Neuroscience

How an addicted brain works

Addiction is now understood to be a brain disease. Whether it's alcohol, prescription pain pills, nicotine, gambling, or something else, overcoming an addiction isn't as simple as just stopping or exercising greater control ...

Medical research

Investigating the role of dopamine circuits in habit formation

Scientists have uncovered how dopamine connects subregions of the striatum essential for habit formation, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in Cell Reports, findings that may change the overall understanding ...

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Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter occurring in a wide variety of animals, including both vertebrates and invertebrates. In the brain, this phenethylamine functions as a neurotransmitter, activating the five types of dopamine receptors — D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5, and their variants. Dopamine is produced in several areas of the brain, including the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area. Dopamine is also a neurohormone released by the hypothalamus. Its main function as a hormone is to inhibit the release of prolactin from the anterior lobe of the pituitary.

Dopamine can be supplied as a medication that acts on the sympathetic nervous system, producing effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. However, because dopamine cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, dopamine given as a drug does not directly affect the central nervous system. To increase the amount of dopamine in the brains of patients with diseases such as Parkinson's disease and dopa-responsive dystonia, L-DOPA (levodopa), which is the precursor of dopamine, can be given because it can cross the blood-brain barrier.

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