Dopamine is a neurotransmitter found throughout the body, which regulates a huge range of human functions.
It cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, so dopamine in the body, and dopamine in the brain, are referred to separately.
For this reference, we focus on Brain Dopamine (DH).
Brain dopamine (DH) aids in several aspects of brain function. These areas include;
Possibly the best-known role dopamine plays relates to your perceived happiness. In fact, many pleasurable activities can cause dopamine to increase, such as having sex and eating. This relationship can also increase the risk of addiction to dopamine-increasing drugs.
From an evolutionary perspective, dopamine is designed to strongly impel you to pursue things that your brain thinks are good for you. This includes food (survival) and sex (survival of the species).
Your brain is wired to be highly opportunistic. As a cave man, it probably wasn't every day that you came across a hot babe, or a tasty, ripe banana tree. Your brain is ready, at any moment, to shout-
"drop everything, THIS is more important than anything else you could be doing right now."
There is evidence that dopamine releases both before you pursue that thing (to draw your attention to it), and after you have acquired that thing (as a reward). In this light, the primary function of brain dopamine is probably motivation.
Note, however, that it's important to draw a clear distinction between what your brain thinks is good for you, and what is actually good for you. Just because your brain thinks that hamburger is good for you, doesn't mean you need it. Just because that incredibly hot chick smiled at you, doesn't mean you have to ditch your girlfriend. Your mammal brain might have the best of intentions, but it's not always helpful, and it can't see the big picuture.
Coach Mike's personal reflections on dopamine...
When a high level of dopamine has been triggered, it feels as though there is something in your immediate world, which has absolutely captured your attention. You desire it, to the exclusion of all else. At that moment, nothing else really seems to be a priority.
Your immediate sensation is desire for that thing, whether it's an attractive woman, a hamburger, or a cigarette.
The level of intensity in that desire varies, depending on how important your brain thinks it is. If you walk into a room full of people, chances are your brain immediately highlights the attractive ones. You feel a kind of warm, pleasant buzz, a sense of opportunity and happiness. By contrast, an incredibly hot girl can make it feel like your heart has stopped, and everyone else just fades into the background, indistinct.
The word attractive by definition describes something that triggers dopamine in you.
This sense of attraction-measurement operates at a very deep level. Have you ever wondered why you like the taste of sugar and fat, more than the taste of protein? Per gram, sugar and fat have nearly double the calories of protein. Your brain knows this, and literally makes you want those things more.
Personally I've identified two primary triggers for my own dopamine;
Dopamine is best described as the feeling of lust, while Oxytocin can be described as the feeling of love. Often when dopamine is high, you feel impelled to pursue that thing, like you have no real choice. I must have that burger, now.
The University of Texas College of Pharmacy describes dopamine as being similar to adrenaline. While most of the time your dopamine level is appropriately regulated, it is possible to have too much or too little dopamine in your brain.
Officially, these are considered;
See a list of feelings & behaviors associated with dopamine levels.
Although you should consult a physician with questions about your dopamine level, there may be some ways you can manage or reduce dopamine.
Knowing what can cause a release of dopamine in the brain can help you improve your lifestyle while understanding how your brain works.
These are thought to be among the most significant triggers for dopamine release;
Anti-psychotic medication. Antipsychotics are psychiatric medications that affect dopamine levels, and are used to treat serious mental illnesses such as schizoprenia, says MayoClinic.com. However, their use is not limited to psychotic disorders. Some antipsychotics are used to reduce dopamine levels in cases of impulsive behaviors, stuttering and addiction.
Serotonin. Some herbs may raise the level of another brain chemical called serotonin, which in turn lowers dopamine. Try certain herbal supplements. Examples include ginseng, St. John's wort and dandelion. However, keep in mind that scientific evidence is scarce regarding herbal supplements, and they are not regulated by the FDA. Never begin using an herbal supplement without first checking with your doctor.
On often debated topic is dopamine addiction, and how dopamine relates to other addictions, including caffiene, nicotine, sex, and recreational drugs.