Why does passionate love turn into disinterest? Why do we get obsessed with what we want and get bored when we get it? For what reason do we live attached to social networks? What causes some people to be staunch liberals and others to be extreme conservatives? How do we keep hope in the dark times?
The answer to these and other puzzling questions lies in dopamine, a chemical in our brain, says Dr. Daniel Z. Lieberman who dedicated his latest book, “Dopamine” (‘The Molecule of More’, in its English version) to “this molecule that determines every aspect of human nature”, as highlighted.
Lieberman (www.danielzlieberman.com) is Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University (Washington DC, USA) and Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
For the neuroscientist David Eagleman of Stanford University (California, USA) “dopamine is the molecule that dominates the world”, predominantly influencing countless human facets, from pleasure, euphoria and love, to addictions , madness and creativity.
Lieberman agrees with Eagleman, adding that dopamine “motivates us to improve ourselves, and influences how we behave in love, business, politics or religion.”
He explains that researcher Kathleen Montagu, from Runwell Hospital, near London, discovered dopamine in the brain in 1957. It was found that only 0.0005% of brain cells secrete this neurotransmitter, which was dubbed ‘the pleasure ‘as a result of the first investigations that were carried out.
But later it was discovered that dopamine provides a much more influential sensation than pleasure.
“Their knowledge is the key to explain, and even predict, behavior in an impressive range of human activities: creating art, literature and music; seek success; discover new worlds and new laws of nature; think about God … and fall in love, “says Lieberman.
“Dopamine is the substance that allowed our ancestors to survive. Today, it is responsible for our behavior, addictions and human progress. The ‘molecule’ of desire controls our impulses and the one that encourages us to always seek new stimuli, ”he says.
“Also, it is the cause of an ambitious executive or worker sacrificing everything in pursuit of success; that a husband or a wife risk everything to be deluded by another person or that actors, businessmen and artists continue working long after getting all the money and fame they had dreamed of, “he points out.
She adding that “it is the source of the desire that leads scientists to find explanations and philosophers to find order, reason and the meaning of things.”
This brain substance helps us to interact “in the world above”, according to Lieberman, who adds that, when “we look up we see the ceiling, pictures on the wall, trees, houses, buildings, clouds in the sky through the window and to achieve those things we have to plan, think, calculate and make some coordinated effort ”.
“When you pay attention to the ‘world above’, the brain is assisted by a different chemical substance, which allows you to move beyond the range at your fingertips and which also motivates you to pursue, control and possess the world that is out of your immediate reach, ”says Lieberman.
Dopamine is simple in its form (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and a nitrogen atom) “but complex in the result, since it tells us the history of human behavior,” he describes.
“That ‘unique’ molecule drives you to look for things that are far away, both physical and those you can’t see, like knowledge, love and power,” according to Lieberman.
“Whether reaching out to reach the salt shaker on the table, traveling to the Moon in a spaceship or worshiping a god beyond space and time, this chemical allows us to master all distances, both geographical and intellectual”, aim.
“The so-called” upstairs “chemical makes you want what you don’t have yet and prompts you to look for new things. It rewards you when you obey it and makes you suffer if you don’t, ”he continues.
“It is the source of creativity but also of madness; it is the key to addiction and the path to recovery. It is the fuel for the engine of our dreams, and the source of our despair when we fail, ”he says.
Adding that, in the brain, this molecule “is a polyvalent mechanism, which urges us, through thousands of neurochemical processes, to leave behind the pleasure of mere existence and explore the universe of possibilities.