Intro to Brain – Dopamine 101

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter or a brain chemical that regulates our movement and emotional responses. It enables us to not only to see rewards, but to take action to move towards them. In simple words dopamine is responsible for drive and motivation.

But dopamine has always been simplified and linked to pleasure and rewards. For example when addiction is discussed especially with substances like alcohol, drugs, chocolate, food, porn etc. It’s not the pleasure that’s driving it, it’s a more deeper combination of thrill, benefit and exhilaration of that specific task at that moment that makes individuals become addicted to substances or certain destructive habits.

 

During a conference at the society of neuroscience in Chicago it was the emerging view that drive and motivation are the key attributes of Dopamine. It’s about figuring out what you have to do to survive and then doing it.

A few key attributes of Dopamine are

  • Dopamine Boosts our drive, memory and focus.
  • Dopamine is responsible for the feelings of bliss, enjoyment and even euphoria.
  • Its makes us competitive and provids the feeling of thrill in everyday situations like work, entrepreneurship, sport and love.

 

Dopamine helped our ancestors survive by giving them an energy boost when presented with a great opportunity, such as locating a new source of food. Who would have thought that we’d need to be motivated to find food. Yet alarmingly, one research in mice suggests that with dopamine deficiency, mice are so unmotivated they starve to death — even when food is readily available to them.  

 

Low levels of Dopamine can lead to you feeling fatigued, hopeless, and forgetful. It can also lead to insomnia, mood swings, inability to handle stress, and an inability to lose weight. People with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. Dopamine deficiency can result in Parkinson’s Disease, which is a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremors, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement.

 

The dopamine activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain right behind the forehead, is responsible for executive functions, cognitive behaviour, personality, expressions and decision making.  An increase of prefrontal dopamine is thought to contribute to schizophrenia.

 

A study published in December 2008 in the journal of Nutrition & Metabolism, by J. Reinholz and colleagues suggested that our brains use dopamine to tell our bodies when to stop eating. Therefore, low dopamine levels may play a role in overeating for people with a genetic predisposition to low dopamine levels.
How to Increase dopamine?

  1. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid and the building block of dopamine. You can take an L-tyrosine supplement to boost your dopamine levels. The recommended dose is 500 to 1,000 mg first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. And then another dose between lunch and dinner.

Caution:

  • It may raise thyroid hormone production since it is a precursor for its synthesis, so those with a hyperactive thyroid should be wary
  • Additionally, it could theoretically block the uptake from the gut of some drugs that resemble certain amino acids such as levodopa
  1. Our brains are composed of 60% fat with DHA omega-3 fat being the most prevalent.  DHA has a very unique structure, it can bend and change shape very rapidly. This rapid change happens billions of time per second in our brain cells, which facilitates the rapid transfer of electrical signals, which become our thoughts and emotions.

 

Poor electrical signals in our brain cells have a direct effect on dopamine production. Essentially all disorders of the brain, including dopamine-related disorders, are associated with decreased levels of DHA in our brain tissue. DHA boosts dopamine by supporting the brain’s electrical signals.

 

Scientists have discovered that DHA is converted into a compound called neuroprotectin D-1, which helps protect the brain and nerve cells from stress and toxins. Neuroprotectin D-1 helps maintain the integrity of the dopamine-producing cells as well as the receptor cells.
Overall, omega-3 supplementation trials have shown to increase dopamine levels up to 40%.

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/dopamine

https://www.patrickholford.com/advice/biochemical-tests-brain-chemistry-imbalances

http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-dopamine-connection-between-schizophrenia-and-creativity/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17600522

http://www.doctoroz.com/article/dopamine-diet?page=2

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