What is Dopamine and Why is it So Important?
Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It's a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting. But just as it stimulates pleasure, it also has a dark side. While it’s hard to pinpoint a single cause of most mental health disorders and challenges, we do know that they are often linked to too much or too little dopamine in different parts of the brain.
What Is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. Your body makes it, and your nervous system uses it to send messages between nerve cells. That's why it's sometimes called a chemical messenger.
Your body spreads it along four major pathways in the brain. Like most other systems in the body, you don’t notice it (or maybe even know about it) until there’s a problem. Too much or too little of it can lead to a vast range of health issues. Some are serious, like Parkinson’s disease. Others are much less dire.
Schizophrenia. Decades ago, researchers believed that symptoms stemmed from a hyperactive dopamine system. Now we know that some are due to too much of this chemical in certain parts of the brain. This includes hallucinations and delusions. A lack of it in other parts can cause different signs, such as lack of motivation and desire.
ADHD. No one knows for sure what causes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some research shows it may be due to a shortage of dopamine. This problem may be due to your genes. The ADHD drug methylphenidate (Ritalin) works by boosting dopamine.
Drug misuse and addiction. Drugs such as cocaine can cause a big, fast increase of dopamine in your brain. That satisfies your natural reward system in a big way. But repeated drug use also raises the threshold for this kind of pleasure. This means you need to take more to get the same high. Meanwhile, drugs make your body less able to produce dopamine naturally. This leads to emotional lows when you’re sober.
It also plays a role in diseases that aren’t related to mental health. One of these is Parkinson’s disease. Another is obesity, which the American Medical Association classified as a disease in 2013.
Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine enables neurons in your brain to communicate and control movement. In Parkinson’s, one type of neuron steadily degenerates. It doesn’t have a signal to send anymore, so your body makes less dopamine. The chemical imbalance causes physical symptoms. These include tremor, stiffness, slowness of spontaneous movement, poor balance, and poor coordination. Doctors treat these symptoms with medications that raise levels of this chemical.
Obesity. Most of the time, if you take in more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. So why can’t obese people simply eat less and slim down? The answer isn’t that simple. They may face obstacles that others don't. They could have problems with their natural reward systems. This can affect the amount of food they eat before they feel satisfied. Imaging studies suggest that in people with this condition, the body may not release enough dopamine and another feel-good hormone, serotonin.
So how can we control dopamine to get the positive effects without the negative effects? The answer may lie with Neurofeedback, which can help regulate the brain in many ways.
Neurofeedback is a computer-based technology that monitors brainwaves in real time using small electrodes attached to your scalp with paste. The process is easy: you simply watch a movie or listen to music while the computer performs certain actions to help you focus and adapt. Over time these neurofeedback sessions gradually restore healthy brain function, which can help regulate dopamine in the brain and get it under control. The process is safe, non-invasive, drug free and sessions are enjoyable.
Learn more about neurofeedback here:
If you are looking for help with any of the conditions above and live in the Orlando, call (321)-444-6750 today to schedule a qEEG brain map. It may be the best decision you can make for your health.
Partial source: WebMD: what is dopamine:
Posted In: Neurofeedback