Archive for April, 2014

Apr
29

We’re all Dopamine Junkies

Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter that plays a pivotal role in controlling arousal. It is associated with reward and a person can be induced to a heightened state of arousal when they know that they are going to receive a reward for doing something. Much like a dog looks forward to getting a treat for doing the right thing. It is strongly associated with activity within the hippocampus in the formation and retrieval of memory. I guess when you put these few things together you can see why rewarding a young child for positive behaviour is such a powerful tool: they do the right thing once, they get rewarded, they have an increase in dopamine, they want to be rewarded again, so they do the right thing again to get the reward and are aware they will get the reward so therefore are in a heightened state of arousal when performing that activity. This brings focussed attention to the task, which is another effect of dopamine on the pre-frontal and frontal cortex. The child experiences this cycle for while the task is novel, that is, they are still learning the task, and therefore dopamine is still being produced. As dopamine is involved in the experiencing of pleasure, this is probably why young children appear to be exuberant when at play. Play is implicated in the release of dopamine and from my understanding now of the different effects of dopamine on the brain and therefore behaviour, I conclude that young children are actually dopamine junkies.