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Dopamine level: how to regain real pleasure

Уровень дофамина: как вернуть себе настоящее удовольствие

Dopamine (dopamine, DA) is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain of humans and animals. Also, the hormone produced by the brain substance of the adrenal glands and other tissues (for example, the kidneys), but this hormone almost does not penetrate into the cortex of the brain from the blood. According to the chemical structure, dopamine is referred to catecholamines. Dopamine is the biochemical precursor of noradrenaline (and adrenaline).

Let's imagine two people of equal weight and height. Both have 40,000 dopamine receptors (conditional) in the brain, but their sensitivity is different. In one person, the sensitivity of the receptors is reduced by 10 times, and in another - normal. Both people see the same thing as a pleasant sight, say a cute cat. This event causes the production of, say, one 10,000 dopamine molecules, i.e. Both dopamine levels are the same. But what is the perception of this event? In this case, the first person has 25% satisfaction, and another - 2.5%.

The first person will focus on how cute the cat is. And the second will think: cute cat. but he has toxoplasmosis and in general he is starving to death on the street. And with each such event, the first person will assume that his day was a success, and the second? The second will, of course, be displeased with the day. Reduced dopamine levels reduce our ability to notice "rewarding" —something positive and increases sensitivity to anxiety, to “threatening.”

Throughout his life, the first person will almost never suffer from dissatisfaction with himself, but he will also have little incentive for personal development. He will be pleased if he is simply full, dressed for the weather, etc. He almost never wants to change something for the better in himself or in life. But this person is not profitable for the consumer society: it is very difficult to force him to buy something and change something.

The second person will surely be dissatisfied with something. He can always strive to fix something for the better, but it will not bring him pleasure. And it is likely that such a person will look for strong stimulants to produce 40,000 dopamine molecules, and he has a high risk of drug addiction.

The second important point is not connected with pleasant moments, but with problems. If the first person fails and his dopamine production drops (say, 20,000 molecules), then he will feel worse by 50%. And this will force him to avoid an unpleasant situation in the future, i.e. learns from mistakes. But the second person feels reduced by only 5%. Those. such a reduction is not enough to draw conclusions.

German neuroscientists have suggested that perhaps a lack of dopamine receptors reduces the ability of people to learn from their mistakes, that is, to draw the right conclusions from negative experiences and not to repeat the actions that led to bad consequences (Klein et al., 2007). In general, the results show that the normal operation of the dopamine systems of the brain is necessary so that a person can effectively learn from his mistakes. Disruption of dopamine neurons (for example, due to the lack of dopamine receptors, as in the carriers of the A1 allele) can lead to ignoring negative experiences. A person simply stops reacting to the negative consequences of his actions and therefore may step on the same rake over and over again. ”

There are several mutations in the dopamine receptor genes. In the case of dependencies, you can take the analysis in order to choose the right treatment tactics for such patients.

Mutation C2137T (Glu713Lys) in the type 2 dopamine receptor gene, DRD2.

This mutation is associated with alcoholism, drug addiction, nicotine addiction, gambling. The A1A1 genotype can lead to a relative reduction in the number of DRD2 receptors, thereby further weakening the response to already reduced amounts of dopamine. The reduction of D2 receptor dopamine, reduces the sensitivity to the effects of negative action, this can be explained by the increased risk of addictive behavior in carriers of the A1 allelic variant.

Studies were conducted related to the study of the relationship of the genotype on the C2137T marker and training based on the processing of feedback incentives — the ability of people to learn to avoid actions with negative consequences was assessed. In the group of carriers of the minor (rarer) allele A1, it was less effective than in the group of carriers of the main allele.

There is also the DRD4 gene associated with the desire for new experiences. A long allele of this gene with increased frequency is found in the families of patients with a hereditary form of alcoholism, and it is associated with a “fashionable” children's diagnosis - attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome. Children with this diagnosis in schools can not sit at their desks. It is curious that this disease is effectively treated without any pills on simulators with feedback. Children are shown a cartoon on a computer screen, and the cartoon looks sharp when they are attentive. Attention is fixed with the help of encephalograms, and the sharpness of the cartoon changes depending on the attention of the children.

Scientists studying "reward deficiency syndrome" (a condition in which the "reward center of the brain" is activated slowly) have an interesting hypothesis about the possible significance of low-density dopamine receptors. It is well known that under normal conditions, dopamine is secreted in the synapse, binds to dopamine receptors, causes euphoria and relieves stress. Lack of reward syndrome is characterized by a decrease in the basal level of dopamine due to insufficient receptor capacity, and this leads to the need for a person to find factors that can cause an increase in the level of dopamine.

If this behavior is long (drug addiction), then it overranges the brain and worsens the situation. For example, experiments with cocaine (which causes a strong release of dopamine).

The effects of cocaine have been studied in rats. In a cocaine-dependent rat, neurons mediating the action of cocaine have more synapses than normal rats. That is, cocaine had the same effect on rats as training. That is, the person or rat who used the drug underwent “training” to react to the drug, and he developed pathological neural connections, which make the experience gained for him easily recoverable, because there are already nervous connections. And other neural connections, which would normally provide him with pleasant sensations from healthy experiences, are weakened due to competitive formation. That is, the use of drugs, especially at an early age, changes the morphology and anatomy of the neurons, the structure of the cerebral cortex, and shifts development from the normal path.

Thus, an external increase in dopamine helps to improve the condition for a short time, but it dulls the sensitivity of dopamine receptors. The more acute the rise of dopamine, the stronger will be its fall after. With constant fluctuations in dopamine, sensitivity to dopamine will decrease.

That is why many people, often invested with power or money, develop schizoid and sadistic behavior. In order to have fun, they are forced to resort to hyperstimuli. For people with normal receptors, these hyperstimuli look wild and disgusting. In principle, hyperstimulation of dopamine receptors is the basis of schizophrenia.

Many aspects of our life are related to dopamine levels. For example, an increase in social status is associated with the density of dopamine D2 / D3 receptors in the striatum — the brain region responsible for reward, motivation, and other behavioral processes in which dopamine plays a decisive role. The results of the study show that people who have achieved a higher social status give greater importance to reward and stimulation, because in their striatum there are more objects that are affected by dopamine. It was found that the low density of dopamine receptors was associated with a low social status, and a high one, respectively, with a higher social status. A similar connection was revealed when our volunteers talked about the support that friends, relatives or someone significant to them provide.

These data interestingly highlight the desire to improve social status as the main social process. It is plausible that people with a higher level of D2 receptors, that is, with higher motivation and involvement in social relations, will achieve greater success and a higher level of social support.

Low levels of D2 / D3 receptors may contribute to the risk of developing alcoholism among people whose relatives already abuse alcohol. People with low density of D2 / D3 receptors tend to have lower social status and less support, and these social factors increase the risk that a person becomes an alcoholic or a drug addict.

The possibility of self-realization is also associated with dopamine receptors. In the absence of demand and the possibility of realizing the individual capabilities of consciousness, a person ceases to receive satisfaction, dopamine neurons remain “hungry,” and a person's mood and level of self-esteem decreases. It turns out that a large number of dopamine receptors can lead to low self-esteem of a person due to lack of dopamine due to the possibility of realization of individual capabilities of consciousness. In the presence of a large number of dopamine receptors, a person should strive more for knowledge, development and the possibility of individual realization, which will more and more reflect reasonableness of behavior. Therefore, for people with a high number of dopamine neurons, boredom and lack of opportunity are simply disastrous.

A few tips on how to restore the sensitivity of dopamine receptors and dopamine levels. I will say in advance that these are only general tips, no one will give a guarantee of 100% recovery. I advise you to do a genetic test in order to properly estimate the amount of work.

Dopamine protocol.

1. Dopamine detox.

Remove all external sources of dopamine: lotteries, smoking, drugs, masturbation, coffee, shopping. Remove all "false" pleasures, leave only natural needs. It takes time and patience. Do not give up everything at once, do it gradually.

Dependencies are hard to get rid of, but this is the first step in bringing back the taste of life. You know that among smokers 40% more depressions. The likelihood of depression in former smokers drops sharply within a few months after quitting smoking. Look at the picture. See how addicts reduce dopamine levels?

Уровень дофамина: как вернуть себе настоящее удовольствие

For example, take smoking. Low levels of dopamine, which is caused by quitting smoking, actually contributes to the recurrence of smoking. Dopamine serves as a chemical signal in the processes of regulation of remuneration and motivation. Recent studies show that one of the main functions of dopamine is to send a signal to the brain to "look for something pleasant." Indeed, dopamine is released in the process of drug use, smoking, sex and eating. Since dopamine is released in response to smoking, it is logical that dopamine levels go out of the norm when a smoker wants to quit smoking. Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine in Texas conducted a study to characterize these changes. They studied mice that were injected with nicotine, the active ingredient in cigarettes, for several weeks. The researchers then canceled nicotine and measured subsequent changes in dopamine brain signaling. They reported that quitting nicotine leads to dopamine deficiency, which goes away with repeated nicotine exposure.

2. Low stress monotone environment.

Go to the boring predictable place (or create yourself this). No news, movies. Make your mini-monastery.

The Arctic explorer was asked: - “How do you determine the time needed to return the polar expedition? ". To which the Arctic explorer answered quite simply: “I have only one woman on the expedition. When recruiting people on an expedition, I choose the ugliest woman I will meet. And if already in the period of the expedition, this woman will seem beautiful to me, then it is time to return to the mainland. ”

3. Cultivate modesty, engage in monotonous monotonous affairs.

Skill to do small things, conceiving and implementing them. Plant a flower bed, drive a nail. For rehabilitation, do not plan cases that take more than two hours. Then, over time, you can increase their duration. Rhythmic monotonous actions help stabilize the drops in neurotransmitters.

4. Techniques of awareness.

Acceptance of negative emotions without twisting the negative spiral. Learning to withstand the senses.

5. Technique of presence in the present moment

Technique of presence in the present moment, to avoid fantasies about the past or the future. The flow of dopamine may increase with just one memory of reward. Just thinking about positive experience can already be a small encouragement. We all love to dream about interesting things for us to cheer yourself up. Even if it’s a negative thought, it’s possible to enjoy the idea of ​​a person’s getting away from the chase, defeating the enemy, solving world problems or coping with personal difficulties (that’s why we love action films, for example). However, some people misuse this method, deliberately over-exalting this reward system, and artificially causing interesting memories and thoughts again and again, because it is in such a way that good mood neuromediators (dopamine and serotonin) are naturally produced, losing self-control.

6. Work with the fear of death

Work with the fear of death (for people without suicidal risk).

7. Cognitive therapy and cognitive improvement of personality.

Cognitive therapy and cognitive improvement of the personality (work on oneself and one’s actions) on the principle of simple algorithms and daily analysis, like keeping a diary: thought, appreciated, reacted, why, what other options.

8. Making a list of "real joys"

Making a list of “real joys” (see the differences between real and false pleasure). Compose and follow the network of small joys.

Уровень дофамина: как вернуть себе настоящее удовольствие

9. Good sleep.

Lack of sleep leads to a sharp decrease in dopamine receptors! But this had nothing to do with changes in the level of the neurotransmitter.

10. To focus in everyday life on the process, not the result.

Persons who, once focused on the possibility of obtaining satisfaction from something, can no longer restructure their behavior until they achieve their own. Traction to pleasure "overlaps" all common sense.