A University of British Columbia study published in Nature Neuroscience says the lateral habenula, a region of the brain linked to depression and avoidance behaviours, has been largely misunderstood and may be integral in cost-benefit decisions.

"These findings clarify the brain processes involved in the important decisions that we make on a daily basis, from choosing between job offers to deciding which house or car to buy," says Stan Floresco of UBC's department of psychology and Brain Research Centre (BRC).

"It also suggests that the scientific community has misunderstood the true functioning of this mysterious, but important, region of the brain."

The findings have important implications for depression treatment. "Deep brain stimulation -- which is thought to inactivate the lateral habenula -- has been reported to improve depressive symptoms in humans," Floresco says.

"But our findings suggest these improvements may not be because patients feel happier. They may simply no longer care as much about what is making them feel depressed."


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