That our mood and motivation is determined by various factors is no longer a secret. According to new research conducted by scientists at Emory University, it appears that inflammation in our body also has an influence on our mental state.
The dopamine system in our brain (also the engine behind our motivation and happiness) is directly affected by inflammation in our body. Chronic, low-grade inflammations, to be precise.
The scientists behind the research state that the connection between dopamine, the inflammation in our body and our happiness is a kind of adaptive mechanism that helps our body to save energy. In human language: when our immune system increases – as a result of the inflammation in our body – our body reacts by making less dopamine and thus saving energy. As a result? Due to a lack of dopamine, we feel unmotivated and unhappy.
“When your body fights infection or heals a wound, your brain needs a mechanism that keeps you from using too much energy,” said Michael Treadway, senior lecturer at Emory’s psychology department and one of the researchers behind the study. “We now have strong evidence suggesting that the immune system is disrupting the dopamine system.” This is also the reason why people who suffer from chronic inflammation often feel listless and do not want to undertake activities that require energy.
Scientists are planning to do more research on this theory because they see major implications for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. In particular, they hope to gain more insight into how inflammation in the body contributes to motivational disorders in people with depression, schizophrenia, and other medical conditions.