Healthy mind

Dopamine: 7 essential functions of this neurotransmitter

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter with multiple and important functions within the nervous system.

Dopamine is one of many neurotransmitters using neurons to communicate between them. That means that dopamine plays a vital role in synaptic spaces, that is, the microscopic spaces in which nerve cells make connections with each other.

It is a substance produced by the human body itself, but it can also be made in laboratories. Specifically, 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 this neurotransmitter’s main functions and characteristics.

Dopamine: the neurotransmitter of pleasure … among other things

Dopamine, whose chemical formula is C6H3 (OH) 2-CH2-CH2-NH2, is frequently mentioned as the cause of pleasant sensations and the sensation of relaxation. However, with dopamine and the rest of the neurotransmitters something happens, that prevents these substances from being related to a particular function: they influence to a greater or lesser extent the entire functioning of the brain in general, in all emotional, cognitive and vital that is carried out at that time.

Read:81 phrases of happiness and joy to value life

This means that when dopamine or any other neurotransmitter is linked to specific emotional states or mental processes, this is because the latter’s appearance 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, its functions also include the coordination of certain muscle movements, the regulation of memory, the cognitive processes associated with learning, and it has even been seen to play an important role in decision-making.

The scientific community agrees that dopamine is also involved in the complex cognitive system that allows us to feel motivated and curious about some aspects of life.

1. Dopamine and your personality

But does this neurotransmitter have something to do with each individual’s personality? Well, it seems so. Dopamine could be one of the factors to consider when it comes to knowing if a person is more introverted or more extroverted, 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 and published in Nature Neuroscience pointed out that the amount of dopamine found in a subject’s amygdala could be a reliable indicator of whether the subject is calm and collected. With good self-confidence, or if, on the contrary, it would be fearful and prone to stress.

Read:5 keys to managing uncertainty

2. Overweight and obesity

In case you had 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 be overweight and obese have fewer dopamine receptors in their nervous system. Consequently, they need to eat more cake to experience the same satisfaction that the act of eating something sweet produces. Let’s say they are less sensitive to addicting flavors. 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 parachute? Answering these questions may also have to do with your age. Still, 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.

Research from the University of British Columbia led by Stan Floresco and published in Medical Daily in 2014 reported that the increased presence of dopamine in certain brain regions in adolescents did they were too optimistic in their expectations and assumed too high risks.

Read:30 phrases about the confidence that will leave you thinking

4. Social status and satisfaction

Using different neuroimaging techniques, one study found that the better an individual’s social status, the greater the number of dopamine D2 receptors in their brains.

This makes them feel more satisfied with their life and, therefore, act accordingly; the goals of a person with a good self-image are not the same as those of a more pessimistic person in this regard .

5. Key to creativity

Several research published in PLoS has found that people with a mind especially creative t in a lower density of D2 dopamine receptors in a brain region in particular: the thalamus.

This part of the brain’s main function is to filter the cerebral cortex’s stimuli. This would facilitate the neural connections that allow us to associate concepts more efficiently, improving creativity.

6. It also regulates memory

Memory is also a brain function that is also influenced by dopamine. Specifically, dopamine is responsible for regulating the duration of information (memories), deciding if it retains this information for only about 12 hours, disappears, or keeps the information longer.

This ‘decision’ process by which memory fades 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. Boost levels of motivation

Dopamine is often referred to 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. It was shown that the people most focused on meeting certain demanding goals were those with the most dopamine in their prefrontal cortex and striatum.



    • Delgado JM; Ferrús A .; Mora F and Rubia FJ (Eds.) (1997). Neuroscience Manual. Madrid: Synthesis.
    • Kalat, JW (2004). Biological Psychology. Thomsomparaninfo.
    • Mazziota et al. (2000). Brain mapping: the disorders. New York: Academic Press.
    • Streit, WJ and Kincaid-Colton, CA (1996). The immune system of the brain. Research and Science. January. 16-21.

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