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If too much of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine is present in the brain, it has a stress effect, leading a person to exhibit behavior that is not goal directed and may produce bad habits, even addictions. This neurotransmitter’s decisive role in the stress experience is documented in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers from Bochum led by Dr. Lars Schwabe, RUB Faculty of Psychology. If beta blockers are used to stop the norepinephrine, the stress effect is eliminated. “The results may be important for addictive behaviors where stress is a key risk factor, said Schwabe. “They are characterized by ingrained routines and habits.”
The test to show the connection employed oranges and chocolate. There were three groups: a control group, a group exposed to stress and a group exposed to stress who took a beta blocker. Everyone was told they could have as much orange juice or chocolate pudding as they wanted if they just clicked icons on the computer. With limitless oj or chocolate available to them, the value of the reward was lessened. When the test was administered, people who were not stressed, who did take beta blockers, pushed the icons less and less.
For the people who had an unblocked flow of norepinephrine, they continued to press the icons over and over again. They exhibited habitual, repetitive behavior for a diminished reward. Even when full and satiated with their choice of chocolate or orange juice, they continued to press the icons calling for more.
The study could lead to new drug therapies for stress conditions (or chocoholics).
Source: Journal of Neuroscience, MedicalNewsToday
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