March 4, 2024

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Heart breaking? You can learn this by tail

Heart breaking?  You can learn this by tail

The prairie vole is more similar to us humans than you might initially think: it lives in monogamous relationships and cares for the young with its mate. And she feels a kind of separation pain similar to how we humans fall apart. As new research data now suggests, our species can learn a lesson from the way it got there.

A Research team from USA A recent study examined how mice from the grasslands of North America pass on their former partners. To do this, the amount of dopamine in the brains of experimental animals was measured. Dopamine is also known as the hormone of happiness because it controls our desires.

Voles belong to the subfamily of burrowers – pictured is a bank vole.Image: Wikipedia

In one experiment, a mouse had to press a lever to open a door to go to its mouse or to climb over a fence. If the mouse's partner waited behind it, dopamine levels rose. However, if there was a strange mouse on the other side of the barrier, the level of dopamine in the brain did not change.

For humans, the reward system is most strongly activated when we spend time with someone important to us, whether it's a partner or a good friend.

To examine the effects of separation on mouse brains, pairs were separated for four weeks. That's a long time for animals that only live a year in the wild. When the two met again, the measured biochemical reaction was different: the spouses had become former partners. Although the animals remembered each other, the dopamine rush did not occur. “We see this as a kind of reset in the brain that allows the animal to form a new bond,” explains neuroscientist Joe Donaldson, who was involved in the study.

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The extent to which this mechanism can be transferred to humans is still uncertain. However, if the release of dopamine plays such an important role in interpersonal relationships, it could help us understand what healthy bonds in the brain look like. Donaldson says the discovery could help treat people with mental health problems. If this mechanism applies to humans, it means that our brains protect us from unrequited love. And every heartbeat must end sooner or later. (anb)

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