Dopamine is one of our major catecholaminergic neurotransmitters and plays a number of roles in physical, cognitive and behavioral functioning. While dopamine is mainly produced in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the midbrain, the substantia nigra pars compacta, and the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus- there are also abundant quantities of dopamine-specific receptors found throughout the central nervous system . In turn, dopamine confers its influence over various processes based on which neural regions are receiving the neurochemical in a neurotransmission cycle .
- Dopamine is often referenced for its central chemical role in pleasure and reward processing through its neurotransmission in the substantia nigra. While this region-specific mechanism certainly modulates our reward response, it also coordinates these neural translations of positive reinforcement with the action in the prefrontal cortex resulting in a significant influence on attention, learning, and memory .
- In relation to physical movement, dopamine is believed to promote its influence through the basal ganglia- an important brain structural for physical movement and coordination . This influence is belief to function through a dopamine-induced increase in activity in the basal ganglia's communication with the rest of the central nervous system .
- Dopaminergic imbalances have been linked to several behavioral and physical disorders. Parkinson's disease and drug addiction are some of the examples of problems associated with abnormal dopamine levels .
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