September 29, 2021
The central theses
- Dopamine is at the heart of all addictions.
- We can increase dopamine through behaviors, with quick and lasting results
- "Dopamine is a currency and it's the way you track pleasure, success, whether you're doing well or not."Dr. Andrés Hubermann
- Life experience and motivation or drive depend on how much dopamine you have at any given time
- The ability to experience motivation and joy next is determined by the amount of motivation and joy you experienced in the past.
- Learn how to increase dopamine through exertion: Focusing only on the reward at the end of the effort can undermine the process, making it more painful and time consuming.
- A cold immersion (water temperature depends on cold adaptation) can increase dopamine levels 2.5-fold for prolonged periods of up to three hours after exposure
dr. Andrew Huberman, Ph. D. is a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His laboratory focuses on neural regeneration, neuroplasticity and brain states such as stress, concentration, anxiety and optimal performance.
In this episode of the Huberman Lab, Dr. Huberman investigates dopamine: how to control dopamine levels through lifestyle, what dopamine is and isn't, the neural circuits and biology involved, and much more!
Host: Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab)
What is dopamine?
- Dopamine is the main determinant of how excited we are, how motivated we are, and how willing we are to put in the effort to get what we want.
- Dopamine is a neuromodulator (as opposed to a neurotransmitter), affecting the communication of many neurons at once.
- Dopamine influences motivation, drive, desire and perception of time.
- Two main pathways: (1) limbic mesocortical pathway– responsible for the reward, motivation, desire;(2) Weg nigrotriataler- responsible for the movement
- Dopamine release can be local or generalized.
- Dopamine communicates through G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), so it takes longer for its effects to kick in and actually affect gene expression.
- Neurons that release dopamine also release glutamate.
- Dopamine makes people crave and seek things outside of themselves.
- In Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies, dopamine dies
- Dopamine is not just about pleasure:It is the universal currency of seeking and finding things that provide sustenance and pleasure in the short term and prolong life in the long term.
Tonic levels versus phasic levels of dopamine release
- When you experience or desire something worthwhile, your baseline dopamine levels drop.
- Tonic:low level of dopamine that is always circulating
- Phase:spikes of dopamine are released
- We want to activate different levels of dopamine at different times.
- Drugs and supplements that increase dopamine make it harder to maintain dopamine release over timebecause you are stimulating the local and widespread release of dopamine, increasing both baseline and peak levels to make it short-lived
- The amount of dopamine you experience depends on your baseline dopamine levels when you reach that point compared to your peak dopamine levels.
- When you repeatedly engage in something you enjoy, your baseline dopamine levels rise.
- We all have different base levels of dopamine, with some genetic components.
- Epinephrine and adrenaline are made from dopamine.
Activity increases dopamine levels
- When you eat or do certain things, dopamine levels increase for varying durations.
- Chocolateincreases dopamine by 1.5 times compared to baseline
- Sex(Chase and Act) Increase dopamine 2X over baseline
- Nicotine(by smoking) increases dopamine by 2.5 times compared to baseline
- Cocaineincreases dopamine by 2.5 times compared to baseline
- amphetamineincreases dopamine 10 times over baseline
- Amphetamine and cocaine can limit dopamine, learning and plasticity for a long period of time
- a practiceit depends on how much you enjoy the exercise; if you like it, exercise will increase dopamine 2 times above baseline
- There are subjective experiences that increase dopamine differently based on pleasure versus things like chocolate, sex, nicotine, etc. that increase dopamine in general.
- Pleasure has two faces:(1) Look for euphoria and (2) look for experiences that numb or avoid pain.
- Pleasure and pain are arranged side by side in the brain and act like a scale pointing in the opposite direction.
- We all have a dopamine set point:Ultimately, if we continue to engage in activities that stimulate dopamine, we will not experience the same pleasure from these behaviors.
- pain-pleasure balanceit is based on how much dopamine is present and how much is ready to be released into the system
- When you do something that releases large amounts of dopamine, the pleasure decreases because there isn't enough dopamine to release afterwards.
- Dopamine levels can drop subtly until they reach a low dopamine threshold and we no longer enjoy anything.
Modulation of dopamine levels
- The key is to understand the dopamine spikes and baseline.
- The key is not to expect or chase high levels of dopamine when doing certain activities.
- When we expect something to happen, we are highly motivated to pursue it (eg, play games).
- Intermittent schedules can keep you motivated and engaged:Make sure the dopamine spikes don't happen too often, and vary the amount of dopamine you experience from the activity.
- Whatever activities you choose to continue over time, pay attention to how much dopamine you are getting and modulate accordingly:
- Examples of dopamine modulation:Maybe you're doing something alone that you would normally do in a group so it's a different experience, don't listen to music while working out, if that's one of the reasons you're working out, change your phone's colors to make it less enjoyable , etc
- Avoid using stimulants whenever participating in an activitysuch as Pre-Workout, Adderall, Ritalin, Energy Drink
- Caffeine is OK:Dopamine release is low with caffeine and can increase density, potency, and dopamine receptor upregulation (yerba mate is the best source).
- cold heels(water temperature depends on cold adaptation) can increase dopamine 2.5 times above baseline but persists for up to three hours after exposure
- Dopamine controls the perception of time: when we engage in activities solely for the purpose of reward, time seems longer because we don't release dopamine during the effort, only the reward.
- Access the process reward and associate the release of dopamine with the friction and challenge you find yourself in during the effort, not just when the goal is achieved.– convince yourself that the effort part is the good part (e.g. intermittent fasting)
Prescription and nonprescription drugs used to increase dopamine levels
- Wellbutrin(Medicines for depression) increase dopamine and may increase motivation and desire
- Mucuna Juckreizcontain L-Dopa, which is the precursor of dopamine, but the accident occurs
- L-tyrosineit is an amino acid precursor of L-Dopa; causes an increase in dopamine and may improve concentration, but dosage is difficult to adjust and is followed by collapse
- phenethylamine (PEA)can be used similarly to L-Tyrosine, intermittently to improve focus
- Huperzina Ais a newer nootropic compound that increases neurotransmitters in the brain
- Make social connections that release oxytocinThey have been found to activate the dopamine system.
- Remember that a dopamine crash after a spike is inevitable.