In a recent study of more than 900 rats, Shelly Flagel and her team of neuroscientists at the University of Michigan found that a region in the thalamus of rats regulates a circuit linked to the prelimbic cortex, a brain region that governs certain urges linked to addiction. This pathway may one day become a new therapeutic target, according to a paper published last September in eLife.

The team presented the rats with an inactive lever and then delivered food down a nearby chute. The rats were grouped based on how they responded to the presence of the lever. One group, dubbed “goal-trackers,” were only interested in the chute upon seeing the lever, a predictable conditioned response. The “sign-trackers,” on the other hand, enthusiastically engaged with the lever itself, even though they were not able to cause the food to come down.

Read the full article at The Scientist.