What is Dopamine?

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A new study shows that dopamine release in the human brain plays a crucial role in encoding both reward and punishment prediction errors.

About Dopamine

  • It is a neurotransmitter.
  • It is a chemical messenger that helps in the transmission of signals in the brain and other vital areas. 
  • Dopamine is found in humans as well as animals, including both vertebrates and invertebrates.
  • It plays a role as a “reward center” and in many body functions, including memory, movement, motivation, mood, attention, and more.
  • Dopamine is released when your brain is expecting a reward. When you come to associate a certain activity with pleasure, mere anticipation may be enough to raise dopamine levels.
  • Dysfunction of the dopamine system has been implicated in different nervous system diseases.
  • High or low dopamine levels are associated with diseases including Parkinson’s disease, restless legs syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Where is dopamine produced?
    • Neurons in the region at the base of the brain produce dopamine in a two-step process. 
    • First, the amino acid tyrosine is converted into another amino acid, called L-dopa.
    • Then L-dopa undergoes another change as enzymes turn it into dopamine.
  • In other parts of the body, dopamine acts as a type of hormone called catecholamine. Catecholamines are made in the adrenal glands- small hormone production factories that sit on top of the kidneys.
  • There are three main catecholamines: Dopamine, Epinephrine (adrenaline), and Norepinephrine.
  • These hormones get released into the bloodstream when the body is physically or mentally stressed. They cause biochemical changes that activate the so-called fight-or-flight response. That’s the body’s natural reaction to real or perceived stress.

What are neurotransmitters?

  • Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that your body can’t function without.
  • Their job is to carry chemical signals (“messages”) from one neuron (nerve cell) to the next target cell.
  • The next target cell can be another nerve cell, a muscle cell, or a gland.

Q1) What are Neurons?

Neurons (also called neurones or nerve cells) are the fundamental units of the brain and nervous system, the cells responsible for receiving sensory input from the external world, for sending motor commands to our muscles, and for transforming and relaying the electrical signals at every step in between.

Source: Human behaviour may be determined by fast changes in dopamine levels