It’s a fact, dopamine is one of the main neurotransmitters in the brain.
Dopamine is best known for its role in reward, motivation and pleasure. But you should know that it also plays a crucial role in modulating concentration, motivation, cognitive flexibility and emotional resilience.
And that’s not all ! In addition to these creative-productive abilities and states, dopamine is one of the main regulators of motor control and coordination of body movements. Dopaminergic substances or actions affect dopamine-related activity in the brain.
The proper functioning of the dopaminergic system is of great importance for cognitive performance and emotional drive. So let’s review the dopamine system, to understand what dopamine is, where and how it is metabolized, and how the system can be supported.
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is one of the three main signaling molecules of the catecholamine family. The other two are the fight or flight response molecules: epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Dopamine is produced in the brain.
But other body systems also use and manufacture it. It then plays the role of an important chemical messenger: In the heart, it modulates cardiovascular function. By stimulating the contraction of the heart muscle and promoting the widening of the blood vessels necessary for good blood circulation. Dopamine is also used in the kidneys to help them function properly. It stimulates increased urination and excretes excess sodium (salt). Finally, it also modulates the immune system and the activity of lymphocytes. Dopamine neurons are relatively few in number – only 1% of neurons in the brain are dopaminergic. But they have a great impact on the creative-productive abilities, emotions and coordination of body movements. So the brain has to let in certain things, like nutrients. And take out others, such as metabolic waste, while protecting against the entry of bacteria. To do this, it then uses the blood-brain barrier, which acts a bit like a gatekeeper, choosing what can or cannot enter. But the latter does not cross it. So all dopamine must be produced locally in the dopaminergic nerve cells (neurons) of the brain from the building blocks of dopamine. Although dopamine promotes many abilities and critical states of the brain, only about 1% of neurons in the brain are dopaminergic. It is therefore essential that these neurons are protected if we want to achieve and maintain optimal brain performance throughout our lives. We need to have adequate dopamine levels to function properly!
Where is dopamine created in the brain?
Where is it used? What is she doing ?
Dopaminergic neurons are located mainly in a few small areas of the brain. But this does not mean that the cerebral actions of dopamine are confined to these regions alone. Dopamine neurons have nerve fibers, called axons, that connect them to other neurons.
These serve to transmit dopamine-related information to neurons located in other parts of the brain. It is through these axons that dopamine exerts its modulating effects elsewhere in the brain.
The main region of the brain that produces dopamine is the midbrain. It contains the vast majority of dopaminergic neurons. In the midbrain, the substantia nigra is the largest group of dopaminergic neurons. And plays an important role in the control of movements and reflexes.
The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is another important dopaminergic area of the midbrain. Its projections to the nucleus accumbens, olfactory tubercle, amygdala, and hippocampus constitute another of the main dopaminergic pathways in the brain, the mesolimbic pathway.
This pathway, also known as the reward pathway plays a major role in reward. But also in the motivational component of behavior motivated by reward, in behavioral reinforcement and in the perception of pleasure.