Modern science of sleep is starting to lean towards a viewpoint that dopamine has an important function in dreaming, and that dopaminergic pathways - mesolimbic and mesocortical are activated during dreaming.

Here's what the list of functions that dopamine is responsible for in the human brain:

Inside the brain, dopamine plays important roles in motor control, motivation, arousal, cognition, and reward, as well as a number of basic lower-level functions including lactation, sexual gratification, and nausea.

With this in mind, I'm posing the following question: Can random activation of dopaminergic system during dreaming cause dreams of stimuli which activated dopaminergic system during waking state? In other words, if perceiving sexual stimuli triggers dopaminergic system activation, can similar activation during dreaming cause recollection of the sexual stimuli?

To simplify:

  • Seeing erotic image -> causes dopaminergic system activation
  • Activation of dopaminergic system -> can it cause recall of erotic image or some other experience from the list above?

Has there been any research into what happens when a person's dopaminergic system (mesolimbic and mesocortical pathways of Ventral Tegmental Area) is artificially stimulated (like during brain surgery) - does this cause recall of experiences, desires or cravings or other things people "want"?

  • $\begingroup$ How does one even activate the dopaminergic system non-invasively? $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Nov 18, 2014 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ Apparently it gets activated as a part of the dreaming process $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Nov 19, 2014 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ I meant in terms of a non-invasive experimental procedure as a method to separate correlation from causation. $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Nov 19, 2014 at 19:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I originally meant invasive procedures, like brain surgery - from what I understand surgeons probe brain regions to make sure they are cutting the correct thing. Maybe at some point some surgeon poked parts of dopaminergic system and noticed the results. I also read of rats with artificially implanted electrodes stimulating those areas, but rats would not be able to relay subjective experience of those activations. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Nov 19, 2014 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know much about how the brain works and I would rather not learn expert results about it because I may have the theoretical ability to sense them myself and would rather not get told them before I sense them on my own, ruining my ability to sense them for myself. I do realize a brain cannot have awareness of as much information as every single detail about itself which might be around 10^14 bits of information. I'm wondering if the reason why you asked about dopamine is because dopamine is involved in part of the process of a neuron firing and a neuron cannot fire at all in the absense $\endgroup$
    – Timothy
    Feb 6, 2019 at 6:16


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