Neurons that tell good from bad identified
MIT scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have identified two populations of neurons in the amygdala that process positive and negative emotions.
These neurons relay the information to other brain regions that initiate the appropriate behavioural response, said neuroscientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.
“How do we tell if something is good or bad? Even though that seems like a very simple question, we really don’t know how that process works,” said senior study author Kay Tye, the Whitehead Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
“This study tells us that streams of information are hard-wired and are separated into good and bad at the level of the amygdala,” Tye added.
The findings could also help scientists to better understand how mental illnesses such as depression arise, she said.
The neurons of the basolateral amygdala are intermingled, making it difficult to distinguish which populations might be involved in different functions.
Tye and colleagues suspected they might be able to distinguish populations of neurons that respond to different emotions based on their targets elsewhere in the brain.