animals, not on human subjects. The latest study focused on five human subjects who were observed using an electrochemical method that measures serotonin and dopamine levels.
The subjects performed various tasks as part of the experiment, such as playing video games. Their dopamine and serotonin levels were observed. The findings from the study revealed that the subjects experienced more serotonin release when they made decisions that they were uncertain about. The scientists also observed that subjects also demonstrated higher dopamine levels right before making choice in a game.
The higher the anticipation, the more dopamine was released while serotonin levels dropped. The observation was that the two chemicals acted opposites where one would increase as the other decreased as subjects made decisions. Scientists believe that the findings from the study will help create a better understanding of how drugs affect decision making.