Without dopamine, we wouldn’t be able to feel driven and motivated. Dopamine increases attention, improves cognitive function, and stimulates our creativity. It makes us more social and extroverted and helps us form romantic and parental bonds. However, dopamine, when too high, can also have its drawbacks. Many people seek out artificial sources of dopamine, which can lead to addiction. Dopamine can increase weight gain and aggression. Read this post to learn more about the pros and cons of dopamine and dopamine genetics.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells (R).
Many areas of the brain produce dopamine. It is produced in the ventral tegmental area (VTA in the image above) of the midbrain, the substantia nigra pars compacta, and the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (R).
The most important dopamine pathway in the brain controls reward-motivated behavior (R).
Most types of rewards, such as new experiences or accomplishment, can increase dopamine levels in the brain. In addition, most addictive drugs and behavioral addictions can increase dopamine (R).
In addition, dopamine has many other important roles in humans, including movement, memory, attention, learning, sleep, and mood (R).
Dysfunctions of the dopamine system contribute to Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, restless legs syndrome, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (R).