Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme Some Negative Feelings by GA(A)BA

If there was a button to turn off pain, would you press it? A study published in Nature Neuroscience may be nudging us down a path where this is possible. The paper, eloquently titled, “Pain induces adaptations in ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons to drive anhedonia-like behavior” explains it all in the name. Well, it might not if you don’t speak the scientific language the title is written in, so I’ll translate to standard english. The title is, in essence, ‘pain makes the pleasure center of the brain produce less pleasure’. This may seem self explanatory, but the reasoning is more complex than you may expect.

Now, most people know that pain and pleasure are separate feelings. If you don’t, there might need to be an article written about you. So it seems obvious that when you’re in pain you probably won’t be feeling good. But why is that, I mean, besides the obvious? So not only are pain signals causing you to feel pain, but it turns out that they have another job. The pain signals are also activating the rostromedial tegmental nucleus, which in turn produces the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which can block dopamine receptors. So the pain makes you feel bad, and stops you from feeling good.

The researchers discovered all of this by doing animal studies on rats. The rats were able to press a button that would give them a sugary reward. Half of the rats were injected with an irritant in their paw, and the other half were injected with saline as a control. When the rats with the irritant pressed the button they felt pain, whereas the control rats did not. The irritant injected rats felt pain and, analysis of their brains showed, experienced less pleasure and motivation. Hopefully this research will be able to help deal with chronic pain, mental health issues, and who knows what else.



Posted by William Sobchuk (4)


  1. Hey William,
    I really appreciate that you explained the literature in a simpler way. It made the subject easier to comprehend and it made the article more enjoyable to read. Also, your title is really funny and clever!

    - Hannah K

    1. Thank! I think a large issue with scientific literacy isn't from willful ignorance, but more from the required vocabulary being too big of a bridge for some people to cross. Making it easier to understand is a way to make science more accessible for people

      -Will Sobchuk

  2. I really liked your first sentence. It made me want to keep reading and as I did, your topic was very interesting! I would definitely want to press the button.
    - Lara Pereira

  3. Thanks. We were always taught to put a hook at the start of any most papers, so I kind of do it on instinct now

    -Will Sobchuk