What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson's Disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. The presence of a certain kind of dopamine receptor is also associated with sensation-seeking people, more commonly known as "risk takers."

Recent posts on Dopamine

ADHD: A Bundle of Deplorable Problems Masked in Plain View?

ADHD: a performance deficit---significant difficulties implementing academic skills, not specifically learning them. Is ADHD over-diagnosed and stimulant drugs over-prescribed?
By star5112 (JOH_0364) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Why Do We Love to Chase?

Unpredictable rewards produce much larger pleasure than expected ones.

Why Flowers Make Us Happy

Flowers trigger the dopamine of excitement and the oxytocin of social trust. A wildflower hike triggers all the happy brain chemicals at once!

The Demisexual Phenomenon

When sexual attraction comes only after establishing an emotional connection over time...

For Millennials, One Key to Happiness

For sound mental health, Millennials should reconsider this pervasive hobby.

Wake-Up Call

How I became determined to shed light on addiction.

New Drug Valbenazine Approved by FDA for Tardive Dyskinesia

By Joe Pierre M.D. on April 13, 2017 in Psych Unseen
What is tardive dyskinesia and who should take this new medication?

Why Do Dopamine Levels Fluctuate During Migraines?

New research examines fluctuations in dopamine levels in those experiencing migraines. This research could help improve our understanding of dopamine-based treatment.

The Science of Schadenfreude

By Joseph A. Shrand M.D. on March 27, 2017 in The I-M Approach
Sometimes we laugh at someone else’s misfortune. We’ve all done it, even if we aren't proud of it. But once we know why we do what we do, we can choose to do something else.
Bill Davidow

Why Dogs Don’t Use The Internet

By Bill Davidow on March 13, 2017 in Psychology of the Virtual World
What we can learn from dogs about managing the internet.

The Science Behind Empathy and Empaths

As a psychiatrist and an empath, I am fascinated by how the phenomenon of empathy works. I feel passionately that empathy is the medicine the world needs right now.

The Neuroscience of Wanting and Pleasure

By Marwa Azab Ph.D. on February 23, 2017 in Neuroscience in Everyday Life
If you feel like you are running out of steam, it is OK! Motivation goes up and down. If the tide was high all the time, we would fail to see the beauty of calm oceans.


You can end up feeling battered by the tide of history until you know how your brain creates its neurochemical response to public events.

No, Dopamine is Not Addictive

By David J Ley Ph.D. on January 06, 2017 in Women Who Stray
Dopamine does many things, but it’s not actually a rewarding drug in your brain

Zero Motivation to Exercise? Dopamine Receptors Could Be Why

By Christopher Bergland on December 30, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
Did you make a resolution to exercise more in 2017? A new study reports that D2-type dopamine receptors—not just willpower—boost or decrease the motivation to be physically active.

Have a Child with ADHD? Neurofeedback Is a Great Alternative

By Adi Jaffe Ph.D. on December 27, 2016 in All About Addiction
We've all been hearing about medications for ADHD for years - the pros, cons and in-betweens. But no-one is talking about a non-medication treatment that works wonders.

Creative Failure Opens Mental Doors

By Ian H. Robertson Ph.D. on December 22, 2016 in The Stress Test
Failure has an upside: It chemically changes our brains to broaden our attention and so opens our minds to possibilities that success may blind us to.

How Pokemon Go Helps Mental Health

By Jean Kim M.D. on December 10, 2016 in Culture Shrink
There are genuine scientific reasons for Pokemon Go's purported mental health benefits.

Receptors and Personality

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on December 05, 2016 in The Human Beast
Most personality traits are highly heritable. Still, there is a great deal of doubt about whether complex human behavior can be genetically determined.

Why We Hate Our Exes

Your craving for a dopamine fix that only your ex can provide can also make you angry and hateful toward the one person who is withholding your "drug" from you: your ex.

Is It Truly Urgent?

By Rick Hanson Ph.D. on November 16, 2016 in Your Wise Brain
Pressure activates ancient motivational circuits that were very effective in keeping our ancestors alive but even at best, there is an inherent collateral damage.

Happy Bees: Bumblebees Show Dopamine-Based Positive Emotions

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 03, 2016 in Animal Emotions
After eating a sugary treat, bumblebees displayed optimistic behavior. When dopamine was blocked, data suggest bees experienced a change in mood, not just increased energy.

You've Stopped Using, So Why is Your Brain Still Craving?

By Carolyn C. Ross M.D., M.P.H. on October 28, 2016 in Real Healing
Recovery from addiction is not just about no longer using your "drug of choice." Your brain needs special care during recovery.

The Power of Personality

These are the ways to make a real change to the main facets of extroversion.

"Help Me Stop Thinking About My Ex Girlfriend"

"She’s all fine and dandy, and I struggle with this every day," Jim said after his girlfriend of several years broke up with him. Read on to find out how people like Jim can cope.

You Have Power Over Your Brain Chemistry

Your brain has an operating system inherited from earlier animals. It rewards you with "happy chemicals" when you step toward meeting needs and alarms you with "unhappy chemicals.

The Science of Accomplishing Your Goals

By Ralph Ryback M.D. on October 03, 2016 in The Truisms of Wellness
Simple steps you can take to fight your brain’s natural urge to stick with a routine and accomplish your life goals.

This is Your Child's Brain on Video Games

By Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. on September 25, 2016 in Mental Wealth
Playing video games presents an "evolutionary mismatch": A fight-or-flight response unaccompanied by a physical discharge of energy. So guess where all the energy goes?

Study Pinpoints Brain Circuitry of Emotional Decision-Making

By Christopher Bergland on September 20, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
We all know the gut-wrenching feeling of making a tough emotional decision. Recently, MIT neuroscientists pinpointed the brain mechanics behind emotional decision-making.

Tonic Levels of Dopamine Lubricate Moments of Superfluidity

By Christopher Bergland on September 02, 2016 in The Athlete's Way
Next week in Vienna, neuroscientists will meet for the 2016 Dopamine Conference. In this blog post, I reflect on what I've learned about dopamine through both sport and life.