When the human brain receives unexpected information, it releases dopamine to get used to the change and update the information in the brain, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature.
The research, carried out by the University of Northwestern (United States), reveals that when the brain receives information different from its usual expectations a kind of error occurs.
“This happens constantly in our lives,” said Thorsten Kahnt, a professor of neurology at Northwestern and a participant in the study.
An example of this would be the one that the Kahnt himself relates to. When he was in high school, he knew a friend who used to wear long and curly hair. A few years later, he met that friend and realized that he had shaved it his head. “My brain processed it as a mistake, that’s when the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain updates the information, so you know what you have to expect tomorrow,” the professor recalled.
Kahnt pointed out that these errors are related to dopamine, since, according to the researcher, this neurotransmitter is released when the orbitofrontal cortex updates the information.
To develop this research, the scientists showed different foods to a group of hungry participants. First, they gave the participants foods, for example potatoes, with the expected smell. They then later changed the smell of that food to something totally unexpected.
When a potato with a caramel smell was exposed to the participants, their brain activity increased.