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

What if Addiction is the Only Game in Town?

By Marc Lewis Ph.D. on May 09, 2015 in Addicted Brains
Giving up booze or drugs, getting sober, might sound like a good idea. Unless there's nothing else available to provide you with meaning and warmth. Without those alternatives, getting straight is like looking into a dust-storm. There's nothing to see except greyness and formlessness -- and that can be terrifying.

Is surfing the Internet addictive?

By Susan Greenfield Ph.D. on April 30, 2015 in Mind Change
New research shows that aimless, excessive Internet use is associated with changes in the brain consistent with addictions. What could be addictive about endlessly surfing the web?


By The Book Brigade on March 26, 2015 in The Author Speaks
Surprise is good for the brain, great for relationships, and adds a certain frisson all around. Without it, life is lackluster. So why don't more people embrace the unexpected? They run from it or try to subdue it when they should instead roll with it.

The Blissful Torture of Unrequited Love

Whether fast or slow, it comes on hard—as powerful as a bludgeon, but one covered in the softest velvet. It’s two-faced as well, like an optical illusion. And it’s also supremely paradoxical. How can an unreturned love engender such ecstatic, sublime feelings? Yet the chemical dynamics of reciprocation fantasies can be incredibly powerful...

Oliver Sacks and Creative Arts Therapies

Many colleagues in the fields of creative arts therapies were sad to read Oliver Sacks’ recent and poignant essay in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times about the return of his cancer and his thoughts about death. And here's why his body of work continues to impact the fields of art therapy, music therapy, and other expressive therapies.

You've Got Mail

By Susan Greenfield Ph.D. on January 26, 2015 in Mind Change
Emails, texts and social network notifications are thought to trigger dopamine releases, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is linked to pleasure.

Does Technology "Crack" You Up? Maybe.

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A. on January 07, 2015 in Just Listen
The thrill of an adrenaline rush is only exceeded by the dread of an adrenaline crash.

In the Human Brain, Dogs and Children Are Equally Lovable

MRI data explores how human mothers respond to their own children and to their family dog. The similarities are remarkable.

The Drugs Made Him Do It

Do some drugs for Parkinson’s disease hijack the brain?

It Hurts so Good. Do It Harder!

By Vance Z. Johnson M.D. on September 26, 2014 in What Hurts?
Has your brain had fun today? Try a thick slice of Novelty with your routine diet. A little shake-up can break-up pain and suffering.

Are You Addicted to Texting?

By Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. on August 27, 2014 in Brain Wise
How dopamine combined with classical conditioning can make it nearly impossible for you NOT to check your smartphone for texts and messages.

Will Stimulant Medication Change My Experience of Happiness?

Does taking a dopamine agonist make a difference in my ability to feel happiness?

The Perils and Advantages of Being Conflict-Avoidant

We may have been told that it's a sign of weakness to avoid conflicts, but it is always ill-advised? Knowing the potential pitfalls of being-conflict-avoidant might help us become more discerning about when it's not a bad idea to sidestep potential conflict.

What Causes Memory Problems?

The cause of memory problems matters for trying to improve them. In this post, we're exploring the three main causes of memory problems and how each affects your brain.

How Likely Is Your Partner to Cheat?

By Juliana Breines Ph.D. on March 30, 2014 in In Love and War
Research suggests that certain personality characteristics, situational factors, and even genetic polymorphisms may predispose people to be unfaithful.

The New Skinner Box: Web and Mobile Analytics

By Frederick Muench Ph.D. on March 18, 2014 in
While it is no secret to anyone that web-engineers will do anything keep you on their site, few individuals are aware that the methods they use to do so have their foundations in the classic operant conditioning experiments conducted by BF Skinner.

A Significant Advance in the Theory of REM Sleep and Dreams

By Patrick McNamara Ph.D. on February 22, 2014 in Dream Catcher
New models of dreams puts the play of emotions, novelty-seeking and value apprehension at the center of the dreaming process.

Love, Love Medulla: The Neuroscience of Beatlemania

By Jordan Gaines Lewis on February 06, 2014 in Brain Babble
To most, “Beatlemania” incites a vivid image of frenzied fans, predominantly teenage girls, looking as though they’ve just witnessed a gruesome murder. As it turns out, neuroscience can partially explain the phenomenon.

Why Can My Inattentive Child Pay Attention to Video Games?!

By Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. on February 01, 2014 in Mental Wealth
Parents often wonder: if my child has attention problems, why is it that he can focus during a video game? But if we understand the basis of attention and attentional deficits, we'll see why this phenomenon is not so surprising.

How Sugar Affects the Brain

By Nicole Avena Ph.D. on January 11, 2014 in Food Junkie
We often hear about how sugar affects our waistlines, but how does it affect our brain?

How We Changed Our Bad "Home Habits" in 2013

By Meg Selig on January 09, 2014 in Changepower
Changing our bad "home habits" boosted our happiness quotient.

"American Hustle" and the Irresistible Chaos of Desire

By David DiSalvo on January 05, 2014 in Neuronarrative
"American Hustle" is going to win several awards, and if one were given for skillfully illustrating the dynamics that motivate us, director David O. Russell’s clever creation would run away with it as well. The movie is proof that entertainment can still teach profound lessons about the complicated business of thinking, so stealthily that you never see them coming.

Are You Addicted to Your Phone? Change Technology Addiction

By Jonathan Fader Ph.D. on December 20, 2013 in The New You
It's hard to put down your phone or get off the computer. Internet addiction, cell phone addiction and technology addiction may not be a stand alone diagnoses, but we can develop problems with technology usage. Whether you are concerned about technology addiction or just curious about some tips for changing your behavior to be more present, this post can help.

'Twas the Neural Pathway of Christmas

By Jordan Gaines Lewis on December 12, 2013 in Brain Babble
An extraordinarily nerdy rendition of the classic Clement Clarke Moore poem adapted describing the basic pathway of happiness one feels when one sees a pleasant image—like Santa Claus!

Does Music Help Memory?

By William R. Klemm Ph.D. on December 01, 2013 in Memory Medic
Should you listen to music while trying to learn?

The Problem with Money

By Arthur Dobrin D.S.W. on August 27, 2013 in Am I Right?
The problem with a society that puts a premium on money is that, whether it means to or not, it diminishes our desire to participate in those very relationships to sustain us.

When the Thrill is Gone: Reward Deficiency Syndrome

By Marc Lewis Ph.D. on August 19, 2013 in Addicted Brains
Different brains have different quantities of receptors -- such as receptors for neurotransmitters like dopamine. If you were born with, or acquired, a disappointing crop of dopamine receptors, then it might be harder to feel the thrill of being alive. That's where drugs, booze, gambling, and binge-eating come in handy.

How Desire Fools Us: The Benefits and Dangers of The Chase

By Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D. on August 13, 2013 in Feeling It
Why do we love to chase? What is so intriguingly attractive about hard-to-get partners, Black Friday sales, and the latest iPhone for which we'll stand in line for hours? Because it brings us pleasure. Here's how to avoid the pitfalls and dangers of chasing while still harnessing the benefits of anticipatory joy.

A Gene for Harsh Parenting?

Can a bad dopamine gene be a core cause for Moms being harsher parents? Not likely. There is no way the world, the human body, and parenting behavior is that simple.

Dangerous Liaisons for Anthony Weiner— Victim of Addiction?

Two year ago, then New York congressman Anthony Weiner announced he was done— done!—with his Internet infidelities. Then it was discovered that, after his fall from grace, he continued to find Twitter-mates. How can we understand his behavior?