Motivation to learn new things and engage with life declines with age due to falling activity in a brain circuit that weighs costs and benefits, a study on mice suggested. US experts have been studying ‘striosomes’ — clusters of cells in the basal ganglia, a brain area linked to habit formation, movement control, emotion and addiction. They team found that striosomes are key to the decision making process when dealing with ‘approach-avoidance conflict’ — when a choice has both pros and cons. For example, one such thorny problem might be whether or not to take a new job that pays better, but would also call for a move away from family and friends. Working with mice, the researchers found that striosomal activity is correlated to the evaluation of costs and benefits — but that this activity diminishes with age. In a similar fashion, older mice were seen to be less motivated to engage with the experiment that forced them to deal with approach-avoidance conflict. However, the team found that they could increase or decrease the motivation of mice in the decision-making activity by boosting or suppressing striosome activity. In 2017, the same team found — also in rodent models — that… Read full this story
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