DAEJEON, Aug. 1 (Korea Bizwire) — The Institute for Basic Science (IBS) announced on Wednesday that it has found an explanation for brain cell activity that results in preference for a certain location.
In sum, memories of preferred locations are created while astrocytes in the brain combine with opioids, compounds that are known to cause the sense of happiness.
Astrocytes form the majority of all glia in the brain. As its name suggests, the cells are shaped like stars. They are known to help neurons maintain their function.
The institute conducted behavioral experiments on animals to verify the process of how opioids work in creating preference for a certain location.
First, the research team placed a rat inside a two-room cage to find out which room it preferred.
Then, the team injected morphine that combined with μ-opioid receptors in the astrocytes whenever the rat entered the less preferred room.
As a result, the rat began to like the less preferred room more than the other, which indicates that the μ-opioid receptors in the astrocytes are involved in the process of creating memories about preferred locations.
The research team explained that the μ-opioid receptors stimulated the excretion of glutamate, a neurotransmitter, which led to long-term potentiation and stronger signal transmission between neurons in the hippocampal synapse to create preference for a certain location.
In brain science, research on preferences can extend to questions on addiction.
“We were able to infer that μ-opioid receptors are closely related to morphine addiction,” said Lee Chang-jun, head of the IBS research team.
“We will be able to figure out how morphine addiction works, and come up with fundamental solutions for the cure.”
The study, conducted jointly with Kyungpook National University and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, was published in Cell Reports.
Kevin Lee (email@example.com)