Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in various brain functions – it controls motor activity and our emotional reactions, directly affects the pleasure centers and is responsible for our motivation and concentration.
A low level of this brain “chemical” can contribute significantly to feelings of anxiety, even depression and lethargy. Individuals with persistently low dopamine levels are more likely to become addicted to caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants such as cigarettes. They are also prone to abuse of various narcotic substances.
Stress leads to an increase in a number of hormones, one of which is dopamine, but together with cortisol and norepinephrine. Dopamine is also called the molecule of curiosity because it is synthesized in greater quantities when we encounter something new – whether a new job or acquiring new habits.
Studying familiar material together with giving something new as information also leads to an increase in dopamine and better consolidation of what has been learned – thus better reconsolidation.
Low levels of dopamine have been linked to Parkinson’s disease, restless legs syndrome and depression. Low levels are the cause of manifestations of pronounced fatigue, without the presence of factors that cause it. In addition, those affected by the neurotransmitter deficiency are more capricious, highly unmotivated. Susceptibility to taking risks that are not justified is also expressed.
Patients complain of problems with short-term memory, managing daily tasks and solving simple mental tasks.
Hand tremors, loss of balance or coordination, increased muscle stiffness and presence of muscle cramps are some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including chronic constipation, are also a manifestation of dopamine deficiency.
Blood tests for the level of free dopamine alone do not give much information about the absence or presence of Parkinson’s. The reason is that it cannot be determined how the brain reacts to the neurotransmitter.
An appointment for a dopamine transporter test is required. This is an imaging test that involves injecting a radioactive agent (such as a dye) into the bloodstream, then tracking its transport using single-photon emission computed tomography.
How to increase dopamine levels?
Whether it is drawing, writing, music, dancing or other art, creative processes significantly affect the dopamine level in the body in a positive direction.
Physical activity also increases the concentration of the neurotransmitter, parallel to it and the level of serotonin and endorphin. In addition, a connection with neurogenesis has been established – the synthesis of nerve cells, for which years ago it was believed that no new ones were formed after birth. A result can be present even with a short walk.
Lack of sleep drastically affects the availability of dopamine the very next day. In turn, this leads to reduced concentration and difficult coordination. A lack of dopamine can make a person sleepy, and a lack of sleep can also lower dopamine levels.
During periods of low sunlight exposure, neurotransmitter levels also drop.
Tyrosine plays an important role in the synthesis of dopamine. This amino acid can be obtained through foods such as almonds, avocados, bananas, beef and chicken, chocolate, coffee, green tea, eggs, fresh and yogurt milk, watermelon.