Happy Brain Chemicals: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin

The brain chemicals that make us feel good are inherited from earlier mammals. They evolved to do a job, not to make you feel good all the time. When you know their job in the state of nature, your ups and downs make sense. More important, you can rewire yourself to enjoy more dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphin in sustainable ways. You can reduce cortisol too!

It’s not easy, alas. Happy chemicals only flow when you take steps that promote survival. But our brain defines survival in a quirky way: it cares about the survival of your genes, and it relies on neural pathways built in youth. To make life harder still, happy chemicals are quickly metabolized, and our brain habituates to the rewards it has. So you always have to do more to get more happy chemicals. That’s why we often have a treadmill feeling. It’s not easy being mammal!

When you know how your brain works, you can find healthier ways to enjoy happy chemicals and relieve unhappy chemicals. You can build new neural pathways by feeding your brain new experiences. But you have to design the new experience carefully and repeat it a lot!

The Inner Mammal Institute has free resources to help you make peace with your inner mammal: videos, blogs, infographics, and podcasts. Dr. Breuning’s many books illuminate the big picture and help you plot your course. You can feel good in new ways, no matter where you are right now.

Why We LOVE Binge Watching And What It Does To Your BRAIN

How many shows have you binge watched? Binge watching has been made easier than ever with streaming sites such as Netflix and Hulu making it impossible to not consume content by the season. We end up spending hours and hours watching seasons of a show. We can’t seem to wait for the next episode on a weekly basis anymore, we need to watch all of it right away. But why do we like binge watching so much? And with the current generation doing it regularly, we need to ask – what does it do to our brain? And more importantly, how bad is it for our health?

What is the principle of similarity?

The principle of similarity simply states that when items share some visual characteristic, they are assumed to be related in some way. The items don’t need to be identical, but simply share at least one visible trait such as color, shape, or size to be perceived as part of the same group.

What is the similarity effect?

The similarity-attraction effect refers to the widespread tendency of people to be attracted to others who are similar to themselves in important respects. Attraction means not strictly physical attraction but, rather, liking for or wanting to be around the person.

2-Minute Neuroscience: Dopamine

Dopamine is a monoamine and catecholamine neurotransmitter with many functions in the nervous system ranging from movement to lactation. In this video, I discuss dopamine synthesis, areas of the brain where dopamine neurons are concentrated, dopamine pathways, dopamine receptors, and dopamine functions.


Welcome to 2-minute neuroscience, where I explain neuroscience topics in 2 minutes or less. In this installment I will discuss dopamine.

Dopamine is a monoamine neurotransmitter, a term that refers to its chemical structure and the fact that it is derived from an amino acid. Dopamine is also a catecholamine, a term that also refers to its chemical structure and the fact that it contains a catechol nucleus. To synthesize dopamine, the amino acid tyrosine is converted to L-dopa. Then L-DOPA is decarboxylated to form dopamine.

There are several areas of the brain where dopamine neurons are concentrated. The largest are the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area in the midbrain. Other areas include the hypothalamus, olfactory bulb, and retina.

There are several major dopamine pathways that carry dopamine from these areas of concentration to other parts of the brain. Some of the largest are the mesostriatal or nigrostriatal pathway, which stretches from the substantia nigra to the striatum, the mesolimbic pathway, which stretches from the ventral tegmental area to the nucleus accumbens and other limbic structures, and the mesocortical pathway, which stretches from the ventral tegmental area throughout the cerebral cortex.

Dopamine acts at G-protein coupled receptors and there are at least 5 subtypes of the dopamine receptor. Dopamine is removed from the synaptic cleft by a transporter protein called the dopamine transporter.

Like any neurotransmitter, the functions of dopamine are complex, and can’t be fully explained with just a short summary. Dopamine is linked to movement due to disorders like Parkinson’s disease that involve dopamine deficiencies. It is also often associated with the processing of rewarding experiences. However, dopamine also plays a role in many other functions.


Kandel ER, Schwartz JH, Jessell TM 2000. Principles of Neural Science. 5th ed. New York. McGraw-Hill; 2013.

Caption author (Arabic) Shwan Hameed

Discover your happy brain power in seconds! Help others discover their power over their dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphin. Here’s a fun way to start making peace with your inner mammal. The Inner Mammal Institute has free resources to help you build your power over your mammal brain: videos, blogs, podcasts, infographics, and a training program: https://innermammalinstitute.org​ The big picture is explained in Dr. Breuning’s books, starting with: Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain your brain to boost your serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin levels https://www.amazon.com/dp/1440590508​ (Availalbe in Spanish, Russian, French, German and Turkish.)

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