Neurosciences: social interactions and the reward system – Sciences et Avenir

Social interactions shape our daily life, as well as that of many other species. Among social creatures, of which the human species is a part, this communication and these exchanges are the opportunity to live enriching and pleasant experiences, but also to obtain certain advantages: to be able to protect themselves from predators who would be left without work. From a single individual, establish cooperation strategies, share access to resources …

Logically, the advantages offered by social interactions are a source of motivation since, ultimately, they allow the survival of individuals and species. Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) are interested in the neurological bases of this social motivation: their results, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, show that social interactions in rats are natural rewards, motivated by the activation of dopaminergic neurons on the ventral. tegmental area (VTA) of the brain.

Dopaminergic brain activity

Camilla Bellone, professor of the Department of Fundamental Neurosciences of the Faculty of Medicine of UNIGE and author of the study in question, explains in a press release the experiment that she and her team carried out in mice: “To be able to observe which neurons are activated during the social interaction, we have taught the mice to perform a simple task that allows them to come into contact with their companions. “To interact with its companion, a mouse could activate a lever that temporarily opens the door of another compartment. In the experiment, the mouse understands that it must press the lever to join its partner, which increases the motivation to carry out this effort ”, adds Clément Solié, a researcher in Camilla Bellona’s team.

Les chercheurs enregistrant en parallèle l’activité cerébrale des souris étudiées grace à de petites électrodes: ils ont ainsi can confirm that “the ettablissement of l’interaction sociale between les deux souris entraînait une activation des neurons dopaminergiques aucteursme liés sympathetic the reward”.

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