Dopamine Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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A diagram of the head showing the brain, with the rear part of the brain highlighted.

Firstly, in the strictest sense of the word, human life is all about Dopamine. Nothing else, really.

Dopamine is, of course, that drug our brain rewards us with when we consider or carry out an act that maintains our existence. It's the drug that our brain releases when we see a juicy slice of cottage pie and think, 'Oh yes... cottage pie... mmmmm... yummy piped potato ...very decorative', or when we see an attractive body in tight jeans...and think 'Oooh! Reproduction1!'.

And since it is a chemical, we can be just like Paul Daniels2 and trick the brain. Knocking back a copious amount of lager, for instance - 'getting it down ya' as it were - fools the brain into releasing lots of Dopamine into the system and gives us a brief high as a result... for Dopamine is addictive3.

So when someone finds a way of instigating the release of this addictive drug in someone else, it can bring about a certain amount of control, can't it? I mean it's not X-files to suggest that, is it?

Broadening this a bit then, the release of Dopamine is the high one feels when purchasing an evil, cut-throat businessman's goods. Or, to put it another way, it is what makes some of us addicted to shopping. Triggered by flashy adverts and a great deal of brainwashing from our peers, it is the high one feels in wanting a Playstation, craving a Sony camcorder, Lusting after a Reebok runner... or even two.

The Dopamine high soon wears off, so we search for it again in something else. This is called Life in many a society. It is the mechanics behind that Materialistic Want. Unfortunately, until one realises that this is going on in oneself and takes some steps to controlling the release of it in a Materialistic context, Happiness in a true, pure and long-term state will never be achieved.

Please Note: h2g2 is not a definitive medical resource. If you have any health concerns you must always seek advice from your local GP. You can also visit NHS Direct or BBC Health Conditions.

1Actually you would probably be thinking about an act which often precedes reproduction, but we editors are trying to cut back on the four letter words, so there you go. 2A famous British television magician.3 Although dopamine is a significant neurotransmitter which is instrumental in addiction and reward behaviour, it is not the only one. The complex interplay of numerous neurotransmitters makes us who we are and to a certain extent determines how we behave in certain circumstances.

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