However, nowhere does this article speak about the efficacy of this pop science reduction. Perhaps it is human nature to try to solve complex issues by reducing the problem to something that can be explained to a lay person, even if such explanations are incorrect.
Personally, as someone who struggles with gambling addiction, thinking about dopamine in this “incorrect” pop science way has been incredibly useful as a tool to help me understand irrational decision making, even if such explanations are far more complex.
While we do need to guard against pop science reducing complex behaviours to singular causes, I am far more interested in whether it works or not. From listening to many personal addiction stories and hearing from clinicians, this simplified understanding of dopamine seems to be of major help to many recovering addicts.
Not a neuroscientist - but I think what irks me about the common pop-science explanations is that they use those terms to establish a boundary between desirable and undesirable behaviours - but do so in a way that feels sort of arbitrary and dishonest.
I think when describing desirable behaviours or activities, we tend to use a more "cognitive" vocabulary that emphasizes a person as a thinking individual, capable of freely making decisions: Thoughts, feelings, memories, motivations, the self, etc.
Whereas when describing unwanted or unhealthy behaviours, we use biological or neurological vocabulary: Hormones, neurotransmitters, neural pathways, dopamine, opioids, the brain etc. 
This can create an impression as if those two sets of concepts belonged to completely separate worlds - where one is strongly associated with desirable effects and the other with undesirable ones. This seems very odd as both are simply different perspectives on the same thing after all.
It's sort of as if some highly nontechnical person was really fond of their car - as a magical device that lets them travel quickly and impress others - but believed we'd all be better off without batteries, fuel pumps or catalytic converters as those seem to cause nothing but trouble.
 The two big exceptions I can think of are advertising (where unhealthy behaviours are described using the cognitive vocabulary) and research on animals (where any kind of animal behaviour is described using the biological vocabulary).
The fact that the concept "dopamine" shares a name with a neurotransmitter is imho not that relevant and will over time just turn into an etymological curiosity. It would be better if it was named less confusingly, but that's not how language works.
> Why does this matter? Can’t this just be chalked up to lack of media sophistication, and pop psychology misunderstanding the nuance? In fact, when people such as Simon Sinek, the author and consultant whose viral video blames dopamine for millennial's problems bring up neuroscience, they are using a clever strategy to manipulate us. Mr. Sinek is not a neuroscientist, and has not studied or researched the complexity of this aspect of our brain. But, he knows something you don’t: mentioning neuroscience is a great way to convince people you are more knowledgeable about something, and to make your arguments more convincing. This effect was recently demonstrated by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, who showed that use of irrelevant references to brain science was an effective way to lure people into thinking that complex phenomena are simple, and easily explained by, well, the brain.
> People’s problems are never simple. And when a person does a thing over and over, even when the behavior is causing problems, there are a great many complex reasons behind that behavior. When we offer the reductively simple answer of “because dopamine,” it distracts us from the person. It is the person who learns, and dopamine is merely a factor, one factor among many, in the learning. When we encourage people who are watching too much porn, using the cell phone while driving, or looking at Facebook every two minutes, to blame their problems on dopamine, we teach them to externalize the problem, and blame it on dopamine. Instead, if we focus on the learning, and the salience aspects of these process, it helps us to draw people’s attention back to their own behaviors, their own motivations, and the meaning that they (and their religious or social background) have given to this behavior or experience. It helps us to put people back in the driver’s seat of their life. So please, let’s start talking about people, rather than irrelevant neurochemicals.
I can imagine that remembering that your brain chemistry is part of what causes the compulsion is helpful because it takes some pressure off seeing the addiction as a character flaw.
But beyond just being a synonym for ‘brain chemistry’, can you say what the concept of ‘dopamine’ is doing for you?
You may be confusing theory with practical considerations.
Human beings desire to know the truth, at least by nature. What you're describing is an inaccurate, even false belief that happens to make it easier to cope with something by making something an easy scapegoat. It allows you to blame something perceived as external and impersonal which allows you to put some distance between you and the urge.
There's nothing special about calling this thing "dopamine". Classically, the passions are bodily urges that could be out of whack in some way (either excessive or insufficient or inappropriate), often through habituation or lack thereof, but possibly also made more likely through temperament. Failing to satisfy an excessive or inappropriate urge won't kill you (satisfaction might), and knowing that already grants you power over it because its urgency is now seen as a kind of bluff.
> Perhaps it is human nature to try to solve complex issues by reducing the problem to something that can be explained to a lay person, even if such explanations are incorrect.
Reductionism destroys the truth by eliminating everything it cannot explain and by representing what remains in terms of some desired language. It is a rationalization through preconception rather than explanation.
Particularly when it laughs off the entire concept of individuals feeling their own dopamine levels before describing a series of commonly prescribed drugs to inhibit or encourage it... The author can't imagine people noticing the effects of their own psychs?
I agree the article wasn't great, but that line was clearly saying that the subjective experience of "feeling a dopamine rush" isn't at all evidence of a dopamine rush, since we have no idea what the individual neurotransmitters feel like in our brain (unless we've been somehow trained to recognize them, perhaps, through very controlled experiments with dopamine inhibitors).
Saying "oh I know dopamine must be important because I can feel it" is, indeed, absurd.
We can feel a rush. We can feel desire. We can feel satiation. And perhaps we have been told that these things relate to dopamine. So now we say we can feel dopamine. This doesn't add more evidence that it is dopamine.
As far as the other three things (caffeine, sugar, adrenaline) I think the argument is we have a better understanding and direct experience of those vs. dopamine. You can drink a cup of coffee and feel obviously caffeinated day-and-night difference from pre-coffee, but you cannot drink a cup of XYZ and feel obviously dopamined.
There are definitely some obvious commonalities among the feelings produced by dopaminergic drugs as well which are similar to the feelings I naturally experience when working on a big project.
Indeed, but I guess what I'm saying is that the feeling you experience isn't further evidence that it's serotonin.
Your connection between the feeling and it being serotonin is purely based on the studies that have been done. Those studies are the evidence. The qualitative feeling we get doesn't add to the body of evidence.
That is what the original author was arguing against. People arguing with her online saying "I feel a dopamine rush, therefore it's dopamine that I'm experiencing. You can't tell me it's some other neurotransmitter."
FWIW the best way to get a feeling for what serotonin feels like is doing MDMA since it dumps massive amounts of serotonin out. It dumps plenty of dopamine too - it wouldn't be nearly as fun without that - but the unique "rolly" feeling is very attributable to serotonin.
Not advising people take MDMA just to figure out what serotonin feels like, but for those who have it's very helpful to sort of "recognize" what different neurotransmitters feel like
Adrenaline is one that is more common for me, and impossible to mistake. I can literally taste it.
The distinction here I think is that adrenaline is equivocal and really is just synonymous with "rush" because we've attributed the rush to adrenaline. But it could be another example of the same error and thus something we ought not, strictly speaking, say if our aim is to be accurate.
I also don't think the way "dopamine" is used is quite the same as "adrenaline". The former feels like it's being used in a more technical and explanatory way.
Strange way to conclude an article that has quite successfully argued the relevance of dopamine in addiction. It's good to point out how reductive the dopamine narrative is, but overly reductive is not the same as completely false.
I also disagree with the idea that pinpointing a neurological mechanism for a problem amounts to externalizing the problem. Maybe because the author is a psychologist, and not a neurologist, that they cling to this mind/body divide...
I read it as "pinpointing a simpler reason to explain an often more complicated problem". It's easier to say "it's a dopamine rush" than "I'm on Facebook all day because I'm an insecure person and it's makes me feel bad and I don't know what else to do about it" (to mention a non-personal example).
An addiction has for sure its chemical reasons, but limiting to only that when dealing with it, it's reductive (my wife is a Psycologist and I heard arguments like these many times already....).
Right, the point I got from this, particularly from all the examples pulled from pop science, is that folks are focusing on a reduced/mischaracterized biological mechanism instead of on the associated social behaviors. The social behaviors are the things we can (theoretically at least) actually change. Perhaps the author means to express that we should focus on whatever human behavior we think it problematic instead of "blaming" a component of the mechanism.
Beyond that, an excuse is an excuse. "I doomscroll on FB all day because I'm insecure and I was abused as a child" (to use a personal example) can become just as much of an excuse as "I get a dopamine hit from connecting with my friends on FB." Sounds awkward when you first hear that, but then you keep hearing it, and it becomes normal.
All behavioral processes manifest biochemically in the brain, regardless of the complexity of the cause. It would be magical if it didn't. If the local lead company pours lead into the drinking water every single affected person has extreme levels of lead in the brain. Yet, the correct conclusion is not to blame 'lead-brains' but the ultimate cause of the pollution.
The same thing is true for dopamine and Facebook. Even if the entire explanation was as simple as 'dopamine turns you into a facebook zombie', dopamine is not actual root cause at the level of behavior (that would be the incentive design of the social platform), dopamine is just a proximate agent.
people who buy into these simplistic explanations are actually the ones who engage in a body / mind fallacy. Anything that impacts behavior, regardless of how remote in nature, manifests in the brain, precisely because you are your brain, not despite of it.
Sure, perhaps some people use it to manipulate and sound credible. I've personally never taken "dopamine hit" to be interpreted literally, it's kind of a figure of speech or catchphrase to point to the complex interactions of various chemicals and hormones the doctor is referring to.
For example he noted one group saying "dopamine squirt", I doubt they think the brain is literally "squirting" anything.
Here's a reference on dopamine wrt reward prediction error: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.0024...
And here's one that kind of builds on that theory and proposes a sensory prediction error. Haven't read this paper yet: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2018.164...
Anyway as far as the article itself, the point that dopamine is oversimplified is very important but I felt the author did a frankly terrible job making that point. And they tied in a bunch of irrelevant stuff ("dopamine is a vasoconstrictor"...true but it's a bit of an implicit strawman to act as if the people talking about dopamine addiction think that its ONLY purpose is as a reward chemical)
"Dopamine, Smartphones and You: A battle for your time"
But these movements and discussion groups get the intention and method right - much of modern economies is encouraging compulsive habits in one group of people by another for economic gain. Much of human progress is around getting us the things we want as easily and as without-resistance as possible. This is catastrophic for our sense of individual purpose and direction, but policy isn't set by something so unempirical
It can function as a vasopressor in hypertensive patients, but needs very close monitoring (which is why it is usually administered in the ICU only)
I think you meant hypotensive.
We can just call things “pleasurable” instead of posing as if we know anything about neurotransmitters. (Not to offend the inevitable handful of actual neuroscientists that happen to be browsing this thread on Hacker News—carry on.)
 I have nothing to say about whether this is close to the truth or not.
> Dopamine is connected to rewarding experiences, but not in that it makes you feel good. On Twitter recently, a man challenged me saying that pornography “gives me a palpable dopamine rush after he abstains for a few days.” I replied that this was fascinating, and he must be a thoroughly unique and superhuman person, to be able to detect and discriminate the experience of different neurochemicals.
We can call everything pleasurable, but then out language will loose expressivity people apparently want.
They're right, but who needs to know that their magic feather is just a metaphor? Most of them are.
Nordrenergic Locus Coeruleus,
Serotonergic Raphe Nuclei,
Dopaminergic Substantia Nigra & Ventral tegmental Area, and
Cholinergic Basal Forebrain & Brain stem complexes
These are the 4 pathways.
Only way to fix dopamine is to regulate the other systems and downregulate D receptors. This can be done through a sustained increase in cardiac rate. RUNNING NEARLY FIXES EVERYTHING and diet. Use flux or some screen dimming program so the blue light doesn't screw with your circadian rythmns.
Note dopamine hyperregulation leads to changes in muscarinic M receptors present on the heart.
SOURCE: Iam a medical scientist. Have a major in neuropathophysiology.
Case in point: how can we possibly describe quitting cold turkey in a chemical framework? People do it all the time, yet it seems to be more of an act of moral courage than of basic, biologically driven behavior.
An insidious side effect of brain chemical teleology is that it victimizes us in an unnecessarily deterministic manner. “You can hardly help yourself, see, your brain is literally working against you by producing evil chemicals in insufficient/inappropriate quantities. Take $x mi drug to correct yourself!”
Instead of simplified and erroneous medical speak we might as well talk of the cold-turkey-quitter as having cast off a demon from their soul. At least in that framework the individual retains agency.
All behavior is biologically driven. There is zero evidence of nefarious outside forces.
Er. So. Like artificial neural nets for example?
In my case, it feels to me that dopamine is closely related to various feedback systems that the human brain and body use to modulate and control everything from limb movement to attention to blood pressure.
Eek, I have totally done this at a tech conference. But I try to do my hw first...
 - https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/09/05/book-review-surfing-un...