What is it about?

Saying “stop” at the right moment is important for a healthy lifestyle. A simple example: switching off a boring movie can spare us time for more interesting pastimes. In other examples, saying “stop” is even more determinant for our mental and physical health. Thus, leaving an unrewarding job early enough can prevent us from getting a burnout, while breaking up a toxic relationship can preserve our emotional balance. And yet, most of the time we fail to decide to stop the ongoing action before it becomes too late. Here, we found that boosting noradrenaline and acetylcholine in the human brain can enhance optimality of stay-or-leave decisions.

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Why is it important?

While we all may occasionally experience difficulties with saying “stop”, this may become particularly hard for clinical populations (e.g., people with as anxiety, gambling, or obsessive-compulsive disorders). We hope our findings will empower clinical research and inspire our peers to focus on noradrenergic and cholinergic systems while developing new therapeutic approaches.


Projects on neuromodulation require creating a strictly controlled environment where every single action of the researcher is precisely scheduled up to a second. Combining three neuromodulatory systems brings design complexity to the next level, which made this project an ambitious and yet extremely exciting journey. The beauty of this work lies also in its proximity to real-life problems. Thus, we asked our participants to took on a role of a farmer and decide for how long to milk the cows on a patch to get enough milk without exhausting the animals. Fun and engaging on one side, the task also brought participants to the framework of sustainable decision-making and responsible resource management.

Nick Sidorenko

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Acetylcholine and noradrenaline enhance foraging optimality in humans, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2305596120.
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