Dopamine is largely responsible for regulating the pleasure reward pathway, memory and motor control. Its function creates both inhibitory and excitatory action depending on the dopaminergic receptor it binds to. Memory issues are common with both elevations and depressions in dopamine levels. Caffeine and other stimulants, such as medications for ADD/ADHD, often improve focus by increasing dopamine release, although continual stimulation of this release can deplete dopamine over time.
Dopamine is low in:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- anorexia nervosa
- periodic limb movement disorder
- sleep disturbances
- hypoadrenergic orthostatic hypotension
Dopamine improves attention, focus, and motivation, helps with decision making, modulates movement control, promotes lactation, increases blood pressure, urine output and sodium excretion, and allows for feelings of reward and pleasure. Dopamine also serves as the parent precursor to norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Research shows that urinary dopamine levels are elevated in patients with anxiety (Field et al., 2010), increased sodium intake (Gill, Jr. et al., 1991), mercury toxicity (Houston, 2011), primary aldosteronism (Ishiguro, et. al. 1995), post-traumatic stress disorder (Yehuda et al., 1992), and stress (Ghaddar et al., 2014).
Clinically, high dopamine is also associated with hyperactivity, inability to focus, mood swings, poor GI function, psychosis, and sleep disturbances.
Possible treatment options:
Cofactor support with ascorbic acid, magnesium, and SAMe to promote metabolism may be beneficial. Testing for mercury toxicity may be beneficial.
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