NYSCF Investigator Understands Loneliness Under a Microscope
Scientists understand that socializing triggers the brain’s reward system. Brain cells in a specific region of the brain secrete dopamine, a chemical involved in addiction, movement and motivation. NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Kay Tye of MIT set out to make sense of how the brain responds to loneliness. Dr. Tye and her team discovered a role for brain cells that secrete dopamine, dopamine neurons, in a specific brain region which showed changes in activity after social isolation. Using light to control neurons, a technique known as optogenetics pioneered by fellow NYSCF – Robertson Investigator Ed Boyden, further revealed the role of these neurons in loneliness and socializing. The resulting study, published in Cell, helps researchers makes sense of loneliness on an unprecedented cellular level.