AUG 24, 2021 4:44 AM PDT

Consciousness is so dop(amine)! Researchers show dopamine plays a key role in consciousness

WRITTEN BY: Mia Wood

In Notes from the Underground, Dostoyevsky’s unnamed narrator declares, “to be too conscious is an illness.” According to study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, however, the so-called pleasure chemical, dopamine, is apparently linked to consciousness. So, why isn’t consciousness like a never-ending ice cream cone?

Well, for one thing, consciousness is complicated. There is no single physiological essence of consciousness. Instead, it’s a symphony of various orchestrations between regions of the brain, cells, neurochemicals, electrical activity, and maybe even quantum physics. That said, perhaps Dostoyevsky’s so-called Underground Man’s ‘illness’ — various consciousness disorders — can be better understood by studying dopamine. For example, researchers found that minimal consciousness is attended by impaired dopamine release, and that, in small-scale studies, patients’ consciousness improves with dopamine antagonists.

The ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain is the source of dopamine. In both healthy people under anesthesia and those with consciousness disorders, VTA function is impaired. In the former group, normal VTA function was restored after sedation withdrawal. An additional source of dopamine disfunction was found in the default mode network, those regions of the brain associated with self-consciousness and inward directed thought. Taken together, these findings suggest dopamine plays a crucial role in consciousness.

Sources: The ConversationProceedings of the National Academies of SciencePhysics WorldPubMed.orgFrontiers in NeurologyNature Reviews, Neuroscience

About the Author
  • I am a philosophy professor and writer with a broad range of research interests.
You May Also Like
SEP 30, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Stick-on Diagnostic Patch Inspired by Beetles
SEP 30, 2021
Stick-on Diagnostic Patch Inspired by Beetles
Schematic illustration of the adhesive patch with diving beetle–inspired suction chambers against rough and wet hu ...
SEP 27, 2021
Cancer
Inflammation Promotes Pancreatic Cancer Progression
SEP 27, 2021
Inflammation Promotes Pancreatic Cancer Progression
Inflammation occurs when the immune response, including immune cells and mediators they produce, protect you from danger ...
SEP 30, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Concerning New Evidence Regarding Cannabis Use During Pregnancy
SEP 30, 2021
Concerning New Evidence Regarding Cannabis Use During Pregnancy
According to data from a National Vital Statistics Report published in March 2021, the percentage of infants born with a ...
OCT 03, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Tumor-Suppressor Gene Plays a Role in the Circadian Rhythm
OCT 03, 2021
A Tumor-Suppressor Gene Plays a Role in the Circadian Rhythm
Organisms follow the cycle of the day, even at the cellular level, creating an internal clock. Humans' biology will ...
OCT 03, 2021
Health & Medicine
Why Did a Town Start Putting People on Trial for Witchcraft?
OCT 03, 2021
Why Did a Town Start Putting People on Trial for Witchcraft?
In early 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris began to writhe, roar, contort, ...
OCT 09, 2021
Health & Medicine
Akathisia Awareness: A Closer Look
OCT 09, 2021
Akathisia Awareness: A Closer Look
Content warning: this article talks in-depth about suicide and self-harm. September was Suicide Prevention Month, but ju ...
Loading Comments...