In this video, Andrew Huberman says people and even animals with depleted dopamine levels can still enjoy stuff.

How does one enjoy without dopamine? Isn't it the pleasure chemical?

Can serotonin, oxytocin etc. contribute to pleasure experience like dopamine?


1 Answer 1


It is oversimplifying things that a single compound mediates complex human behavior. To nuance things a bit, there are more neurotransmitters and modulators that mediate feelings of pleasure, as you already indicate.

  • Dopamine, indeed, is associated with feelings of pleasure, and most notably that in response to reward. It also mediates reinforcement, and unfortunately the euphoria associated with addictive dopaminergic psychoactive drugs, like heroine and cocaine.
  • But there are more neurochemicals mediating pleasure, such as serotonin, that is increased after working out ('runner's high') and after exposure to sunlight, for instance.
  • Endorphins are a group of protein neuromodulators with a diverse set of functions, from killing pain to the feelings of bliss after sex.
  • Lastly, there is oxytocin, the 'love' hormone. We produce oxytocin when we’re excited by our sexual partner, and when we fall in love. So there is more to pleasure than dopamine alone.

What you are referring to, an absence of pleasure, is referred to as anhedonia, this is not simply due to an absence of dopamine, but is one of the possible symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It can even show up with Parkinson's disease, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and in substance abuse. While schizophrenia and Parkinson's are intimitely linked to dopamine, others are, apparently, not.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also, I think technically that "dopamine deficiency" would leave dopamine receptors intact, meaning that any non-endogenous agonist can still elicit similar reactions as well, no? $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Aug 13, 2022 at 17:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg yep, I can only agree with that prediction, though it's all kind of hypothetical $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 15:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.