You know that feeling you experience when you eat your favourite foods? Or have sex? Or perhaps take a certain drug? This is all because of one chemical in our brain and as the title may have indicated, its dopamine.
This is a chemical which is responsible for all of the excitement, motivation and maybe even danger in our lives. It’s a neurotransmitter that helps our cells communicate with us, but in comparison to others that are prevalent in our body it would be fair to say that we can “feel” the effects much more significantly.
Nevertheless, dopamine is something which most of us know relatively little about. It’s something that causes feelings we all probably enjoy, but in terms of the technicalities most people’s knowledge is slim. This page will explain all.
Dopamine is all about the brain
First and foremost, let’s put it out there on what exactly dopamine is. The whole dopamine system is situated in the mid and front brain area.
This is quite significant when you consider that the frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for thinking, while the Striatum and Nucleus Accumbens (which are based in the middle) are focussed on controlling movement and our emotions respectively. All of this will become even clearer as you start to realise of all of the things that dopamine is responsible for.
It will dictate when you fall asleep and when you stay awake
This is probably one of the most “boring” facts about dopamine, but it’s one you should be aware of nevertheless. One of the primary functions of the chemical is that it can regulate exactly when we feel the need to sleep, and when we feel awake.
This can be emphasised through one of the studies that has been conducted about dopamine. As you will come to learn through this guide, there is a lot of research that has been invested into this chemical but this particular one shows just how it affects sleep.
It was shown that sleep deprived people had less dopamine binding to their dopamine receptors in the brain, than those who had rested.
You can increase you dopamine levels through various foods
As you reel through the various facts that we are publishing through this page, you may start to believe in the hype that large amounts of dopamine are a good thing (before you start this crusade, make sure you read our final point).
It might mean that you start to look at ways to increase the levels of the chemical within your brain. One way in which to achieve this is to find foods which contain the likes of L-Tyrosine and L-Phenylalanine – two amino acids. The likes of fish, chicken, nuts and eggs are all examples and work well as the amino acids within them convert to dopamine over time.
Worry-free supplements can contribute
It’s also possible to turn to some supplements and basic over-the-counter drugs to boost your levels.
These aren’t anything ground-breaking, it’s just the likes of caffeine, nootropics and tryptophan. Nicotine is another one that has been found to increase levels, but suffice to say this is most certainly not recommended.
Massages can also boost your levels
While food and supplements are an easy way to get an extra kick of dopamine, perhaps one of the most bizarre techniques is to rely on a massage.
This is again one of those facts which has been backed up by a study, with science highlighting that those individuals who experienced a massage immediately boosted their dopamine and serotonin levels.
Not only this, but they managed to decrease the amount of cortisol their brain was producing – which is pretty significant when you consider that this causes stress.
And then there are the drugs…
We’ve spoken about food, we’ve spoken about supplements and we’ve spoken about massages. Suffice to say, it won’t come as any surprise to read that there are other ways to increase the level of dopamine your brain produces – and these revolve around drugs.
Some are prescription based and if you take anything like Ritalin, Adderall, Vicodin or Selegiline, there’s a fine chance that your dopamine levels are going to be higher than normal.
It will also go without saying that certain non-prescription drugs will boost your levels of this chemical. That brings us onto our next point…
Dopamine is contained in most addictive drugs
As we have just noted, dopamine can be produced in various ways and one of the common ones is through illegal drugs.
In fact, the most scary thing of all is that if we look at the most addictive drugs that are available, all of them tinker with dopamine levels somewhat. For example, marijuana can affect dopamine levels by 47%, while basic painkillers can make a 21% difference.
The likes of cocaine, heroin and other stimulants all play a part as well – pretty much every addictive drug out there will make your brain pump out more dopamine.
There is a proven link with motivation and reward
You might be questioning just why so many people are desperate to get their hands on dopamine through all of the means we have so far discussed. From now, on we’ll start to explain some of the main reasons.
Firstly, there is a direct link between motivation and reward. In perhaps the most high-profile dopamine study that has been conducted, rats were tested to see how high they would climb to obtain food.
The results were comprehensive; those rats which had more dopamine climbed the higher fence to the bigger pile of food, while the group of rats with lower levels climbed a smaller fence to reach a smaller pile.
It also relates to learning
This probably isn’t quite as exciting, but highlights more about exactly what dopamine is about. Yet more studies, this time revolving around monkeys, have shown that when a task is learned there is much more activity within the areas of the brain which contain dopamine.
Dopamine levels can be linked to fetishes and all sorts of sexual conditions
Something which will no doubt interest a lot more men out there are the links between dopamine and sex.
An increased sex drive has been linked to an increase in dopamine – while our eyes are likely to dilate at the same time. The problem is that if we get too much dopamine, it can result in all sorts of addictions and fetishes which could lead you down plenty of dark paths.
On the flip side, too little dopamine is just not an option. This is what will decrease your libido.
It might affect your motor movements
Another reason why you don’t want to be overflowing with this chemical is because it has links to motor movements. In other words, too much of it can cause unexpected, jerky movements like body tics. Again there’s an opposite though – if you don’t have enough you will experience uncoordinated movements.
Don’t get too much of it – you can become addicted
As you will have probably interpreted through some of the points, it’s not a good idea to have too much dopamine in your body. Amongst the discussed drawbacks is the fact that this is highly addictive.
As dopamine is tied mainly to our motivation and reward system, you will start to crave the chemical if your body receives too much of it.