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Motivation to Achieve Goals May Depend on Anxiety Level – Neuroscience News

Motivation

Summary: The motivation to exert sustained effort to achieve a goal following stress exposure depends on an individual’s level of trait anxiety. The expression of CRHR1 in dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area connects anxiety to either boosted or diminished motivation levels.

Source: NCCR-Synapsy

People often have different responses to stress. These distinct behavioral reactions could represent factors that indicate different individual susceptibility to develop certain pathologies such as depression.

A research team from the EPFL, member of the Swiss Synapsy national center of competence in research (NCCR-Synapsy) on mental health, demonstrated that the motivation to exert sustained effort to obtain goals after stress exposure depends on the individual’s level of trait anxiety.

The study, performed in rats, shows that whereas stress motivates animals with low anxiety to make a physical effort, it mines the capacity to exert effort in highly anxious animals.

The cellular mechanisms that underlie these behavioral differences, which can be read in the journal Science Advances, involve the corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor 1 (CRHR1), expressed by the dopaminergic cell group in the ventral tegmental area, a cerebral region known to be involved in regulating motivation.

The study shows that the expression of these receptors is directly connected to the rats’ anxiety level, with the first consequence being a modulation in the neuronal activity, leading to boosted or diminished motivation.

These results help explain the individual differences in susceptibilities to stress and could provide better patient stratification for developing more personalized treatments against depression.

Exposure to stress activates a group of natural physiological and cerebral responses that orchestrate the necessary behavioral changes for facing threats to one’s life, such as fleeing or fighting when confronted by a potential aggressor.

Exposure to situations of intense or repeated stress can nonetheless have insidious effects and trigger psychiatric problems characterized by an alteration in motivation, such as depression.

The studies conducted on motivation after exposure to stress have until now provided contradictory results. Some studies show that stress causes a decrease in motivation while others indicate an improvement in performance.

Carmen Sandi, neuroscientist at the EPFL’s Brain Mind Institute, and her research team tried to determine if these contradictory results may be due to variations in the individuals’ personality traits, such as anxiety, which has proved to be a key moderator in the effects of acute stress on learning and social behavior.

Her lab performed a study to determine if different individuals’ trait anxiety could promote or inhibit motivation under stress.

The dopaminergic neurons of low-anxiety rats (LA) show a stronger expression of the corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor 1 (CRHR1, red points) in the ventral tegmental area, as opposed to the rats with high anxiety (HA). The dopaminergic cell groups are shown in green and the clusters of all the neural cells in blue. Credit: …….

Source: https://neurosciencenews.com/motivation-anxiety-20241/

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