Neurons make up for the building blocks of the human nervous system. These neurons transfer information in electrical signal form using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. These are part of the axon in the neurons. When the signal passes through the cell body of the neuron, it is transferred to the receptor dendrite of the adjacent neuron through the neurotransmitter which gets ejected out and connected to the dendrite. The neurotransmitter bridges the synoptic gap to make the transfer. Once done, the transmitter is retracted for reuse later.
Neurotransmitters are part of the axons found in the neurons. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter generated by the human brain. This neurotransmitter is generated in the brain of many other organisms as well. This is a vital part required for the functioning of the central nervous system and also forms a part of the motivation-reward system operating in the human brain.
Dopamine was classified as a neurotransmitter in the year 1952 in Sweden. This neurotransmitter is a member of the catecholamine family, which also has adrenalin and noradrenalin as its members. Dopamine is a monoamine like others in this family which implies that its chemical structure contains an amino group along with an aromatic ring. This is bio-synthesized by the brain due to the precursor in the body or when the precursor is introduced through medications.
Dopamine has definite functions to play and variation in the levels of dopamine can cause serious medical conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder and Parkinson’s disease. In the former, the individual suffers from difficulty in focusing and in the later, the individual suffers from problems in the functioning of the central nervous system along with uncontrolled movement of the body. Lower levels of dopamine are characterized by shakiness, confusion and weakness. Some psychological disorders can also occur like schizophrenia and psychosis.
The neurotransmitter dopamine is also related to addiction. When drugs are administered to stimulate and hence increase the levels of dopamine, the individual experiences a high. Once the effect of the drug reduces, the levels come down leaving the individual feeling depressed and low. This dependence and seeking out drugs by the brain is termed as creation of addiction.
Dopamine can not be administered for patients directly. The barrier across the blood-brain can be crossed by what are called precursors, which permit synthesis of dopamine by the brain itself. Dopamine levels are altered by precursor administration to treat certain conditions in the body since they act as diuretic and effectively increase the output of the kidney and increase blood pressure.
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- Where Are Neurotransmitters Produced ?
WiseGeek: What Is Dopamine