how homesick mice give us a peek into mood disorders and drug addiction

how homesick mice give us a peek into mood disorders and drug addiction

When studying the life sciences, there are a lot of in-depth concepts to take in. Depending on the the type of science you are studying, biology vs. evolution, for example, you may even have to learn a handful of mathematical formulas to fully appreciate the material. Here, we are just having a light-hearted overview of the life sciences, so a light serving of sativa will do just fine.

In my experience, sativa helps me to not get lost in wordy texts (reading that is not broken up by graphics/tables or formulas) and keep my mind sharp and able to take in all relevant information. Grinding about 60mg (less than 1/4 of a 1g bud) of sativa and smoking just a small pinch of that for over a 3-5hr period is perfect for maintaining a healthy attention span for learning.

Black Flower Science Co. does not claim to be a medical professional and does not offer recommendations as a substitute for medical advice. All advice and recommendations are based on personal experience of the benefits of medical marijuana. If you are experiencing severe or declining mental health symptoms, please seek the advice of a medical professional.

Time away from home – it’s what we all want, especially after being holed up in our homes during the global COVID pandemic for what felt (or feels, for some folks) like forever. Yet, when we do get opportunities to spend some time out of the house and apart from our loved ones, we start experiencing that familiar, bittersweet feeling: “homesickness.”

Though this sentiment is incredibly widespread in Homo sapiens, have you ever wondered if animals get homesick, too? Turns out, this pondering is not too far-fetched.  

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) have discovered what seems to be the existence – and the corresponding hormonal signal of resolution – of this attachment to home in non-human animals. The species in question? Precious little mice.

Mice Missing Home

The FAU research team replicated and monitored a biomarker with known associations to the feeling of receiving rewards within mice’s brains as they traveled between their home cage to different enclosures.

Specifically, they watched the release of dopamine within the nervous system, and observed notable rises in this hormone when the mice were returned to their home cage from an experimental chamber. When they were transferred out of their home cage and into another enclosure, these hormonal levels dropped.

Further, when given the choice, mice consciously chose to enter their home cage instead of another living space, even when it looked similar to their home enclosure. What did the research team conclude? That the intensity of these hormonal changes reflected similar dopamine activity to that which occurs after consuming a dose of cocaine.

The Addictiveness of Pleasure

Why compare these neurological responses to drug use? It turns out that dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is essential to organisms’ ability to feel motivated, a sensation that pushes them to pursue rewards and hope for specific results.

These feelings of motivation and hopefulness (or apprehension, in some cases) can be addictive, even more so when paired with the reward itself. Aside from the mere demonstration that non-human animals feel an attachment to their homes, the team hopes that the study will have larger implications for mood disorder and drug research in the future.

An FAU biomedical professor and the publication’s senior author, Randy Blakely, stated, “We think that monitoring the home cage-elicited release of dopamine provides a simple, but powerful paradigm for the study of how genetic and life events can lead to an inability to feel pleasure.”

Since the inability to feel pleasure characterizes several mood disorders, Blakely hopes that the biomarker used in this study can be applied to behavioral observations for humans in the future to treat these conditions.

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