A new study published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences has established a link between our dopaminergic drive (the motivation to do things) and chronic low-grade inflammation. The hypothesis presented by the researchers from Emory University is that "inflammatory cytokines signal immunometabolic shifts," which directly impact mesolimbic dopamine (DA). The mesolimbic pathway, also referred to as the "reward pathway”, is implicated in the willingness to put in effort or seek reward. Researchers explained "reduction of striatal DA that in turn leads to a steeper effort-discounting curve because of reduced perceived ability (can’t) versus preference (won’t) for reward".
Motivational and neurological impairment has been connected to inflammation, possibly due to sensitivity to immune cytokines. The reason for the alteration in the immune response, effectively downgrading motivation and drive, is to focus energy on healing and conserve precious resources. This study offers a vital opportunity to think about how chronic/persistent low-grade inflammation impacts the pathophysiology of disease. These findings could impact the way we look at behavioral challenges - for which a causative factor may be inflammation.
Further research is currently being carried out using the computational framework designed for this study. The framework cross-references low-grade inflammation with the amount of energy that is available to the patient, presenting promising approaches to neurological health in the future.
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