Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. The various functions and responsibilities of the brain that dopamine helps control include behavior, mental health, and voluntary movement. Other functions of dopamine in the brain include roles involved with reward-seeking behavior, memory, and the ability to learn.
Behavior can be influenced by the chemical messenger dopamine. For instance, those suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are believed to have an inadequate amount of dopamine neurotransmission. This deficiency can lead to erratic behavior and difficulty concentrating. Treatment with medications can help treat ADHD and other similar disorders.
Dopamine can also affect other aspects of mental health. Low levels of dopamine are common in those with social anxiety. Those suffering from bipolar disorder are also susceptible to any increases or decreases related to dopamine levels in the brain. For instance, low levels are typical during depressive states of the disease, while high levels are common during the manic phase. Antipsychotics can help control the level of dopamine in the brain and reduce the drastic mood swings that occur with the disease.
Voluntary movements are another function of dopamine in the brain. This includes helping a person conduct movement in a smooth and controlled manner. A deficiency of dopamine can lead to diseases commonly associated with uncontrollable movements, such as Parkinson’s disease.
Reward-seeking behavior is a motivation to do something potentially harmful that may bring about a pleasant experience. This is best seen when studying drug addiction. Some drugs, such as cocaine and nicotine, can lead to an increase in dopamine and exaggerated or prolonged feelings of enjoyment and pleasure. Drugs that affect dopamine production can also affect emotional health through the over stimulation or under stimulation of the portion of the brain that controls emotion and behavior.
The production of dopamine in the brain plays an important role in memory and the ability to solve problems. Particularly in the frontal lobes, dopamine controls many cognitive functions associated with learning. Memory, the ability to concentrate, and the ability to solve complex problems can all be reduced if dopamine levels in the frontal lobes are reduced below adequate levels.
Various other functions of the human body are related to dopamine activity in the brain. This includes the ability to process pain signals and help process various reactions to perceived danger. Dopamine has also been linked to an increase in creativity and controlling nausea and vomiting.