Molecule Advent Day 6: Dopamine

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On this dark, cold, winter morning (at least where I am in Bristol), I thought it would be useful to introduce you to a molecule that does a lot for motivation and pleasure: Dopamine.

dopamine-molecule
http://www.3dchem.com/molecules.asp?ID=289

 

Dopamine, it makes me happy! Or at least it is released in the brain when we are happy, it is sometimes called the brains pleasure hormone, which means it is a big part of our reward and motivation systems. It drives us to repeat the things that bring us pleasure. This molecule can also be related to addiction, focus, sleeping, mood, memory, creativity and learning.

Dopamine is called a neurotransmitter – which means that it is used by neurons in our brain to send messages to each other. When something that feels good happens a neuron releases dopamine, which is passed on to the next neuron and then the next, starting a chain reaction through the brain.

dopamine
Source: http://knowmental.com/neurotransmitters-serotonin-gaba-dopamine-acetylcholine/

 

Dopamine – is an amine (real name 3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine), hence the name, and it comes from the amino acid tyrosine, which you can find in chocolate, eggs, seaweed and turkey. So you should be getting plenty of chance to top up your dopamine at Christmas.

Whilst some drugs can increase dopamine levels the effects only last for a very short time and they actually can cause a blockage in future dopamine transmission.The good news is we can increase dopamine by using exercise, meditation and listening to your favourite music.

How do you plan to keep up your dopamine levels?