I was curious as to know what are the natural causes for the secretion of dopamine in our body.

Are there any specific foods that increases the dopamine level?

It is said that dopamine are usually high when you are in love is that a myth or a fact?

How does dopamine affect ones behavior/mood?

  • $\begingroup$ this question comes from an extreme misunderstanding of neurotransmitters, but i think it deserves an explanation of what that misunderstanding is as i think many have this same misunderstanding $\endgroup$
    – honi
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 2:54

2 Answers 2


Allow me to extend a more empathetic answer; stack exchange is great, but the rigid responses are sometimes hard to stomach.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that basically works as a messenger between nerve cells. It tells you when you do something good by releasing a chemical that tells the brain “this is nice, this is good”. It’s closely associated with risk taking & reward motivated behavior; pathways or grooves in the brain are created every time a sensation is perceived as good or makes you happy. Everyone’s perception of “happy” or “good” is different based on the life experiences that they have registered in the brain & the grooves they create over time.

Dopamine is tricky… the release of dopamine (in large amounts) tends to leave you with a “high” or feeling of ecstasy… but it can quickly lead to addiction or destructive habits as well. Every time dopamine is released, a groove is created and forms a habit; often times subconsciously you follow that groove every time a similar situation arises because the first time you did, it lead to pleasure. This is where conscious behavior really becomes an important factor, if you’re looking to prevent these habits from taking over your life.

Where certain drugs are prone to release higher amounts of dopamine than others… there are other things in life that create the same dopamine grooves that drugs do, often in equal amounts. Food, sex, gratification from work, Social Media notifications (the research on this today is astounding; now that social media platforms have been around for over a decade, we are starting to see the relationship of depression linked to social media addiction) … all of these things register as pleasing to the brain and therefore grooves are created to remind you how to behave in the future if you want to attain the same “good” feeling.

Pavlov’s dogs are a classic example of ways in which you can train the brain to perform desired reactions using dopamine; but also an example of how it can be used to enslave a being through thought forming behavior. Many arguments could be made on the latter point… from mass distraction of the population to the dumbing down of humanity by those in a position to control… but that’s for another topic 

Dopamine is an amazing function of your body… it is wise to understand how it works and how it effects your day to day decision making. I think cell phones are a prime example of how out of control we’ve allowed our behavior to become; I would argue we are all addicted to stimulation and overloading our senses. Over time, the effects will present themselves. My advice is to simplify your life and attempt to limit the sensory interaction each day. Enjoy the little things as much as possible.





The way that you are describing dopamine fundamentally misunderstands how neurotransmitters work.

It makes sense to talk about hormones as elevated or reduced above a baseline level. This does not work for neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. This is because hormones are usually synthesised and released within specific systems, and are distributed rather uniformly through blood.

Neurotransmitters do not have this property. They are produced within specific neurons (for example, the raphe nuclei produce serotonin), and are distributed into neuronal cell bodies. They are then released by individual neurons as a signal. While one neuron may release serotonin, the one next to might not.

This is why the idea of boosting a neurotransmitter across the board is wrong, and why blanket statements like dopamine being high when in love don't make sense. Dopamine is not something that the brain pumps out, but is used as a signal by one neuron communicating to another. Certain actions or consequences may result in more dopamine release within certain parts of the brain, but this is because the brain is signalling the particular action/outcome that led to the dopamine release.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Dopamine is primarily a neuromodulator. And even for neurotransmitters, there are systemic effects. It is certainly possible to have e.g. elevated dopamine levels in the PFC relative to some baseline. $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 12:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ yes, but almost certainly those elevated dopamine levels have more targeted effects than the entire prefrontal cortex. Otherwise, why would dopamine be released at discrete synapses with limited spatial extent? $\endgroup$
    – honi
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ You most certainly should be very careful making logical arguments here, especially when empirics are available. The fact of the matter is that there is a constant DA baseline in the frontal cortex, and this is, of course, universally influenced by e.g. DA metabolism (cf. Catechol-O-methyl transferase). Furthermore, DA's primary neuromodulatory effect works via volume conduction along collateralizing neurons, that is, very broadly spatially distributed. $\endgroup$
    – jona
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ there is definitely patterning to dopamine innervation. early anatomical studies demonstrate sub-regional (laminar) specificity of innervation. osti.gov/scitech/biblio/6354152 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11241381. $\endgroup$
    – honi
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ what is the evidence for dopamine's primary effect being volume conduction? $\endgroup$
    – honi
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 23:36

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