Dopamine is usually referred to as the “feel-good hormone,” but it’s far more than that.
This neurotransmitter earned its nickname because when we anticipate an incentive — like winning a game or falling in love — dopamine levels increase, giving us an atmosphere of euphoria and bliss.
But research has also unearthed that dopamine is needed for the synthesis of episodic memories, such as for instance that which you had for dinner last night or where you parked your car or truck at the mall.
This allows insights into potential new treatments for memory disorders.
One treatment option is always to use medications that increase dopamine in mental performance, either directly or indirectly. Another is deep brain stimulation Trusted Source of the neurons that produce dopamine.
But those buying a less invasive version could have another option: brain training.
Researchers are now actually investigating the effect that brain training games have on dopamine, learning, and memory.
In a current study, a team led by researchers from Brown University unearthed that using situations, unexpected rewards boost the synthesis of episodic memories.
The study was published earlier this month in Nature Human Behavior Trusted Source.
In psychological research, this sort of better-than-expected outcome is recognized as a reward-prediction error. These involve the release of dopamine using elements of the brain.
In the analysis, researchers tested the link between reward-prediction errors, learning, and memory by asking visitors to play an on the web game.
During the first — or learning phase — of the game, people bet on whether they’d win the reward shown at the start of the round. The possibility of winning was linked with a picture that appeared after the potential reward.
People’s guesses were predicated on feedback from previous rounds. The likelihood of a picture category being associated with a win remained the exact same for most rounds, but changed at certain points in the game.
During the memory phase of the game, everyone was asked to identify images they’d seen during the training phase. They were mixed in with new, but similar, images.
Researchers unearthed that everyone was better at remembering images from rounds in that they accepted a risky gamble.
Memories were also stronger when the images caused a tougher reward-prediction error — when there was a more substantial difference involving the expected reward before and after the image was seen.
Memory benefits arrived within five minutes after the training task. Similar research done in mice found that it took 24 hours for memories to form.
The findings occurred within the context of a pc game. But such unexpected rewards also occur in real life — such as for instance stumbling upon a new favorite coffee shop or finding a good deal on a new car.