What Does Dopamine Do?

The brain contains many chemicals among which the most famous one is dopamine. It is a neurotransmitter involved in the control of reward and pleasure centers. It also plays a part in motivation, attention, learning, coordination and other similar activities. The body needs a healthy level of dopamine; both very high or low dopamine levels can pose some risks. Parkinson’s disease can occur in case of deficiency, while schizophrenia and cocaine addiction occur in case of excessive dopamine. 

What Does Dopamine Do?

1.     Role of Dopamine in Movement

The basal ganglia is a structure in the brain that controls movements within the body. Its function depends on specific quantities of dopamine secreted in neighboring neurons. Insufficient amounts of dopamine lead to delayed movement or poor coordination. On the other hand, if too much dopamine reaches the basal ganglia, the body makes excessive and repetitive movements or tics. Such symptoms may be observed in Tourette’s syndrome.

2.     Role of Dopamine in Memory

The prefrontal cortex within the brain is associated with thinking and memory. To do this effectively, it relies on specific quantities of dopamine. If dopamine is available when an event occurs, the event is easier to remember. In case of disinterest, the levels of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex dip and there is no motivation to concentrate or commit it to memory.

3.     Role of Dopamine in Attention

Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention and focus through the optic nerve. By acting on the nerve responsible for vision, dopamine directs attention to specific activities or tasks. This way, dopamine is associated with short-term memory. Cases of low dopamine levels can cause ADD (attention deficit disorder).

4.     Role of Dopamine in Pleasure

When it comes to pleasure, what does dopamine do? It regulates the way you feel. In cases of pleasant experiences such as sexual intercourse or eating sweet foods, large quantities of dopamine are secreted, leading you to engage in these pleasurable activities repeatedly.

5.     Role of Dopamine in Pain Processing

In addition to pleasant experiences, dopamine is secreted in cases of unwanted or negative stimuli such as a cut or an argument with a good friend. Low dopamine levels are associated with the pain experienced by persons with Parkinson’s disease.

6.     Role of Dopamine in Mood

Dopamine makes you feel happy and satisfied. It also creates expectation for pleasant activities. Recent studies indicate that dopamine, together with other neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin, has a responsibility in the occurrence of depression.

7.     Role of Dopamine in Addiction

Many addictive drugs target dopamine neurotransmitters, inhibiting their reuptake by neurons. Normally, neurons release the dopamine which passes to other neurons through gaps known as synaptic clefts; after the communication is completed, the neurotransmitter is reabsorbed by neurons for reuse. Reuptake helps to stabilize the amount of dopamine within the brain.

By inhibiting reuptake in any available synapse, drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine cause the levels of dopamine within the brain to rise. This leads to the highs after taking these drugs, causing addiction as more of the drug is required to maintain the high.

8.     Role of Dopamine in Behavior and Cognition

What does dopamine do to influence behavior? Dopamine secreted within the brain’s frontal lobes controls flow of information from other regions of the brain. Disorders here can lead to decline in neurocognitive functions such as the ability to solve problems. A person with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is likely to have poor dopamine transmission. This leads to concentration difficulties and erratic behavior.

9.     Role of Dopamine in Sleep

Wakefulness is associated with high levels of dopamine, which is the case in daytime when you need to be energized and active. During nighttime, dopamine levels decrease and melatonin, a chemical associated with restfulness is secreted.

In the case of Parkinson’s disease, a patient experiences sleepiness most of the time due to dopamine deficiency. On the other hand, a psychotic or schizophrenic patient has excessive dopamine in the brain which keeps them awake.

Dopamine is also among the neurotransmitters responsible for control of vomiting and nausea.

How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

What does dopamine do? It has been answered. Since dopamine deficiency is more common than excess dopamine, here we will mainly talk about this condition.

Low level of dopamine causes mental fog and a dull mood. It is also associated with tremors, muscle rigidity and falling. When faced with these conditions, doctors prescribe medications containing amphetamines such as dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate. They also recommend natural corrective measures such as the following:

  • Make New Discoveries. New discoveries can trigger secretion of dopamine. Going out into the wild or searching online provides many opportunities to make new discoveries.
  • Make a List of Small Tasks. Whenever you complete something, your dopamine level rises with satisfaction. To give yourself more opportunities to indicate tasks as done, break down and list your activities into small tasks.
  • Listen to Music. Research shows that listening or even anticipating to listen to music that you enjoy leads to release of dopamine.
  • Increase Your Tyrosine. Because the protein tyrosine is a major ingredient in dopamine, eating foods rich in the protein helps to produce more dopamine in your brain. Foods rich in tyrosine include avocados, almonds, beef, bananas, chicken, coffee, chocolate, yogurt, eggs and green tea.
  • Reduce Lipopolysaccharides in Your System. Lipopolysaccharides are toxins which affect your immune system and inhibit release of dopamine. You can reduce lipopolysaccharides by eating foods rich in good bacteria such as yogurt and other fermented foods, getting enough sleep and cutting down on fatty foods and sugar.
  • Exercise Regularly. Get involved in regular physical exercises even if it is just walking or dancing. Exercise stimulates production of dopamine and other happiness-inducing chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin.
  • Take Dopamine-Enhancing Supplements. You can enhance your dopamine production by taking supplements such as ginkgo biloba and turmeric.
  • Create Stuff. Creativity stimulates dopamine production through the elevated concentration. You can achieve this by taking up a creative activity such as writing, drawing, auto-repair and photography.
  • Meditate. While outwardly you might seem to be doing nothing, meditating or praying can activate increased dopamine production.
 
 
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