Dopamine maintains motivation helping people to initiate and persist on the activities, which could have either positive or negative results.
This review was published online in the journal Neuron.
Dopamine is a chemical that carries information between the neurons. It is found in the brain and is also involved in the formation of epinephrine.
“There is a popular and scientific belief that dopamine regulates pleasure and reward that when you get something that satisfies you, your body releases dopamine, but in fact latest researches are showing that this neurotransmitter acts previously, it is that moves us to act, it is released to get something, either to avoid a harm or to achieve a benefit”, Mercè Correa, co-author of the article, said in a statement.
Studies showed that dopamine is released not only in pleasurable sensations but also in pain, stress or loss. Moreover, different individuals have different levels of dopamine and that is why some people are more persistent in their movement towards the goal than others.
“Dopamine leads to maintain the level of activity to achieve what is intended. This in principle is positive, however, it will always depend on the stimuli that are sought: whether the goal is to be a good student or to abuse of drugs” said Correa.
Elevated levels of dopamine also clarify the actions of the so-called sensation seekers.
“What dopamine regulates is not that what they have experienced produce them higher pleasure, but they are more motivated to act. Dopamine production has been confused for a long time with satisfaction, thinking that it causes these people to feel more, when what it does is to make them more active” she said.
Researchers are of the opinion that lack of energy that usually occurs in depression could be treated by considering dopamine. “Depressed people do not feel like doing anything and that’s because of low dopamine levels,” added Correa.
Lack of energy is also related to the other diseases that could cause mental fatigue such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia.
On the other hand, upward imbalances of dopamine may cause addictive behavior problems resulting in the attitude of compulsive perseverance that could be considered after working on to reduce dopamine levels.
“Now we know that it is not regulating emotions as provided by the general belief, but the motivation to meet them”.
Salamone, J., & Correa, M. (2012). The Mysterious Motivational Functions of Mesolimbic Dopamine Neuron, 76 (3), 470-485 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.10.021