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High Levels of Dopamine in the Brain

By Nicole Adams ; Updated August 14, 2017

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is needed in the brain to help regulate mood and movement. It is required to be in balance. Not enough dopamine in the brain can indicate Parkinson’s disease or attention deficit disorder. Too much dopamine in the brain creates a high and can be caused by a number of factors.

Identification

Dopamine is a neural chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells. It is a precursor to epinephrine, or adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Dopamine is needed in the brain for a wide variety of reasons. It controls the flow of information to the frontal lobe from other parts of the brain, according to the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy, as well as movement.

Function

The primary role of dopamine is pleasure and motivation. The continued release of dopamine provides feelings of enjoyment and reinforces the activities that supply those feelings, as it is associated with the pleasure system of the brain, according to the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy. Dopamine is also released when encountering negative stimuli. It is possible that dopamine plays a role in the decision-making process, but this is a recent theory.

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Reasons

There are several reasons for high levels of dopamine in the brain. Illegal or medicinal drugs can raise dopamine, such as the drug L-Dopa that is used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Cocaine and amphetamines elevate levels of dopamine, as does risk-taking. Both release dopamine in the brain, giving the person a "high." Insomnia and exercise create high levels of dopamine. Certain foods and supplements also have the ability to raise dopamine.

Significance

A disease such as Parkinson’s targets dopamine receptors, which decreases the chemical. The drug L-Dopa is designed to replace any lost dopamine in the brain to raise levels back to normal. Cocaine and amphetamines raise levels of dopamine. Researchers theorize that those who crave risks, as well as obese individuals, do not have enough dopamine receptors in their brains, according to the Treatment Solutions Network and the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Risks and food elevate the levels of dopamine, making the risk-taker and food addict feel happier.

Considerations

Dopamine is much more complicated than simply defining it as a neurotransmitter related to reward and feelings of euphoria. It is also related to the degree of the reward, whether it was greater or lower than anticipated. The International Society for Complexity, Information and Design says there may be a close relationship between pleasure and pain, because dopamine releases in conjunction with negative stimuli as well.

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