Friday, June 14, 2013

The "Feel Better" Chemical

Earlier I wrote a blog on Serotonin or the “Feel Good” brain chemical. Dopamine, another brain chemical, has been dubbed the “Feel-Better” brain chemical. In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger that helps in the transmission of signals between neurons and other cells. It plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-motivated behavior. Every type of reward that has been studied increases the level of dopamine in the brain in some way or other. A variety of addictive drugs, including stimulants such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, and cocaine have been found to amplify the effects of dopamine. PET Scan studies by Dr. Debra Johnson have shown that the dominant pathway in the Extraverted brain is fueled by dopamine. This may be one reason that Extraverted brains appear at higher risk for engaging in behaviors (e.g., many addictive-type behaviors) that trigger the release of dopamine). These types of brains have been linked to higher sensitivity to rewarding stimuli in the dopamine system. It is important to understand that dopamine doesn’t necessarily make a person feel “good” but it can help the individual to “feel better” than his/her current state, whatever that may be. Several important conditions of the nervous system are associated with dysfunctions of the dopamine system.  These include Parkinson’s disease, Schizophrenia, ADHD, and RLS or restless legs syndrome.

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