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What Part Of The Brain Produces Dopamine

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How Does Dopamine Make You Feel

What is dopamine?

Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behavior. Dopamine makes you curious about ideas and fuels your search for information. Dopamine creates reward-seeking loops in the sense that people will repeat pleasurable behavior, from checking Instagram to taking drugs.

What Is Dopamine And What Does It Do

17 January, 2018

Dopamine is one of the most famous neurotransmitters of our nervous system. Its known as the neurotransmitter of pleasure.

Its main function is to activate the reward circuits in the brain, but it also has other, lesser-known functions. Dopamine acts to both activate and inhibit brain activity depending on where its released.

First of all, neurotransmitters are biomolecules released in the synapses of neurons whose job is to transmit or alter the transmission of information. As for dopamine, dopaminergic neurons are responsible for releasing and producing this neurotransmitter.

Dopamine is synthesized by the amino acid tyrosine and accumulates in synaptic vesicles at the axonal terminals of dopaminergic neurons. These neurons are found mainly in a part of our brain called the substantia nigra.

Then, those neurons spread out through different pathways, each with a different function. Now well explain what these pathways are and what they do.

What Does It Do

Dopamine has many functions in the body. It is an important part of motor function, which is how the body moves correctly. It is also an important part of how the brain understands reward and reinforcement.2

It works to make you feel good when you do something correctly. Finally, it is one of the chemicals in the brain that is responsible for sexual arousal.3

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Which Parts Of The Brain Are Affected By Dopamine

Does dopamine spread and interact across the whole brain? If not, which areas are affected most and which least?

Quoting my thesis:

CNS Dopamine/DA projections primarily emerge from two subcortical basal ganglia nuclei in the brain stem, travelling along three major pathways .

The nigrostriatal pathway, connecting the substantia nigra and the striatum, is mainly implicated in higher motor control. The mesolimbic pathway contains DA projections from the Ventral Tegmental Area/VTA and the pars compacta of the Substantia Nigra to limbic systems including hip- pocampus, amgydala and thalamus, and is critical in learning and memory in a mechanism that is well-investigated . The mesocortical pathway connects the VTA and SNc to the cortex. In contrast to the extensive noradrenergic innervation of the cortex, DA therefore reaches only selected areas . DA density is extensive in prefrontal and anterior cingulate areas, and falls off rapidly across an rostro-caudal gradient. The temporal lobe is only weakly innvervated , and little to no innervation reaches parietal and especially occipital lobes, though DA fibers in monkey area 7 have been reported .

Of course, this is only the direct effect of DA. In principle, all of the brain is strongly affected by the effects of DA, because frontal cortices, who are strongly influenced by DA, in turn strongly influence the rest of the bain.

  • Interaction with the brain and where
  • How Dopamine Drives Brain Activity

    Addiction: How our genes program our preferences and habits

    Anne Trafton |

      Using a specialized magnetic resonance imaging sensor, MIT neuroscientists have discovered how dopamine released deep within the brain influences both nearby and distant brain regions.

      Dopamine plays many roles in the brain, most notably related to movement, motivation, and reinforcement of behavior. However, until now it has been difficult to study precisely how a flood of dopamine affects neural activity throughout the brain. Using their new technique, the MIT team found that dopamine appears to exert significant effects in two regions of the brains cortex, including the motor cortex.

      There has been a lot of work on the immediate cellular consequences of dopamine release, but here what were looking at are the consequences of what dopamine is doing on a more brain-wide level, says Alan Jasanoff, an MIT professor of biological engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, and nuclear science and engineering. Jasanoff is also an associate member of MITs McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the senior author of the study.

      The MIT team found that in addition to the motor cortex, the remote brain area most affected by dopamine is the insular cortex. This region is critical for many cognitive functions related to perception of the bodys internal states, including physical and emotional states.

      MIT postdoc Nan Li is the lead author of the study, which appears today in Nature.

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      Desire To Dread: An Affective Keyboard In Nac Shell

      The anterior NAc opioid hedonic hotspot and posterior suppressive coldspot fit within a broader anatomical NAc pattern of front-to-back valence organization in shell that generates additional emotions beyond liking and disgust. This NAc pattern resembles an affective keyboard arranged rostrocaudally within medial shell, which can generate intense desire or even dread as well as hedonic impact . The keyboard pattern is arranged from anterior to posterior ends of medial shell. At its anterior end, it generates predominantly positive-valenced motivations in response to localized neural events such as microinjections of a GABA agonist or of a glutamate AMPA antagonist : eating more than twice normal amounts of food, increasing appetitive seeking for food rewards , inducing a conditioned preference for a place paired with the microinjection, and even increasing liking reactions to sweet tastes . However, as the microinjection site moves more caudally in NAc shell, appetitive behaviors decline. Instead negative fearful behavior becomes increasingly intense, and sweet tastes become also disgusting .

      Affective keyboard in nucleus accumbens for desire and/or dread

      Multiple anatomical modules in NAc shell

      Retuning the affective keyboard

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      Role In Mental Health

      Itâs hard to pinpoint a single cause of most mental health disorders and challenges. But they’re often linked to too much or too little dopamine in different parts of the brain. Examples include:

      Schizophrenia. Decades ago, researchers believed that symptoms stemmed from a hyperactive dopamine system. Now we know that some are due to too much of this chemical in certain parts of the brain. This includes hallucinations and delusions. A lack of it in other parts can cause different signs, such as lack of motivation and desire.

      ADHD. No one knows for sure what causes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder . Some research shows it may be due to a shortage of dopamine. This problem may be due to your genes. The ADHD drug methylphenidate works by boosting dopamine.

      Drug misuse and addiction. Drugs such as cocaine can cause a big, fast increase of dopamine in your brain. That satisfies your natural reward system in a big way. But repeated drug use also raises the threshold for this kind of pleasure. This means you need to take more to get the same high. Meanwhile, drugs make your body less able to produce dopamine naturally. This leads to emotional lows when youâre sober.

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      Dopamine And Psychoactive Drugs

      Because dopamine contributes to feelings of pleasure, a rush of dopamine can cause an immediate change in mood. Dopamine-producing drugs such as Adderall and Dexadrine are sometimes prescribed to people experiencing treatment-resistant depression. Medications that increase dopamine production can be highly addictive, and thus are not recommended for people with substance abuse problems. Some dopamine-producing drugs can also cause cardiovascular and renal problems, and people prescribed amphetamines and related drugs should be carefully monitored by a physician.


    • Audesirk, T., Audesirk, G., & Byers, B. E. . Biology: Life on earth with physiology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
    • Belujon, P., & Grace, A. A. . Dopamine system dysregulation in major depressive disorders. International Journal of Neuropharmacology, 20, 1,036-1,046. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyx056
    • Brisch, R., Saniotis, A., Wolf, R., Bielau, H., Bernstein, H., Steiner, J., Bogerts, B., Braun, K., et al. . The role of dopamine in schizophrenia from a neurobiological and evolutionary perspective: Old fashioned, but still in vogue. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00110
    • Colman, A. M. . Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    • Diehl, D. J., & Gershon, S. . The role of dopamine in mood disorders. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 33, 115-120. Retrieved from
    • How Does Dopamine Make Someone Feel Happy

      Dopamine Pathways In Context Of Antipsychotics

      Dopamine is known as the feel-good hormone. It gives you a sense of pleasure. It also gives you the motivation to do something when youre feeling pleasure.

      Dopamine is part of your reward system. This system is designed, from an evolutionary standpoint, to reward you when youre doing the things you need to do to survive eat, drink, compete to survive and reproduce. As humans, our brains are hard-wired to seek out behaviors that release dopamine in our reward system. When youre doing something pleasurable, your brain releases a large amount of dopamine. You feel good and you seek more of that feeling.

      This is why junk food and sugar are so addictive. They trigger the release of a large amount of dopamine into your brain, which gives you the feeling that youre on top of the world and you want to repeat that experience.

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      Individual Differences In Dopamine’s Effects On Cognitive Control

      The relationship between brain dopamine and cognitive task performance is highly complex . Dopamine can promote, but also undermine, cognitive control and there is large individual variability in dopaminergic drug effects on human cognition , perhaps reflecting a dependency on baseline dopamine levels . These differences are associated with proxy measures of dopamine transmission, such as trait impulsivity dopamine receptor availability and high striatal dopamine release Buckholtz et al., 2010 Lee et al., 2009 but see Reeves et al., 2012 Kim et al., 2014) and working memory capacity . Such baseline-dependent effects of dopaminergic drugs have been attributed most commonly to excess dopamine D1 receptor stimulation in the prefrontal cortex, in accordance with a nonlinear, inverted-U-shaped relationship between dopamine and prefrontal function.

      Nancy J. Wesensten, in, 2011

      What Happens If You Have Too Much Dopamine

      Having elevated dopamine or only concentrated in specific brain parts is associated with being more aggressive, competitive, and poor impulse control.

      This is because people may start craving more of the reward system associated with dopamine. For instance, pleasurable situations such as having excellent food, sex, winning a game, or earning money can all be part of this.

      High dopamine activity is also linked to excess energy, anxiety, mania, stress, insomnia, hallucinations, and aggression. People may also experience improved focus, learning ability, and a high sex drive.

      In addition, repeated drug use and alcohol can also cause a surge of dopamine, which is why people get addicted to them. This imbalance can lead to conditions that include binge eating, gambling, addiction, and ADHD.

      It is possible to lower dopamine levels naturally by consuming more protein and less saturated fat, regular exercise, getting enough sleep, listening to music, meditating, and engaging in other relaxing activities.

      Also, you can engage in a dopamine detox which involves abstaining from dopamine-producing activities for a specific time to lower reward sensitivity. In other words, you can withdraw yourself from ordinary stimulants such as sugar, shopping, social media, or another pleasurable situation.

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      What Happens If I Have Too Much Or Too Little Dopamine

      Having low levels of dopamine can make you less motivated and excited about things. Its linked to some mental illnesses including depression, schizophrenia and psychosis.

      Having too much dopamine or too much dopamine concentrated in some parts of the brain and not enough in other parts is linked to being more competitive, aggressive and having poor impulse control. It can lead to conditions that include ADHD, binge eating, addiction and gambling.

      In Parkinsons disease, the nerve cells that produce dopamine gradually die. Because dopamine helps control the muscles, this leads to problems with muscle stiffness and movements.

      The symptoms of a dopamine imbalance depend on what is causing the problem. They include:

      • muscle cramps, spasms or stiffness
      • digestion problems, such as constipation or reflux
      • moving or speaking more slowly than usual
      • feeling tired and unmotivated, or sad and lacking hope
      • having low libido
      • hallucinations

      Between Dopamine And Serotonin

      Understanding the Brain: Final Project

      The neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are commonly grouped under one category, as they both regulate similar body functions. However, they produce different effects when released in the brain. While dopamine is mostly stored in the brain and plays an essential role in your brains pleasure and reward system regulating movement, mood, and motivation serotonin is mostly stored in the gut. and helps regulate your mood, body temperature, and appetite.

      Despite their different functions, dopamine and serotonin interact and affect each other to regulate your bodys chemical balance. Studies have shown that serotonin often suppresses the production of dopamine, which means that low levels of serotonin can result in an overproduction of dopamine. Since dopamine plays a role in reward-seeking behavior, this case may increase or enhance impulsivity.

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      Blood Supply To The Brain

      Two sets of blood vessels supply blood and oxygen to the brain: the vertebral arteries and the carotid arteries.

      The external carotid arteries extend up the sides of your neck, and are where you can feel your pulse when you touch the area with your fingertips. The internal carotid arteries branch into the skull and circulate blood to the front part of the brain.

      The vertebral arteries follow the spinal column into the skull, where they join together at the brainstem and form the basilar artery, which supplies blood to the rear portions of the brain.

      The circle of Willis, a loop of blood vessels near the bottom of the brain that connects major arteries, circulates blood from the front of the brain to the back and helps the arterial systems communicate with one another.

      Psychosis And Antipsychotic Drugs

      Psychiatrists in the early 1950s discovered that a class of drugs known as typical antipsychotics , were often effective at reducing the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. The introduction of the first widely used antipsychotic, chlorpromazine , in the 1950s, led to the release of many patients with schizophrenia from institutions in the years that followed. By the 1970s researchers understood that these typical antipsychotics worked as antagonists on the D2 receptors. This realization led to the so-called dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia, which postulates that schizophrenia is largely caused by hyperactivity of brain dopamine systems. The dopamine hypothesis drew additional support from the observation that psychotic symptoms were often intensified by dopamine-enhancing stimulants such as methamphetamine, and that these drugs could also produce psychosis in healthy people if taken in large enough doses. In the following decades other atypical antipsychotics that had fewer serious side effects were developed. Many of these newer drugs do not act directly on dopamine receptors, but instead produce alterations in dopamine activity indirectly. These drugs were also used to treat other psychoses.Antipsychotic drugs have a broadly suppressive effect on most types of active behavior, and particularly reduce the delusional and agitated behavior characteristic of overt psychosis.

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      How Dopamine Affects Cognition

      What is dopamines role in the mental processes involved in gaining knowledge and comprehension? The frontal lobes of the brain secrete dopamine, which helps in regulating the flow of information from other areas of the brain. Dopamine receptors are responsible for enhancing the cognitive effects of dopamine. A deficiency of this hormone in the frontal lobes can adversely affect neurocognitive functions like memory, attention, and problem-solving.

      How Does Pd Affect Dopamine

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      Doctors believe that PD affects the brains ability to create dopamine.7 Since the brain cannot produce the dopamine it needs, a persons movement begins to be affected. PD can also cause other symptoms as the brain begins to create less dopamine.8

      People with PD can have issues with sleep, depression, and blood pressure. Younger people with PD can also have issues with impulse control.9 As you can see, these are all related to the parts of the brain that create dopamine. Doctors are not sure why this happens, or what causes PD.

      PD causes the neuron cells in the substantia nigra to break down and die. People with PD have 80 percent fewer dopamine-producing cells in their substantia nigra than people without PD have.7

      Doctors are not sure why this happens. If doctors can figure out why PD causes the brain to stop producing dopamine, they think they may be able to find a better treatment for PD.

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      Lobes Of The Brain And What They Control

      Each brain hemisphere has four sections, called lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital. Each lobe controls specific functions.

      • Frontal lobe. The largest lobe of the brain, located in the front of the head, the frontal lobe is involved in personality characteristics, decision-making and movement. Recognition of smell usually involves parts of the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe contains Brocas area, which is associated with speech ability.
      • Parietal lobe. The middle part of the brain, the parietal lobe helps a person identify objects and understand spatial relationships . The parietal lobe is also involved in interpreting pain and touch in the body. The parietal lobe houses Wernickes area, which helps the brain understand spoken language.
      • Occipital lobe. The occipital lobe is the back part of the brain that is involved with vision.
      • Temporal lobe. The sides of the brain, temporal lobes are involved in short-term memory, speech, musical rhythm and some degree of smell recognition.

      More Physical Tricks To Kick Your Dopamine Into High Gear

      Dopamine has a biological connection to our motivation to achieve. You can increase your dopamine via positive feedback . You can also spur your capacity to accomplish tasks by building healthful habits.

      • Boost your diet with dopamine-filled foods. For an extra kick, make sure youre eating food with plenty of natural probiotics, like yogurt and sauerkraut, and natural glucose, which occurs in raw fruits and nuts.
      • Take a 10-minute nap. Research shows that 10 minutes is the optimal length. After that, sleep inertia can set in, making you sluggish and unproductive.
      • Make a right brain/left brain switch.Anecdotal evidence shows that being able to flex both muscles creative and analytical can make you a more well-rounded worker. Take time to move between Excel and an art project or a creative brainstorming session and more straightforward quantitative tasks in order to build both sides of your brain and feel productive on many fronts.
      • Get moving at midday. Even a 20-minute walk will yield positive results. And if you opt for a short, high-intensity workout, it can propel your dopamine to new heights.

      Improve your health, and youll improve your capacity to achieve and reap the rewards.

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