Neuroscience

Unexplored neural circuit modulates memory strength

Learning to avoid negative experiences requires an interplay of two distinct brain circuits, one to interpret "Yikes!" and drive learning, and the other, unexpectedly, to dial in the strength of that memory, a new fruit fly ...

Neuroscience

Breaking the stress and drug abuse connection

When people undergo stress, some turn to alcohol or other drugs to help them cope. Most of us, certainly, have had the experience of cracking open a beer to relax at the end of a tough day. But in cases of extreme or long-term ...

Neuroscience

Brain research reveals a circuit for cocaine relapse

Approximately 1.5 million Americans use cocaine in a given year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Many are repeat users. Unfortunately, there are currently no FDA-approved medicinal treatments for cocaine ...

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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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