I would have much preferred if the authors of the study below investigated the level of serotonin and its relation to giving up (“learned helplessness” anyone?), but I suppose the dogma of serotonin is still too “sacred” to be questioned in biomedical research. So, instead of saying that elevated serotonin causes despair and giving up, a more palatable (but equivalent) way to convey the same message would be to say that a drop in dopamine is the main cause. In light of the study’s findings one can conclude that giving depressed/desperate people SSRI drugs is perhaps the single worst intervention medicine can administer, likely much worse than doing nothing. Maybe one day patients will finally wisen up and launch a legal crusade against Big Pharma and its minions in regulatory agencies who have been getting away literally with murder (e.g. suicides caused by SSRI-induced despair) for decades.
“…Inside the brain, a group of cells known as nociceptin neurons get very active before a mouse’s breakpoint. They emit nociceptin, a complex molecule that suppresses dopamine, a chemical largely associated with motivation. The findings, reported July 25 in Cell, offer new insight into the complex world of motivation and reward. The nociceptin neurons are located near an area of the brain known as the ventral tegmental area. The VTA contains neurons that release dopamine during pleasurable activities. Although scientists have previously studied the effects of fast, simple neurotransmitters on dopamine neurons, this study is among the first to describe the effects of this complex nociception modulatory system. “We are taking an entirely new angle on an area of the brain known as VTA,” said co-lead author Christian Pedersen, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and the UW College of Engineering. Researchers at the UW School of Medicine and at Washington University School of Medicine as well as colleagues at other universities, spent four years looking at the role of nociceptin in regulating motivation. “The big discovery is that large complex neurotransmitters known as neuropeptides have a very robust effect on animal behavior by acting on the VTA,” said Pedersen. The researchers said this discovery could lead to helping people find motivation when they are depressed and conversely decrease motivation for drugs in substance- abuse disorders, like addiction. The discovery came by looking at the neurons in mice seeking sucrose. The mice had to poke their snout into a port to get sucrose. At first it was easy, then it became two pokes, then five, increasing exponentially, and so on. Eventually, all the mice gave up. Neural activity recordings revealed that these “demotivation” or “frustration” neurons became most active when mice stopped seeking sucrose.”