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A neurotransmitter associated with movement, attention, learning, and the brain's pleasure and reward system.
Dopamine plays a critical role in the control of movement. It has a stimulating effect on the heart, the circulation, the rate of metabolism, and is able to mobilize many of the body's energy reserves. It helps to modulate brain activity, control coordination and movement, and regulate the flow of information to different areas of the brain. Dopamine is also believed to release chemicals that allow a person to feel pleasure much like endorphins. A significant disturbance of dopamine regulation in the brain can result in a person no longer being able to respond emotionally or express his or her feelings in an appropriate way.
The precursor of Dopamine, L-DOPA, can be used to treat Parkinson's disease. Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, increases the amount of Dopamine production within the brain.
How it functions:
Dopamine and Addiction:
All drugs of addiction (and addictive behaviors) ultimately stimulate dopamine release or increase its activity in the brain. Dopamine coordinates responses throughout the brain, especially the emotional and memory parts of the brain. It provides information about what’s important to the organism a well as feeling of well being. Dopamine does all this in all people, so why do only some people get addicted and most others don’t? The organisms (animals and humans) that get addicted are the ones that started genetically with low dopamine activity to begin with. These genetics separates people who get addicted and people who don’t. These genetically low dopamine people have, by definition, “Hypoism”, or the disease of addiction. It is this low dopamine activity that causes these people to unconsciously seek out dopamine raisers, drugs and behaviors, and get addicted to them, all unconsciously, from the very beginning. This is why it is believed that addicts, or former addicts, are best served to avoid all chemical substances that stimulate dopamine production altogether as to avoid re-stimulating the addiction mechanism into relapse.
Dopamine Addiction Hypothesis:
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