Dopamine is the brain chemical responsible for memory, motivation, and emotion. It’s also a major factor in mood — which can make dopamine one of your most important allies or enemies. In this article, we’ll explore how dopamine affects your memory, motivation levels, and emotions. If you’re interested in optimizing your performance or simply want to understand how your brain works better (hopefully both), this article is a must-read!
Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the human body. It’s a naturally occurring hormone that affects a variety of brain functions like memory, motivation, emotions, and mood. Dopamine helps you learn better and remember more information through memory processes like recollection and recognition. On top of this, dopamine also plays a role in the psychology of motivation – it gives you that extra boost to help you achieve your dreams or goals. Lastly, dopamine also affects emotions – when we’re sad or afraid we might feel bored or restless; when we’re happy or excited we might feel aggressive! Dopamine effects each of us differently and has different effects on each person’s memory, self-control and moods.
My father, a professor of medicine and neuroscience, once gave a talk in which he had me write in my notebook whilst listening to him explain brain science. The purpose of the exercise was to make me aware of the significance of brain regions involved in different aspects of cognition. I recall vaguely mentioning that the superior temporal sulcus, the same brain area that plays a starring role in song memory, was the area involved in applying for jazz musician jobs.
Putting these two facts together, one could conclude that memory is driven by music — or at least that this was my father’s theory. But he’s wrong. The superior temporal sulcus is radically involved in vision and spatial cognition — but almost nowhere else. As a result, it is notoriously under-explored outside the world of neuroscience. If memory is really not driven by visual experience, how much use is there in further exploring it via auditory presentations? At a minimum, one could claim, you would want to find out which brain regions are most affected by day-to-day auditory stimulation, and why. These brain regions contain memory-related cell types, such as hippocampal spines, and thus are key candidates for further exploration.
Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that is used to transmit signals from one neuron to another. Dopamine is what allows you to feel pleasure and reward and is heavily involved in motivation, learning, and memory. Dopamine has been shown to play a role in causing memory to be stored by increasing the connections between neurons in the brain.
How does this relate to my passion for sports psychology? Now, more than ever, our brain is in need of a little boost of motivation — especially with sports-related challenges where your performance is key.
That said, if you’re lucky enough to have naturally high levels of dopamine, it shouldn’t matter if you use performance-enhancing compounds or not. Neat, huh? Because natural levels of high dopamine won’t do your happiness, motivation, and memory any favors. Here’s what we can do as natural athletes to speed up and optimize your brain function, motivation, and happiness.
You likely know about the importance of sleep in your life (also, sleep is extremely important for motivation, learning, and memory). In fact, sleep is probably your greatest physical and mental health investment. It helps you:
Since your subconscious will remember any behavior you performed while awake even if you don’t remember it afterward, in order to optimize your brain function, sleep is necessary. But, to maximize the impact of sleep on motivation, what does it actually do? Well, to understand that, we’re first going to have to look at what actually happens in the brain at night.
At night, memory processing and storing happens. That also means that information that was used during the day is now useful past the time that it’s actually used.
Certain memories actually have a relatively short shelf-life (like a photo you took in your high school yearbook); other memories (like a music video that you listened to over and over again) can last a long time.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in the brain and it helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine is released when we do something that we enjoy and we feel happy. It’s also released when we feel anticipation, like when we’re waiting for a big event or something we’re excited about. Research has shown that humans have many types of dopamine receptors. When we’re aroused or excited, our bodies start releasing dopamine to help us deal with and control these feelings. The theory is that when we feel excited and motivated, it makes us more likely to do certain things because we’re more likely to remember our successes (and failures) in the short term.
Dopamine is a likely candidate for the main player in habit formation. While both dopamine and pleasant action lead to an increased release of dopamine and norepinephrine, the latter neurochemical plays a different role in the brain.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine is a part of the brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for emotions, behavior, motivation, and long-term memory.
When there’s too much of this feel-good chemical in the brain, it can alter how we think, consider, and act. Low levels of dopamine make it harder for the brain to learn new things and makes it more aggressive, disorganized, and compulsive. This makes it more difficult to form new memories and forge long-lasting relationships. Habit forming actions also activate the “homeostatic control” system, which is instrumental in our sense of attention, motivation, and pleasure. This is why we find it hard to resist the temptation of reaching for that next snack or have that last cigarette. Successful brain operations require an equilibrium between two systems: homeostasis and reactivity.
The homeostatic system is often described as our “brake” system. When the system senses a problem or overstimulation, it slows our brain down, and our memory and motivation levels tend to plummet. Just like the brakes on a car can help control an over-powered vehicle, the homeostatic system can also restrict or speed up our brain operations. When the brakes are applied, the car is stable and can go around a sharp turn and come to a screeching halt when it hits a bump. Reverse the roles and the brakes become the accelerator, speeding the car forward without regard for the turn. Likewise, when the body experiences the “high” from pleasant activities, overeating, or other sources, the system can create too much stimulation, and the brakes on this system can become too much too.
However, the mind and body impact each other. Less food or energy will put too much stress on the body. More pleasant activities use or overeating will stress out the mind. This can have more negative short- and long-term effects than simply overpowering the breakdown with dopamine.
Thus, next time you’re facing a big project, keep in mind how your brain works with the help of this primer on the effects of dopamine on your memory, motivation, and emotions!