Hormone from Hell?

|  1K pharm  |  Dopamine is a small molecule. Nothing too complicated really. Two neighboring hydroxy groups on a benzene ring with an amino group just around the corner. But, oh! What a molecule. It is a neurotransmitter produced in various parts of the brain and has five known target receptors. According to the Wikipedia entry for the compound: “Its main function as a hormone is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.” But, that belies a whole host of issues for which dopamine is responsible. Dopamine, after all, has a role to play in behavior and cognition, in voluntary movement, in motivation, in our level of concentration, working memory, learning, sleep patterns, our moods, sexual gratification, punishment, and, of course, reward.

Reward

We all know it when we receive it. It’s that most pleasurable feeling, that emotion that drives us. Well, drives us to what exactly? One might say that biochemically speaking the firing of dopaminergic neurons and the release of this rewarding chemical, dopamine, is what motivates us in so many areas of our lives. Look at that short list of behaviors again. It almost says it all. What else is there to living than the entries in that list? Mood, motivation, movement, sleep, sex … reward.

Of course, the close association between feelings of reward and our urges to seek it out was hard-wired by evolution millions of years ago. The things that reward us are the things we need for survival and successful reproduction. But, there is a thin dividing line between reward-seeking behavior for survival and raising offspring and what one might consider unwarranted consumption and addiction. Anticipation of reward and the effect those firing dopaminergic neurons have on our feelings seem to be the key. More importantly, though, just as all the signals from our various senses are ultimately electrochemical in nature, once you get beyond the input to the sense organ, the reward comes not from the activity or the substance being consumed, it comes from dopamine alone. The biochemistry of dopamine is the reward.

Addiction

If you are addicted, then apparently you are not addicted to the substances and activities you crave, nor to the nicotine of cigarette smoke, the thrill of the roulette wheel, the gratification of sex, nor to the feelings of power. You are, in fact, addicted to the dopamine and its effects. From this notion, it seems obvious that one could imagine addiction in every single walk of life, not just the common addictions with which so many people are familiar: alcohol, nicotine, heroin, gambling, sex, even chocolate, to recap from an earlier issue of the magazine. But, also to those behaviors that give their actors the dopamine reward, whether that’s the quest for ever greater riches way beyond any individual’s personal needs, political and other forms of power, religious ardor even, and the global problems they have wrought throughout the centuries. They all come back to that rewarding neurotransmitter. In some sense, it all reduces to that small molecule, that dopamine.

This does raise one rather curious question though, if all these things we crave simply plug into our dopamine reward system, then why is it so difficult for a chocoholic to stop eating chocolate and take up jogging instead? Surely, they will both trigger the desired dopamine release? Well, the whole issue of anticipating and receiving the reward is tied in at a subconscious level as we learn to associate a particular stimulus, eating chocolate say, with the reward. It is possible to get the same buzz from jogging as others do from chocolate. But, switching between the two and getting the same anticipation and buzz is difficult. Particularly for some of us, with regard to abandoning chocolate and choosing to jog instead.  Source

US Copyright Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107

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7 thoughts on “Hormone from Hell?

  1. I just love reading your articles. Very interesting and fascinating Victoria. This made me think about Serotonin as well and I googled for depamine and serotonin and found this article : http://drwardbond.weebly.com/1/post/2013/05/depression-low-dopamine-not-low-serotonin.html

    Sounds like both my dopamine and serotonin levels differ from day to day and I am sure this affect lots of people without them knowing it. Thanks for sharing this. I truly enjoyed. 😀

    • Well, Sonel, I’m late to the party. 😀 Sorry it took me so long to reply. I’m not very active on this blog now, as is apparent by this long delay. Thank you so much for taking the time to read the article and comment, and for the link. I read an article not long ago where they found that adverse childhood experiences can impact how many dopamine and serotonin receptors one has — because of certain windows of crucial brain development during childhood.

      So one may be getting plenty of dopamine, for example, but a lack of receptors prevents the dopamine from being effectively utilized. I agree with you when you say that the dopamine and serotonin levels flux, and now they are also finding out that depression is associated with an atrophied hippocampus, primarily due to toxic and chronic stress. Thankfully, with specialized cognitive therapy, neurogenesis (new neurons) can increase the hippocampus no matter one’s age.

    • Thanks so much for the reblog, bb. I thought this article was very good as well. I am fascinated with the study of neurotransmitters, and wished this information was more mainstream. I really appreciate you sharing this data on your blog and for your kind comment about my blog.

      I started this blog back in 2012, and haven’t been that active here, as I use my other blog to connect the data with personal experiences. The purpose of this blog was to catalog and share articles and studies I came across during and after my deconversion that helped me understand human behavior, rather than the blanket beliefs of religion with its extremely poor understanding the causes of certain human behavior.

  2. This is a topic of great interest and you did an amazing job with it. So much of our daily lives revolves around the levels of these hormones. The girls actually wrote on Margaret Vogt who was a pioneer of this field. The famous neurotransmitters. This reminds me of the quote on your site: “The brain is the organ of destiny. It holds within its humming mechanism secrets that will determine the future of the human race. ~Wilder Penfield” All this levels work in that organ!!

    http://faradayscandle.com/happy-birthday-marthe-vogt/

    Well enjoy your day!

    • So nice to meet you FC, and thank you for taking the time to read the article and for your feedback. The Marthe Vogt post was excellent. We live in exciting times to be able to have the technology to help us understand the brain better. Too bad it was the last organ to be seriously explored. I think we would be far more advanced, certainly more evolved as a species had we gained a better understanding early on.

      Hope your week is going great so far. Thanks again for stopping by and for the sub. 🙂

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