Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter, that is to say, it is a chemical that transmits the information of impulses from one nerve cell to the other at the junction of the two nerves. It is also called as a chemical messenger. Dopamine has an important role in feeling of pleasure, find things interesting, be attentive, to be optimistic and to be able to take initiative to take up a task.
Too much or too little of dopamine can cause illnesses, especially Parkinson’s disease. Large amounts of Dopamine in the body create a feeling of pleasure and reward, which motivates to repeat the specific behavior. Low levels of dopamine can lead to sadness or depression and decreased enthusiasm to take up tasks which they would have found interesting previously.
Dopamine is manufactured in nerve cell bodies located in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. It is released in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain right behind our foreheads. There are four different ways that this dopamine spreads throughout the body.
Dopamine has a major role to play in behavioural and physical functions of our body:
- Pain and pain processing
- Heart rate
- Controlling of nausea and vomiting
- Blood vessel function
- Kidney function
- Movement and mobility
Dopamine is also associated with many mental states, addiction and mental illnesses. Release of dopamine is associated with “feeling good” or “feeling happy”. So, when any action results in release of dopamine, the person strives to do it again and again for the “feeling good”. Here are some such facts about dopamine.
- Dopamine is released when some particular types of food is eaten and thus people seek to eat more of it to feel good and the cravings set in.
- Dopamine release is responsible for a person to become addicted for the same reason. The person tends to seek higher and higher amounts of pleasure, increasing the consumption of the addictive substance.
- Excessive dopamine can result in mania, hallucinations and even schizophrenia.
- Low dopamine levels can result in depression, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Low dopamine level is a more commonly occurring condition than high levels of dopamine. Some ways to increase natural dopamine production are given below.
- Eating lots of protein
- Reducing consumption of saturated fat
- Increased consumption of probiotics
- Exercise and physical activity
- Good sleep in terms of quality, quantity and timings
- Meditation and stress relief
- Developing hobbies
- Company of optimistic friends and relatives
Other effects of dopamine:
Sometimes, doctors prescribe dopamine for certain conditions associated with low blood pressure, poor cardiac output, low levels of blood supply to vital organs and some cases of septic shock. However, complications may occur if dopamine is taken with some drugs and may result in trouble breathing, chest pain, irregular heartbeat and headache.