Your brain uses neurotransmitters to send signals to the body. One such transmitter is dopamine. Dopamine is fired as a reward for a certain type of behaviour. Your brain has distinct dopamine pathways through which it travels given a stimulus. There are relatively very few dopamine receptors in the brain numbering approximately 400,000. Dopamine is released by various stimulus including sleep, eating, learning etc. This is how your body encourages you to do things that are useful for survival. It it also triggered during periods of stress to help your body cope providing clarity and focus. Because of its response to pleasurable actions, it has been known as the pleasure chemical. Those who take drugs such as cocaine end up triggering dopamine in the nervous system.
Recent research is showing that dopamine is not only released as a response to action but also to the possibility of an action leading researchers to believe that it may be the desire chemical – a chemical that stimulates desires in us. Tests have shown that animals would work to trigger dopamine even if the reward was not available. Dopamine therefore plays a role in various executive functions including motivation, reinforcement and interestingly causing nausea. Dopamine also has functions in the rest of your body where it acts as a local chemical. For example in your blood vessels, it triggers norepinephrine which is a chemical that mobilises the body into action. In your pancreas in triggers insulin production. Dopamine has been linked to several diseases including attention deficit disorders, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and addiction. Evidence has shown an age related decline in dopamine synthesis and the number of receptors in your brain.
The human body is an extremely complex and well designed system. It is fascinating to read and learn about how it performs various functions and uses chemicals and cells in a fascinating interplay to make you who you are. Hopefully, reading my articles will trigger dopamine in you.