Dopamine – knowing less and learning more

From moment to moment during the day our brain wave patterns fluctuates between BETA, Alpha and Theta wave bands without ones conscious control.  Each of these dominant states has associated neurotransmitters/neurochemicals which is experienced as bodily sensations and emotions.  Thus our brain chemistry and our brain waves go together.

Dopamine is one of these neurotransmitters synthesized by a very small group of neurons in the brain stem and is the neurotransmitter linked to novelty seeking, desire and reward.  EEGs show a spike in brain activity (13 HZ- 16HZ) or (gamma – low beta) which is accompanied by the release of dopamine (in the frontal lobes) when there is a though process of “curiosity” taking place.    However, since the brain is efficient and takes short cuts on what it already knows as soon as the new solution, insight or experience  becomes  familiar it is “categorized” by the brain as “business as usual” with a resulting smaller electro – chemical  reaction.  So the feel good factor diminishes as you become used to the experience, approach, solution or situation.

So to ensure that the brain keeps finding novel solutions and to be vigilant regarding “categorization” novel experiences need to be cultivated.  This can be done by confronting the perceptual system with people, places and things it has not seen before.  However to experience it as a “feel good encounter” where dopamine production is stimulated the mind must be calmed and relaxed.  The moment one experiences a hyper focused state with accompanying feelings of agitation and irritation, the dopamine has been converted into adrenalin and this process cannot be reversed.  The innovative thought will be turned in to  narrow “black and white” thinking.

To conclude to try and motivate oneself through stress (e.g. adrenaline), one really need to think again.  This is like shooting yourself in the foot while trying to run.  The brain needs the slow electrical frequencies and the chemicals associated with relaxation to perform really high-level intellectual functions like finding innovative solutions.  It’s all about relaxation by knowing less and learning more – curiosity, mystery, experimentation, surprise, amazement, wonder, reflection contemplation, information, knowledge, insight, inspiration, discovery, puzzles, solutions, mental challenge and intellectual mastery, stimulate the brain to produce dopamine, a  wonder-full antidepressant.


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Ratey, J., (2001). A user’s guide to the Brain. New York. Pantheon Books.

Rock, D., (2009) . Your Brain at Work. New York. Harper Collins Publishers.