Dopamine: 7 essential functions of this neurotransmitter
The dopamine It is one of the many neurotransmitters that neurons use to communicate with each other. That means that dopamine has a very important function in the synaptic spaces, that is, the microscopic spaces in which the nerve cells establish connections with each other.
It is a substance produced by the human body itself, but it can also be made in laboratories. In particular, dopamine was artificially synthesized by English biologists George Barger and James Ewens in 1910. Decades later, in 1952, Swedish scientists Arvid Carlsson and Nils-Åke Hillarp managed to unravel the functions and main characteristics of this neurotransmitter.
Dopamine: the neurotransmitter of pleasure ... among other things
Dopamine, whose chemical formula is C6H3 (OH) 2-CH2-CH2-NH2, is often mentioned as the cause of pleasurable sensations and the feeling of relaxation. However, with dopamine and the rest of neurotransmitters, something happens that prevents these situations from being related to a very specific function: they influence to a greater or lesser extent all the functioning of the brain in general, in all the emotional, cognitive and vitals that are carried out at that time.
That means that when dopamine or any other neurotransmitter is linked to emotional states or concrete mental processes, this is because the appearance of the latter is related to an increase in the level of certain neurotransmitters in some areas of the brain linked to that state or process in question.
In the case of dopamine, among its functions we also find the coordination of certain muscle movements, the regulation of memory, the cognitive processes associated with learning and even has been seen to have an important role in decision making.
The scientific community agrees in pointing out that dopamine also is involved in the complex cognitive system that allows us to feel motivated and curiosity about some aspects of life.
1. Dopamine and your personality
But, Does this neurotransmitter have anything to do with the personality of each individual? Well, it seems that yes. Dopamine could be one of the factors to consider when it comes to knowing if a person is more introverted or more extraverted, more cowardly or more courageous, or more secure or insecure.
Several investigations support this relationship between dopamine and personality. For example, a study carried out at the Charité University Clinic in Germany, which was published in Nature Neuroscience He pointed out that the amount of dopamine found in the brain's amygdala could be a reliable indicator of whether it is calm and calm, with good self-confidence, or if it is fearful and prone to stress.
2. Overweight and obesity
In case you have not noticed, not all people feel the same level of pleasure when, for example, they taste an appetizing chocolate cake.
Interestingly, people with a tendency to overweight and obesity have fewer dopamine receptors in their nervous system and, as a result, they need to eat more of the cake to notice the same satisfaction that produces the act of eating something sweet. Let's say you are less sensitive to the flavors that cause addiction. This is the conclusion reached by English researchers, thanks to a study published in Science.
3. The taste for strong emotions
Are you one of those people who enjoy taking risks? Would you throw yourself in a parachute? Answering these questions may also have to do with your age, but there is a new element that, from neuroscience, has been detected as an important factor in predicting this propensity to enjoy risks and strong emotions.
An investigation by the University of British Columbia led by Stan Floresco and published in Medical Daily in the year 2014 reported that The greater presence of dopamine in certain brain regions in adolescents made them too optimistic with their expectations and assumed too high risks .
4. Social status and satisfaction
Using different neuroimaging techniques, one study found that the better the social status of an individual, the greater the number of dopamine D2 receptors located in his brain.
This makes them feel more satisfied with their life and, therefore, act accordingly; The objectives of a person with good self-image are not the same as those of a more pessimistic person in this aspect .
5. Key to creativity
Several investigations published in PLoS have found that people with a particularly creative mind tThey have a lower density of D2 dopamine receptors in a particular brain region: the thalamus.
This part of the brain has as its main function to filter the stimuli that the cerebral cortex receives. This would facilitate the neural connections that allow us to associate concepts in a more efficient way, improving creativity.
6. It also regulates memory
Memory is also a brain function that is also influenced by dopamine. Specific, Dopamine is responsible for regulating the duration of information (memories) , deciding if it retains this information for only 12 hours and disappears, or if it keeps the information for longer.
This process of 'decision' by which a memory diffuses or remains in our brain is closely related to the concept of meaningful learning. When we learn something that satisfies us, dopamine activates the hippocampus to retain that information. Otherwise, dopamine does not activate the hippocampus and the memory is not stored in our memory.
7. Power levels of motivation
It is usual to talk about dopamine as the neurotransmitter responsible for the sensation of pleasure, but the latest findings show that its main function could be motivation.
For example, one study reported that the link between motivation and dopamine is true, since showed that the people most focused on meeting certain demanding goals were those who had the most dopamine in their prefrontal cortex and in his striated body.
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