Dopamine: 7 essential functions of this neurotransmitter

the dopamine it is one of the many neurotransmitters that neurons use to communicate with each other. This means that dopamine has a very important function in synaptic spaces, that is, the microscopic spaces in which nerve cells connect to each other.

It is a substance produced by the human body itself, but which can also be made in the laboratory. Specifically, dopamine was artificially synthesized by English biologists George Barger and James Ewens in 1910. Decades later, in 1952, Swedish scientists Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Åke Hillarp managed to unravel the main functions and characteristics of this neurotransmitter.

Dopamine: the pleasure neurotransmitter … among others

Dopamine, the chemical formula is C6H3 (OH) 2-CH2-CH2-NH2, is often referred to as the cause of pleasant sensations and the feeling of relaxation. However, with dopamine and other neurotransmitters, something is happening that prevents these substances from being linked to a very specific function: they influence more or less all the functioning of the brain in general, in all the emotional, cognitive processes. and vital that are underway at this time.

This means that when dopamine or any other neurotransmitter is linked to specific emotional states or mental processes, it is due to the fact that the appearance of the latter is linked to an increase in the level of certain neurotransmitters in certain areas of the brain. related to this. state or process in question.

In the case of dopamine, among its functions we also find the coordination of certain muscle movements, the regulation of memory, the cognitive processes associated with learning and we have even seen that it plays an important role in decision.

The scientific community agrees that dopamine too it is involved in the complex cognitive system that makes us feel motivated and curiosity about certain aspects of life.

1. Dopamine and your personality

But, Does this neurotransmitter have something to do with the personality of each individual? Well, it seems so. Dopamine could be one of the factors to consider when deciding whether a person is more introverted or more outgoing, more cowardly or more courageous, or more confident or insecure.

Several studies support this relationship between dopamine and personality. For example, a study conducted at the Charité University Clinic in Germany and published in Nature Neuroscience noted that the amount of dopamine found in a subject’s cerebral amygdala could be a reliable indicator that that subject is calm and calm, with good self-confidence. , or if on the contrary he would be fearful and subject to stress.

2. Overweight and obesity

In case you haven’t noticed, not all people experience the same level of pleasure when, for example, they taste a mouthwatering chocolate cake.

Interestingly, people with a tendency to be overweight and obese have fewer dopamine receptors in their nervous system and as a result, they have to eat more cake to feel the same satisfaction which produces the act of eating something sweet. Let’s say they are less sensitive to the addictive flavors. This is the conclusion reached by some English researchers, thanks to a study published in Science.

3. The taste of strong emotions

Are you one of those people who like to take risks? Would you like to parachute? Answering these questions can also be related to your age, but there is a new element that, from neuroscience, has been detected as an important factor in predicting this propensity to take advantage of risks and emotions.

Research from the University of British Columbia led by Stan Floresco and published in Medical Daily in 2014 reported that the increased presence of dopamine in certain areas of the brain in adolescents made them too optimistic about their expectations and took too high risks.

4. Social status and satisfaction

Using different neuroimaging techniques, a study found that the better an individual’s social status, the higher the amount of dopamine D2 receptors located in their brain.

This makes them more satisfied with their life and therefore act accordingly; the goals of a person with a good self-image are not the same as those of a more pessimistic person in this regard.

5. Key to creativity

Several studies published in PLoS have detected that people with particularly creative minds tthey contain a lower density of dopamine D2 receptors in a particular brain region: the thalamus.

The main function of this part of the brain is to filter stimuli received by the cortex of the brain. This will facilitate neural connections that will allow us to associate concepts more effectively, thus enhancing creativity.

6. It also regulates memory

Memory is also a brain function which is also influenced by dopamine. Specifically, dopamine is responsible for regulating the duration of information (memories), Decide whether to keep this information only for about 12 hours and to disappear, or to keep it longer.

This “decision” process whereby a memory is fuzzy or stays in our brain has a lot to do with the concept of meaningful learning. When we learn something that we are satisfied with, dopamine activates the hippocampus to retain that information. Otherwise, dopamine does not activate the hippocampus and memory is not stored in our memory.

7. Increase motivation levels

Dopamine is often referred to as the neurotransmitter responsible for the sensation of pleasure, but the latest findings show that its main function may be motivation.

For example, one study reported that the link between motivation and dopamine is true, as it is showed that the people most focused on achieving certain demanding goals were those who had the most dopamine in their prefrontal cortex. and in its striated body.

Bibliographical references:

  • Delgado JM; Ferrús A .; Mora F and Rossa FJ (Eds.) (1997). Textbook of Neuroscience. Madrid: Synthesis.
  • Kalat, JW (2004). Biological psychology. Thomsomparaninfo.
  • Mazziota et al. (2000). Brain mapping: disorders. New York: Academic Press.
  • Streit, WJ and Kincaid-Colton, CA (1996). The brain’s immune system. Research and science. Gener. 16-21.

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