Difference Between Dopamine and Serotonin is that Have you ever stopped to think about how our brain works? It is impressive to note that the small substances found in our brain are responsible for our actions and our well-being.
Dopamine and serotonin are two of the many neurotransmitters found in our nervous system. Dopamine has been recognized as the neurotransmitter of pleasure, while serotonin is associated with the hormone of happiness.
These two small neurotransmitters have numerous functions in our body. Do you want to know what they are? Then, keep reading this online Psychology article, where we will explain the differences between dopamine and serotonin, what they are and what functions they have.
What is dopamine?
The dopamine is a chemical carrier in our central nervous system is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters have the function of connecting neurons to each other so that electrical signals can be transmitted. Dopamine is released by dopaminergic neurons, being synthesized by the amino acid tyrosine. It is found mainly in the black substance of the brain and, from this starting point, it is released by the different pathways that will activate certain functions.
This neurotransmitter activates five cellular receptors (from D1 to D5) and its activation gives rise to the different functions of dopamine in our body. Although it is generally known as the neurotransmitter linked to feelings of pleasure and as an activator of reward systems, it has been greatly implicated in the overall functioning of the brain, having an implication in emotional, cognitive and affective processes. In addition to being linked to the feeling of pleasure, among its functions, we also find involvement in motivation, coordination of movements, decision making, learning, emotionality, and affectivity.
What functions does dopamine have?
Dopamine is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain and, therefore, is involved in several functions. Its involvement in multiple functions is due to the fact that this neurotransmitter is distributed throughout the different brain regions, allowing its action in multiple functions with very different activities, such as:
- The movement: dopamine is involved in the production of motor movements and therefore, the optimal levels of this substance are necessary for motor functioning. A deficit of dopamine in the basal ganglia, which allows movement, would reveal Parkinson’s disease, as well as hyperactivity of dopamine, which could cause hyperkinetic disorders, such as nerve tics.
- Cognitive processes (memory, attention, and learning): the presence of this substance in the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex produces an implication in memory, attention, and learning. That is why in the face of a deficit of dopamine in our body, the person may experience a deterioration in memory, attention and learning processes. It is known that people with an attention deficit disorder maintain lower levels of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex.
- Feeling of pleasure: obtaining pleasure or reward may be the most commonly known function of this substance. Dopamine is also secreted by the limbic system, which allows feelings of pleasure to be experienced. When we do an activity that we like, there is an increase in the release of dopamine, which produces that we get feelings of pleasure and reward. Similarly, there are substances such as drugs or food and actions such as sex, which increase the secretion of dopamine and therefore, abuse of these is done. Some drugs as cocaine or amphetamines inhibit the body’s function on the re-absorption of dopamine, thereby leading to a higher concentration of dopamine in our body, causing more sensation of pleasure and a growing possibility of addiction.
- Decision making: high amounts of dopamine are found in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for executive functions. For this reason, a deficit of the substance in this region produces a cognitive flattening, as happens in schizophrenia, where the person loses the ability to react to external inputs, generating great difficulties in decision making.
- Sleep regulation: Dopamine is responsible for telling us that we are sleepy when we have not slept for hours, due to its involvement in the circadian rhythm, with the release of melatonin. For this reason, it is involved in the regulation of sleep.
What is serotonin?
The serotonin to the like dopamine, a neurotransmitter nervous system, chemically known as 5-HT, which is located primarily in the brain, intestines and blood platelets.
This hormone is commonly known as the happiness hormone, due to its involvement in emotions and mood, so that along with other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and adrenaline, regulates our mood. However, it has also been implicated in appetite control, as a precursor of melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle and intervenes in libido and sexual desire, among other functions.
Like dopamine, serotonin is found in different regions of our brain, thereby causing its involvement in different, very different actions. For this reason, it is very important to maintain adequate and balanced levels of this hormone in our body. Let’s see what are its most representative functions:
- Implication indigestion: high amounts of serotonin are found in the stomach and intestine, which causes it to be involved in the control of bowel function and its movements. Elevated levels of this hormone in the intestine are related to the occurrence of diarrhea, while its deficit is linked to constipation. Its activity in this region of the organism also relates it to the increase or decrease in appetite.
- Mood regulation: Serotonin is known as the happiness hormone because it affects mood, the appearance of anxiety and happiness. For this reason, low levels of serotonin have been linked to the onset of depression and illegal drugs that increase their levels, such as ecstasy or LSD, cause a change in mood. In this article, you can see the relationship between serotonin and depression.
- Sexual function: serotonin has a great implication in sexual desire. In the face of low levels of serotonin, there is an increase in desire, while high levels are associated with its inhibition.
- Sleep regulation: like dopamine, this hormone fulfills its function in the regulation of sleep, due to its involvement in the circadian rhythm and control over the secretion of melatonin.
- Body temperature: serotonin helps regulate our body temperature, performing maintenance functions on temperature. This function is very important because the variation of a few degrees of our body temperature can lead to the death of many cellular tissues of our body.
Dopamine and serotonin: differences
Serotonin and dopamine, as neurotransmitters found in our body, have a very important role in our wellbeing and although they can maintain similar functions, there are several differences that are found between the two:
1. The production
The first difference that must be established between both neurotransmitters is their synthesis. Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan, while dopamine is synthesized from tyrosine.
2. Emotional states
Dopamine plays an important role in energetic emotions, such as motivation, pleasure, excitement or euphoria, while serotonin plays in the opposite role, producing feelings of calm, so a deficit of this hormone is related to the Appearance of anxiety and depression.
3. Pleasure and happiness
Although the presence of these two neurotransmitters in our body gives off positive sensations, dopamine has been associated with feelings of pleasure, while serotonin has been linked to happiness.
4. Low levels
There are differences between the two in the consequences that can be seen in our organism due to a deficit of these substances. Faced with a deficit of dopamine there are alterations in memory, learning, and concentration, movement and inhibition of sexual desire. While serotonergic deficits cause irritability, insomnia and high sensitivity to pain.
5. Body function
Although it has been pointed out that the two neurotransmitters have an implication in body movements, the dopamine deficit has been clearly related to the appearance of stiffness in the extremities or the appearance of Parkinson’s disease, while the role of serotonin in the body movement has not been defined.
This article is purely informative, in Psychology-Online we have no power to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to discuss your particular case.
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