Dopamine and Addiction

  • Published1 Jul 2011
  • Reviewed1 Jul 2011
  • Source BrainFacts/SfN

A classic film noir about love, addiction, and dopamine. Learn how drugs affect the brain, as told from the viewpoint of a dopamine-producing cell in the brain’s reward center, the ventral tegmental area. Created by 2011 Brain Awareness Video Contest participants professor Dimitri Kullmann and research technician Alistair Jennings at University College London.



The tale I’m about to tell you is about love – maddening, sickening love. I’m just a simple cell, a neuron working in big old machine they call the brain. I get my input from the neurotransmitters and I send my output through a neurotransmitter called dopamine. I work in the department of rewards, it’s deep in the basement in the office of the VTA, the Ventral Tegmental Area. They give me info about what the big old machine’s been doing and I tell them if it’s something we should be doing or not. They take that advice and they shoot it back upstairs. Well, it was just like any other day. That is…until she came in. She was a drug. And she made me feel so…stimulated. “This girl,” I told the guys upstairs, “she’s good. She’s definitely something we should be doing.” Then, she walked out the door. She left me broken. Well, I wasn’t up to saying nothing to no one. “There was nothing we should be doing,” I said, “except getting that girl back to…” Well, I went crazy. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. Do whatever you got to do, just get that stimulating drug back to me. All my other inputs were like shadows after that. After I felt that rush. I didn’t care about no job no more. I just sent them the same old message. Nothing’s important no more. Just let me see her again. They sent her back to me again, but it wasn’t like the first time. I needed more time. I just wanted to feel that way again. Same way I did the first time. To be so stimulated. Soon, I needed her around all the time. I loved her. I couldn’t stand to be apart from her. Soon, I needed her around all the time just to act normal. Just to get the job done. But I didn’t care about the job no more. I just wanted her. And I made sure that’s what everybody wanted—the whole machine. I tell ‘em what we want to do. And all we want to do is her.

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