Five Foundations of Dopamine Deficiency
- Type II Diabetes
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Substance Abuse
When studying the condition of dopamine deficiency, it must be understood that such a disruption in the brain’s reward system may occur in the production phase or during the reuptake process. As research progresses, it becomes clear that several organic brain disorders and environmental stimuli may contribute to the same observable effect. Below are five of the leading causes of this deficiency.
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1. Major Depressive Disorders and Dopamine
While common sense might lead one to believe that dopamine deficiency causes depression, that sense would be incorrect. It is the reverse, as scientists have recently discovered. The neurotransmitters that are produced and distributed in the brain are interconnected. If one or several falls below a critical threshold, this impacts the entire system. While the dopamine reward system is what is primarily thought to induce feelings of physical pleasure, when serotonin and norepinephrine are disrupted or depleted, this may send improper signals to the reward system that produces and processes dopamine.
2. Complex Dopamine Scenarios in Schizophrenia
In the case of schizophrenia, the complexity of the brain and the neurotransmitter networks that help regulate and build cognitive function becomes apparent. One cannot merely assess the levels or presence of dopamine and add or subtract from what is discernable. As with other types of psychosis and neurological disorders, dopamine produced in one area of the brain and that produced in another area of the brain is out of balance. A study published in the Frontiers of Psychiatry reported that in the hippocampus, PET scans indicate hyperactive dopamine production, while in the prefrontal cortex, it is deficient. In order to understand how this impacts individuals, the related neurotransmitters must also be assessed.
3. Type II Diabetes
While some report that diets high in fat or the condition of obesity itself is related to dopamine shortfalls, this is not strictly true. The key is insulin, hence, Type II or “insulin resistant” diabetes. In this metabolic disorder, beta cells in the pancreas overproduce insulin, to which the body is unresponsive. Insulin can cross the blood-brain barrier, and this is where excessive or persistently high levels of the hormone become a severe problem. It binds to several types of receptors, including those intended for dopamine in the brain. This blocks the uptake of the neurotransmitter and results in a chronic and escalating deficiency, according to a study published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience. The individual, seeking the food-associated gratification usually supplied by the brain’s reward system, will repeat their attempts to attain dopamine by eating known pleasure-inducing foods, which compounds the problem.
4. Parkinson’s Disease And Loss of Dopamine Production
This condition is one in a group of what scientists call Motor System Disorders (MSD). Unfortunately, as the degenerative disease progresses, it directly impacts the neurons that produce and process dopamine, effectively killing them. Parkinson’s is directly responsible for destroying both the brain’s means and methods to use this essential neurotransmitter. While there is no cure, patients may supplement organic dopamine with two drugs that act to resupply the brain from without—Carbidopa and Levodopa.
5. Overtaxing the System with Substances
Dopamine is the chief neurotransmitter in the pleasure-reward system. It’s also tied to memory formation and learning, among other functions essential to maintaining a pulse. When humans have a pleasurable experience, they also form a memory of that experience thanks to dopamine. This allows them to repeat the pleasurable experience in the future. Drugs and alcohol stimulate the release of dopamine, and a memory of that suite of sensations is formed. This remembered pleasure, rather than legitimate chemical dependence, is often the root of addiction. Consequently, the more frequently substances are abused, the more deranged the dopamine reward system becomes. Eventually, it may even cease to function.
Our brains, while often compared to computers, are far more complicated than any machine ever created. They function and help us move through the world by producing and using a suite of hormones and neurotransmitters. But when one as critical as dopamine becomes imbalanced, serious issues may arise. Dopamine deficiency is caused by, rather than acting as a causal agent for, a host of neurological conditions, health imbalances, and even intentional substance misuse, which science has only recently come to understand.