Dopamine neurons are nerve cells in the brain that release the neurotransmitter dopamine, a substance that helps carry messages between nerve cells.
Dr. McKhann and his team of researchers were able to monitor the activity of these neurons inside the brains of patients undergoing surgery for Parkinson’s disease. They recorded how the neurons, in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, responded as they played two types of sounds; either novel or repetitive tones.
Dr. McKhann and his group found that the dopamine neurons “fired more rapidly following novel sounds than repetitive tones.” Scientists have long known that these neurons played a key role in normal cognitive processes and disease states in animal models and this is the first time it has been confirmed in humans. This is also important because it changes established models used to describe how novel sounds are detected in the brain.
The paper, Features and timing of the response of single neurons to novelty in the substantia nigra, is published in the January 2014 issue of the journal Brain Research.
Learn more about his research online here or in the journal Brain Res. 2014 Jan 13;1542:79-84.
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