Feeling Good isn't Always Good

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Most of the blogs I've written up to this point have had something to do with the brain. It's not that is the only thing I am interested in, because that's not the direct subject of my blogs, it's more of a common factor in all of my subjects. That's because most of what I've written so far has something to do with human behavior. I find the mechanisms behind why we do what we do incredibly fascinating, primarily because I have interacted with so many different people of all personalities who all have a completely different approach to life, it's kind of awesome to figure out the answer to why this all is.


What I've pretty much taken away from it all so far is that the brain is the single most powerful thing in the entire world. I mean yeah, duh, it influences our behavior, that's its purpose, but the mechanisms by which it does this are downright scary sometimes. It is insanely complex, and it has a different approach to quite literally everything. But, in every subject I have done, one word keeps popping as a key factor in everything I have researched.





The general purpose of dopamine that I have come to understand through my other blogs is that it is essentially your brains work force whenever it comes to determining behavior. It has many different chemicals to trigger different behavior, but the mechanism by which it changes it all has quite a lot to do with dopamine. And this got me wondering, what is it with this chemical that causes it to be present under so many behavioral circumstances?


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, so what it does, in essence, is conduct the signals between your neurons to give you a certain sensations. In dopamine's case, it deals specifically with the pleasure centers of the brain. To get even more specific, the part of the brain that causes the release of dopamine is the ventral tegmentum, which is a group of neurons located in the middle of the brain that contain your dopamine neurons.


The two main drugs that deal with dopamine are amphetamines and cocaine, but they deal with it in different ways, as this article explains. Neurotransmitters send signals both ways, so whenever your body releases dopamine, your neurons are both sending dopamine to other neurons, and receiving it as well. This process is called reuptake, and it is important as to how the chemical does what it does. Amphetamines simply cause the release of more dopamine, giving you a stronger pleasure sensation due to the increase levels. Cocaine does not do this, but instead it stops the reuptake process, meaning that the dopamine will stay in your neurons for longer periods of time.


So now you know what dopamine is, and how it's mechanism works. Why I think it's important, however, is because of the whole idea that it controls the reward system of your brain, and the reward system controls pretty much everything we do.


However, the reward system is a tricky thing, and the funny thing about biology is that it has no morals. As this article examines, the release of dopamine is actually, well, kind of evil. There is a million different things that can cause the reward system to go off and prompt a certain action, and not all of them are good. Danger causes the release of dopamine, as do drugs, and gambling.


I said Dopamine was important, not necessarily good. It literally controls your entire life through motivation, and not always for the better. What Dopamine is then, is the biggest double-edged sword in all of existence. It is the motivation behind why we are so inclined to eat, reproduce, and explore new ideas. It is, unfortunately, also the motivation behind why we do drugs, go looking for danger, and throw away money.


Why is this? How is our brain programmed to be like this, and what does it say about our evolution? Are we really that advanced?

1 Comment

Wow, I found this really interesting and subsequently did my blog on "why we listen to music" of which Dopamine was the main cause. Dopamine is such an amazing chemical which the brain releases. As I read your blog I could not help but think about side effects of Dopamine. And I wondered what if we were to cure depression by safely increasing ones Dopamine levels? Makes sense because if we could use the Dopamine to enhance an emotion and control the emotion the wanted to feel by using music they liked. A little farfetched but thought it would be a neat idea.

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