This page has been robot translated, sorry for typos if any. Original content here.

Dopamine level: how to regain true 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 adrenal medulla and other tissues (such as the kidneys), but this hormone hardly penetrates into the subcortex of the brain from the blood. According to the chemical structure, dopamine is classified as catecholamine. Dopamine is a biochemical precursor to norepinephrine (and adrenaline).

Let's imagine two people of the same weight and height. Both have 40,000 dopamine receptors (conditioned) in the brain, but their sensitivity is different. In one person, the sensitivity of receptors is reduced by 10 times, and in another - normal. Both people see the same pleasant sight, say a cute cat. This event triggers the production of, say, one 10.000 dopamine molecules, i.e. both have the same dopamine level. But what is the perception of this event? In this case, the first person has 25% satisfaction, and the other - 2.5%.

The first person will focus on how cute the cat is. And the second will think: the cat is cute. but he has toxoplasmosis and generally he starves to death on the street. And with each such event, the first person will consider that his day was a success, and the second? The second will, of course, be unhappy with the day. Reduced dopamine levels reduce our ability to notice “rewards” —something positive and increase our sensitivity to anxiety, to “threatening”.

Throughout his life, the first person will almost never suffer from dissatisfaction with himself, but he will also have few incentives for personal development. He will be satisfied if he is simply fed up, 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 get him to buy something and change something.

The second person will definitely be dissatisfied with something. He can always strive to fix something for the better, but this will not bring him pleasure. And it is likely that such a person will seek powerful stimulants to develop 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 gets screwed up and his dopamine production drops (say 20,000 molecules), then he will feel worse by 50%. And this will make him avoid an unpleasant situation in the future, i.e. learns from mistakes. But the second person will feel less than 5%. Those. such a decline is clearly not enough to draw conclusions.

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

There are several mutations in the dopamine receptor genes. In the case of addictions, you can take an analysis in order to correctly choose the tactics of therapy 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 levels. The reduction of D2 dopamine receptors reduces sensitivity to the effects of negative effects, this can explain the increased risk of addictive behavior in carriers of the A1 allelic variant.

Studies have been conducted related to the study of the relationship of the genotype by marker C2137T and training based on the processing of feedback stimuli - 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 pursuit of new experiences. The long allele of this gene is found with increased frequency in families of patients with a hereditary form of alcoholism, and it is associated with a “fashionable” childhood diagnosis - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children with such a diagnosis in schools cannot sit at their desks. It is curious that this disease is effectively treated without any pills on feedback simulators. Children are shown a cartoon on a computer screen, and the cartoon looks dramatic when they are alert. Attentiveness is recorded with the help of encephalograms, and depending on the attentiveness of children, the sharpness of the cartoon changes.

Scientists studying the "lack of reward syndrome" (a condition in which the "rewarding center of the brain" is activated slowly) had an interesting hypothesis about the possible value of a low density of dopamine receptors. It is well known that under normal conditions, dopamine is secreted into the synapse, binds to dopamine receptors, causes euphoria and relieves stress. A lack of reward syndrome is characterized by a decrease in basal dopamine levels due to insufficient receptor power, and this leads to the need for a person to search for factors that can cause an increase in dopamine levels.

If such behavior is long-term (addiction), then it overdoes 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 rat with a formed cocaine dependence, neurons mediating the action of cocaine have more synapses than in normal rats. That is, cocaine had the same effect on rats as learning. That is, the person or rat who used the drug underwent “training” to respond to the drug, and he formed pathological neural connections that make his experience easily restored, because there are already nervous connections. And other nervous connections, which would normally provide him with a pleasant sensation from healthy experiences, are weakened due to the competitive formation. That is, the use of drugs, especially at an early age, changes the morphology and anatomy of neurons, the structure of the cerebral cortex, and deviates 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 sharper the rise of dopamine, the stronger its fall after. With constant fluctuations in dopamine, sensitivity to dopamine will decrease.

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

Many aspects of our lives 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 area of ​​the brain 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 reached a higher social status attach more importance to reward and stimulation, since their striped body has more objects that are affected by dopamine. It was found that a low density of dopamine receptors was associated with a low social status, and a high one, respectively, with a higher social status. A similar relationship was revealed when our volunteers talked about the support provided by friends, relatives, or someone significant to them.

These data interestingly illuminate 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 public 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 D2 / D3 receptor densities tend to have lower social status and less support, and these social factors increase the risk of a person becoming an alcoholic or 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 self-esteem decrease. It turns out that a large number of dopamine receptors can lead to low self-esteem of a person due to the lack of dopamine due to the possibility of realizing the individual capabilities of consciousness. In the presence of a large number of dopamine receptors, a person should strive more for cognition, development and the possibility of individual realization, which will increasingly reflect the rationality of behavior. Therefore, for people with a high number of dopamine neurons, boredom and lack of opportunity are simply fatal.

Some tips on how to restore dopamine receptor sensitivity and dopamine levels. I’ll say in advance that these are just general tips; nobody will guarantee a 100% recovery. I advise you to do a genetic test to correctly assess the amount of work.

Dopamine protocol.

1. Dopamine detox.

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

It is difficult to get rid of addictions, but this is the first step in restoring the taste of life. You know that among smokers, 40% more depression. The likelihood of depression in former smokers drops dramatically within a few months after smoking cessation. Look at the picture. See how addictions lower dopamine levels?

Уровень дофамина: как вернуть себе настоящее удовольствие

For example, take smoking. The low dopamine levels that result from quitting smoking actually contribute to smoking cessation. Dopamine serves as a chemical signal in the regulation of reward 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 during drug use, smoking, sex and eating. Since dopamine is released in response to smoking, it is logical that dopamine levels go out of the way 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 injected with nicotine, the active component of cigarettes, for several weeks. The researchers then quit nicotine and measured subsequent changes in the dopamine signaling of the brain. They reported that quitting nicotine leads to a dopamine deficiency that occurs with repeated exposure to nicotine.

2. Low-stress monotonous medium.

To leave for a boring predictable place (or create one for yourself). No news, movies. Make your mini-monastery.

The conqueror of the Arctic was asked: - “How do you determine the time needed to return the polar expedition? ". To which the conqueror of the Arctic quite simply answered: - “I have only one woman on the expedition. When recruiting people on an expedition, I choose the most ugly woman to meet. And if, already during the expedition, this woman seems to me to be a beauty, then the time has come to return to the mainland. ”

3. Cultivate modesty, engage in monotonous monotonous deeds.

The skill to do small things, conceived and implemented 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 differences in neurotransmitters.

4. Awareness techniques.

Accepting negative emotions without twisting the negative spiral. Learning to withstand feelings.

5. Present Technique

The technique of being present in the present is to avoid fantasies about the past or future. The flow of dopamine can increase with just one memory of encouragement. Just thinking about positive experiences can already be a little encouragement. We all love to dream about things that are interesting to us in order to cheer ourselves up. Even if these are thoughts about the negative, it is possible that it gives pleasure to even imagine how a person leaves the chase, defeats the enemy, solves world problems or copes with personal difficulties (that’s why we love action movies, for example). However, some people abuse this method, deliberately overstrain this reward system, and artificially provoke interesting memories and thoughts for them again and again, since neuromediators of good mood (dopamine and serotonin) are naturally produced in this way, 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 personality (work on oneself and one’s actions) according to the principle of simple algorithms and daily analysis, such as keeping diaries: I thought, evaluated, reacted, why, what other options.

8. Making a list of “real joys”

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

Уровень дофамина: как вернуть себе настоящее удовольствие

9. Quality 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. Focus in everyday life on the process, not the result.

Individuals who once focused on the opportunity to get satisfaction from something, can no longer rebuild their behavior until they achieve their goal. Craving for pleasure “blocks” all common sense.