Every action of ours is regulated by dopamine, a chemical messenger. It controls each and everything – right from something as paltry as picking up a handkerchief to something as vital getting into the car.
Though dopamine signaling might seem to be aa straightforward process at the outset, the functioning is actually a complicated one – something that scientists have been eager to know since long.
Something to do with Parkinson’s Disease?
With Parkinson’s disease raising its ugly head all across, delving deep into the way dopamine sends signals to the brain has become imperative. Along these lines, a team dedicated to this research from Harvard Medical School has tabled a new-fangled mechanism to underlie release of dopamine in brain. Mice were subject to this research. The findings were published in “Science” on March 24, which stated that acetylcholine, another chemical messenger, is capable of triggering firing of the dopamine neurons by getting bound to a part of the neurons that aren’t known for initiating firing.
The findings have challenged the major belief that initiation of signals happens at one end of neurons and they flow to the subsequent end and prompt chemical messengers to get released. The findings, on the contrary, reveal that dopamine and acetylcholine systems interact with each other, which, in turn, results in signalling. The next stage of findings states that neuron’s axon that was conventionally looked upon as an output structure, could initiate signalling as well.
On further confirmation with animal species and later with humans, these findings could open the doors for novel strategies like Parkinson’s, wherein dopamine signalling gets disrupted.
Pascal Kaeser, who holds the distinction of being the professor of neurobiology at Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, has stated that it’s fundamental to define the interactions between acetylcholine and dopamine for understanding the way signals to perform daily activities are generated as well as modulated.
It is a known fact that neurons come across as specialized nerve cells sending and receiving signals all through the body. The transmission of signals begins with neuron receiving chemical signal through its branched tentacles, better known as dendrites (at one end of course). Thereafter, the command center of the cell, i.e. adjacent cell body, does integrate signal for inducing firing, sending an action potential or electrical impulse, that too, along a thin, long projection termed as an axon to the cell’s far end. The action potential then asks for neurotransmitters to get released, due to which chemical messengers flowing to the nearby neurons carry message from a cell to the other.
Acetylcholine and dopamine are vital neurotransmitters in body. They play their part in having the vital functions regulated, which include involuntary and voluntary movement, mood, pleasure, and pain processing, smooth muscle contraction, blood vessel dilation, and likewise.
Kaeser, along with his team, did study striatum – one of the centralized clusters of neurons in brain that goes on to integrate input obtained from the other brain areas for regulating daily actions. They are trying to investigate regarding the fact that acetylcholine, at times, does initiate direct release of dopamine in striatum, skipping the conventional steps of signalling process.
Something interesting in the store, indeed!