So what is Dopamine, really? I’d obviously heard of it before and had the faint recollection that Dopamine is good, but what does that really mean and what does Dopamine really control? Here is a “Dopamine For Dummies” guide to how it works.
Dopamine, simply put, is a neurotransmitter. According to neurologist.com, a neurotransmitter is “a brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.” The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest. They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance.”
Wow. That’s some pretty important stuff! But what, specifically is Dopamine’s role and what are the effects of Low Dopamine? If you’ve been on our website, you know that Low Dopamine can have a lot of different symptoms and that it can vary from person-to-person. Here is why.
The frontal lobe of your brain controls things like memory, problem solving, judgement, implies control and social and sexual behavior. Dopamine plays a critical role in the frontal lobe, making sure information flows to other parts of the brain. Therefore, a lack of Dopamine has a direct impact on any of the things controlled by the frontal lobe of your brain.
Dopamine is often referred to as the “reward gene” or “reward chemical” because it is released when we participate in perceived “rewarding” experiences. Things like eating a favorite food, having sex, watching our favorite team win a big game and unfortunately, the high from taking drugs. When you have Low Dopamine, you seek out these experiences—sometimes to your own detriment.
Dopamine plays the critical role of regulating your motor function, or movements, via the basal ganglia (explanation of that is a post for another day!). But suffice it to say the basal ganglia requires optimal levels of Dopamine in order to function properly. If you’re lacking Dopamine, you may experience diminished coordination or difficulty managing your motor skills.
It’s impossible to understate the importance of Dopamine and the critical role it plays in vital bodily functions. This admittedly oversimplified explanation of what Dopamine is only scratches the surface of all the things in the brain it regulates.