Introduction to dopamine:
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which is produced in the brain. Primary production of dopamine occurs in midbrain consisting of a large number of dopaminergic neurons.
The function of neurotransmitters is to chemically convey the information or messages from one neuron to other recipient neurons (target neurons). When the message has arrived at dopamine receptor neurons, these receptors either cause inhibition or excitation depending upon the type of information received.
Effects of dopamine on the human body
Dopamine neurotransmitters travel through specific pathways known as “dopaminergic pathways” in the brain across neurons.
According to the researches, the following influences are caused by theses dopaminergic pathways present in the brain:
- Executive functioning (cognitive flexibility, goal-oriented behavior, problems solving behavior)
- Motor control (control, and coordination of voluntary movements and reflexes)
- Associative education and learning (acquiring skills and modifying behaviors)
- Process of rewards (pleasureful behaviors reinforcement, liking, and wanting).
Levels of dopamine influence the working memory of the body
Working memory can be defined as “capability of holding some items in memory to yield a specific behavior by working with them.” According to proposed theories for this mechanism, this effect is produced by the excitatory effect of dopamine neurotransmitter on interneurons, and pyramidal cells.
Dopamine with memory functioning:
Basal ganglia is the central part of the brain to control the body’s voluntary movements, balance, and coordination. Proper functioning of basal ganglia requires an optimal and adequate amount of dopamine from surrounding neurons. Lack of dopamine results in inadequate functioning of basal ganglia which disturbs the voluntary body movements as in Parkinson’s disease.
Similar to the low concentration of dopamine, higher concentrations of dopamine can also cause involuntary or unintended movements.
Attention and dopamine:
Dopamine allows a person to stay attentive and focused. The mechanism of this effect is through the optic nerve, which uses vision to catch attention for performing any specific activity or task. The prefrontal cortex is associated with immediate memory or concentration, which is stimulated through dopamine. Lack of dopamine neurotransmitter across neurons and connections present in the brain can cause disorders related to attention as ADHD.
In short, dopamine has a direct and positive effect on memory and attention span.
Pleasure and reward:
Dopamine is one of the central or primary neurotransmitters present in the brain which regulate the perception, and experience of an individual. The anticipation of reward in the result of some activity, pleasureful experiences, and a desire to do a delightful activity, again and again, all are results of this neurotransmitter stimulation.
Dopamine and mental disorders:
Depression is the most common disorder of mental health which is cased mainly due to higher concentrations of cortisol hormone or stress hormone.
According to the research conducted by the Department of Psychology, University of Valencia, Spain, dopamine is a specific hormone which is associated with happiness. Dopamine along with serotonin helps in regulation of mood as dopamine disconnects the connection from the amygdala related to fear and negative emotion and increases the production of oxytocin which enhances the emotional and spiritual connections which people have with each other.
Dopamine therapy is proved to be an effective therapy for patients with symptoms of depression and anxiety as it increases pleasure and positive vibes which results in cessation of negative emotions and symptoms. Dopamine, sometimes, is also referred to as “the molecule of happiness” due to its properties.
The increased concentration of dopamine, along with other neurotransmitters as serotonin, norepinephrine, and release of oxytocin helps in reduction of pain perception by enhancing the perception of contentment and happiness, which suppresses pain sensation. According to clinical researches, dopamine is found to be effective in the management of chronic pain.
Effects of dopamine on children
Dopamine pediatric therapy:
Dopamine pediatric therapy is of great importance by the utilization of dopamine hydrochloride, which helps in:
- Increasing blood pressure
- Increasing cardiac output
- Elevation of peripheral perfusion among neonates
- Increasing urine output.
Among infants, and relatively older children with cardiac failure or shock
Lack of oxygen:
Dopamine helps in improving the outcomes in infants and newborns who are suspected of oxygen lack at birth. Dopamine helps in stimulation of heart and improvement in blood flow to the brain and other organs of the body to minimize the organ damage.
ADHD and dopamine:
ADHD refers to “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” which causes difficulties for children in the maintenance of attention and having episodes of hyperactivity which causes interference with daily life. According to the researches, the lower concentration of dopamine is mainly associated with different symptoms of ADHD.
Dopamine medications help in the treatment of ADHD by stimulation of attention and focus. These medications are stimulants which include methylphenidate, and amphetamines which decrease the symptoms associated with ADHD.
Hemodynamic effect of dopamine as an inotropic agent in children:
In accordance to the study published in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, dopamine is a useful inotropic agent for children which increased cardiac index, stroke volume and decreased systemic vascular resistance after infusion of two doses of dopamine. Use of dopamine is contraindicated for patients with fixed and elevated vascular resistance.
Side-effects of dopamine and prevention:
Side-effects of dopamine may include atrial fibrillation, tachycardia, ectopic beats, dyspnea, vomiting, nausea, anxiety, headaches, piloerection, dilation of pupils, tremors, stiffness, shaking, increase in intraocular pressure, bradycardia, vasoconstriction leading to hypertension, abnormalities in cardiac conduction, and palpitations.
Adverse effects associated with dopamine supplementation or therapy can be prevented by:
- Careful history and examination:
A patient must inform the doctor about all the medication which he/she is currently taking either prescribed or over-the-counter, as some drugs can interact with each other and cause complicated complications.
- Routinely questioning for:
- The onset of sleep (sudden)
- Impulse control disorders.
- Reduction in the dosage of dopamine medication or even by the cessation of medication
High dosage of dopamine can cause complications associated with a cardiac system, specifically, an increase in heart rate.
- Lifestyle modifications:
While receiving dopamine treatment, try to modify the life-style, engage in purposeful and pleasureful activities, adapt positivity and good vibes to minimize the requirement of dopamine and prevention of high-dosage.
Have you seen the film “Limitless”? It’s a film about how one superdrug can make you a king of the world. At the same time it tells you about how the same thing can destroy you. Literally. This “Dopamine” thing sounds super exciting and makes many people literally shout “I WANT IT NOW!!!” without digging into it and trying to figure out what’s the catch. This material was written to show you the positive and negative sides of the whole thing. This material is not an advertisment of any kind. Every single one of us makes choices in life and I hope you make the right choice. I just thought you need to be informed. You need to see the facts. That’s what this post is about.