What Drives our Behavior and Fuels our Addictions?

What Drives our Behavior and Fuels our Addictions?

Dopamine: a neurotransmitter responsible for stimulating the brain to create an urge for an action. These urges are typically followed by a feeling that triggers an action. We have a drop in blood glucose levels, resulting in hunger. We have an urge for sex we lust after our mate.

This ‘action’ is then rewarded with positive feelings of pleasure. We are thirsty, we then drink and now we feel satisfied. This creates a feeling of contentment or fulfillment.

When there is a breakdown in the brain and an individual isn’t able to have the neurotransmitter when it is needed it can be devastating. In the motor area of the brain it creates conditions such as Parkinson’s affecting the ability to create purposeful movements. When the higher brain functions are affected the result, although more subtle, might be to lose the urge for self-protection and take higher risks.

However, if too much Dopamine is present, the person my never feel satisfied once they have completed their ‘action’ and therefore are in a constant state of ‘desire’. This produces a constant hunger, or an inability to quench their sexual needs an anxiety that continues even when no threat is present.

Here is a graphic displaying the high and low levels of Dopamine and the effects that this Neurotransmitter can have on our body.

Just another thought by Dr. Lise’


9 thoughts on “What Drives our Behavior and Fuels our Addictions?

  1. This is wrong, but understandably so. DA is a “seeking” system not reward as economist mischaracterized. Addiction is hyper-seeking behavior and a symptom, likely, of genetically broken DA rectors D2-type. The DA system is also MUCH more complicated than the initial discovery work modeled.


    • Dr.Lise' says:

      You are absolutely correct! The DA system is MUCH more in-depth and complicated than I made it sound! And it sounds as if you would be a wonderful person to write about all of the complexities! Thank you for your insight…

      I am always hopeful that through my eyes others learn information in a way they can use it as a launching board for more knowledge. I have truly tried to simplify and reach out to the mass to help explain if DA is not processed for whatever reason in that individual then symptoms will occur and as research continues in the field of Neuroscience we will use that information to try to help ourselves learn more about ourselves! Thank you for your insight, suggestions and knowledge!!!


      • I am very excited, just came upon some new DA papers which really help us understand DA and behavior beyond the “rewards” model that is holding back progress. Will post more but snippets:

        “The widespread belief that dopamine regulates pleasure could go down… it regulates motivation, causing individuals to initiate and persevere to obtain something either positive or negative.” The “seeking”, not reward transmitter.

        “dopamine is released by pleasurable sensations but also by stress, pain or loss”

        Very kool stuff, I am very excited about the real change in workable models now. Sadly, most academcis will stick to the olde reward model, of course.

        The same mistake is made with Oxytocin. It is NOT the “love hormone.”

        I am a marketer, professional communicator and brain geek. My experience is that the general public and most academics HATE real brain research. It debunks all of our beliefs – as is true for the best science. So I preach against pop science. Not only does it not work but it causes fear and aggressive pushback – look at global warming, evolution, etc.

        I now focus only on professional audiences and decision-policy makers. They suffer the same status quo and ideological biases but some are motivated to consider new science. A small few.


      • Dr.Lise' says:

        I think you are right when we try to simplify we also run a risk of creating a more ‘pop science’ view. Research becomes watered down in an attempt to quickly create awareness. I would like to learn more about what you are doing in your ‘brain-world’ and would truly appreciate the information you are disseminating to the community. Let’s stay in touch…graymatter7112@yahoo.com


  2. JCR says:

    I’m curious. My son is diagnosed with ADHD (combined) and sensory processing disorder, which falls in the high dopamine circle. I, otoh, have many of the ADD (inattentive) and low dopamine characteristics. Would our ADHD/ADD disorders, then, still be genetically linked? Why would he be programmed for high, when I’m programmed for low? Or can there be ups and downs, crossing among the inner and outer circles? Wouldn’t these groupings of symptoms be better classified as “Dopamine Dysfunction Disorder” rather than each treated independently? (forgive me if this is a repeat – I had tried to post this last week and didn’t see it when I logged back in.)


    • Dr.Lise' says:

      Hi JCR,

      Thank you for your note! First, please understand that from MY brain perspective I see neurohormones as a variables that change depending on environmental conditions not just genetic disposition. What we eat, how much exercise we get and how we respond to stress changes the ‘need’ for how we produce and use hormones and neurohormones.

      Therefore, our brains are not carbon copies of our Father’s or Mother’s or anyone else in our family. Again, from MY perspective the ‘amplitudes’ (or the strength) of a cortical signal in the brain will change the way we use the neurohormones and necessitate the amount we need to function.

      So, if you think about a radio station, you see the low slow frequencies in the AM stations and the higher faster oscillations in the FM stations. When the stations are all of the SAME volume (or amplitude) you can switch from one station to another station with no need to monitor the volume (in the brain; switching from task to task attending, and self-regulating without difficulty). However, when one station is incredibly LOUD, it necessitates monitoring and the switching slows down. In this metaphor, the brain is unable to switch gears quickly and gets stuck, resulting in a change in Neurohormone production (such as what happens with chronic stress) and the brain uses this production in efficient or inefficient ways creating the look of too much or too little neurohormone.

      An example is when serotonin is not used in an efficient manner, a ‘re-uptake inhibitor’ is needed to sustain the serotonin for more efficient use.

      As for treating each condition independent of the other, I have to say I believe every individual has the need to be considered independently. Not every person will be able to take the same medication for a Migraine nor will everyone be able to learn to read using the same method.

      I am not a neuroscientist but I do have a LOT of experience and expertise in remediating brains!! And we teach them all “One Neuron at a Time 🙂


      • My readings says yes, ADD and most “seeking” behavior problems are do to inherited, genetic defects in the D2 type receptors. The brain is effectively “starved” of the normal amount of DA.

        ADD meds externally increase DA. Seemingly, paradoxically, these stimulants slow down the afflicted brain because when there is more DA there is less “seeking” and activity. It’s not mind control it’s like taking vitamins if you have vitamin deficiency.

        Bottom line these are medical problems and doctors should manage diagnosis and treatment. Do not try and get anything more than ideas from the internet.

        BTW, there is new research on ADD meds showing 1 – they are under-prescribed and 2 – very effective, e.g., diminish criminal behavior substantially.. Denial of treatment in childhood can have life long consequences. Always consult with a doctor and specialist.


  3. Oh just saw your last comment. Yeah, these behaviors all come from DA receptor deficits which lead to the brain not getting enough. So desperately trying behaviors that externally rigged more DA release.

    In fact, hyper triggering DA just hurts the broken system worse. So rats that DON’T do these behaviors actually get a repairing effect. BTW, the DA systems can be modeled in fruit flies. This is one of the first systems designed by biology. It’s main role is to get animals up to go get food!

    Chasing dopamine is a dangerous, harmful and fruitless “cure.”

    “Depressed people do not feel like doing anything and that’s because of low dopamine levels,” explains Correa. Lack of energy and motivation is also related to other syndromes with mental…

    In the opposite case, dopamine may be involved in addictive behaviour problems, leading to an attitude of compulsive perseverance. In this sense, … dopamine antagonists which have been applied so far in addiction problems probably have not worked because of inadequate treatments based on a misunderstanding of the function of dopamine.”


  4. At last the clinical understanding is catching up with the bench science:

    “Addiction is a reward deficit and stress surfeit disorder
    Frontiers in Psychiatry, 08/02/2013 Clinical Article

    Drug addiction can be defined by a three–stage cycle – binge/intoxication, withdrawal/negative affect, and preoccupation/anticipation – that involves allostatic changes in the brain reward and stress systems. Blockade of the Îş opioid system can also block dysphoric–like effects associated with withdrawal from drugs of abuse and block the development of compulsive–like responding during extended access to drugs of abuse, suggesting another powerful brain stress system that contributes to compulsive drug seeking. The loss of reward function and recruitment of brain systems provide a powerful neurochemical basis that drives the compulsivity of addiction.”

    So, the hyper-seeking and compulsive behavior is NOT because they want pleasure but to eliminate a severe inherited deficit in the normal homeostasis in the DA systems. Effectively, their brains are telling them they are “starving” and they will die if they don’t “hyper-seek” not really consume. There is a proven difference. The DA system in all animals is to drive the seeking, NOT consumption. Consumption is a different system.

    This is a free article anyone can read.


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