Following are my notes from Andrew Huberman’s podcast on dopamine

Podcast →

Books → Dopamine Nation, Molecule of More

Food→ Yerba Mate, coffee, maca root

When you experience something really desirable and pleasurable, it reduces the baseline level of dopamine. Hence, sudden peaks of dopamine feels good in the short term, but is not good in the long term.

  1. Taking supplements/drugs will give you short-lived peaks in dopamine, but it’ll hurt long term happiness
  2. So, focus on increasing your peak to baseline ratio
  3. Learn to derive pleasure from effort

Biology of Dopamine

  1. Tonic and phasic release of dopamine

    1. Tonic → baseline level of dopamine that is released in the body all the time
    2. Phasic → Peaks that ride above the baseline
  2. Dopamine is a neuromodulator

    1. Neurotransmitter → local communication b/w 2 neurons ( synaptic release)
    2. Neuromodulator → influences communication among a bunch of neurons ( volumetric release)
    3. Since it influences not just 2, but a bunch of neurons, it can affect activity/inactivity of certain subsystems of the brain.
  3. How does dopamine affect the body?

    1. Responsible for motivation, drive or craving, time perception, movement
  4. How does dopamine work?

    1. Dopamine follows these 2 pathways in the brain

      1. Mesocorticolimbic pathway
      2. Nigrostriatal pathway
    2. Volumetric release of dopamine

  5. Duration of action of dopamine

    1. Dopamine works through G protein-coupled receptors

      1. Neurons communicate in broadly 2 ways.

        1. Ionotropic conduction → fast electrical synapses
        2. GPCRs → slow, but has a cascading effect
      2. Dopamine co-releases another neurotransmitter called glutamate that stimulates neurons. Hence, dopamine is also responsible for stimulating action

    2. Dopamine stimulates sympathetic arousal, which means it increases our level of alertness
    3. Hence it tends to push you to pursue and crave things outside of yourself
  6. Dopamine is the currency through which you track pleasure, success and happiness
  7. Dopamine score:

    1. Low → You won’t feel motivated
    2. High → You will feel motivated
    3. Middle → Your mood depends on whether a few minutes ago, you’d had a high or low dopamine level
  8. Dopamine and epinephrin(aka adrenaline) are family members. Epinephrin is associated with just energy. Dopamine is the molecule that adds the pleasure aspect to that experience.

What increases dopamine?

  1. Chocolate → 1.5x
  2. Sex → 2x
  3. Nicotine → 2.5x
  4. Cocaine → 2.5x
  5. Meth → 10x
  6. Exercise

    1. If you enjoy exercising → 2x
    2. If you dislike → no increase
  7. Caffeine → not much

    1. regular consumption leads to increase in overall baseline level of dopamine
    2. But don’t make this a habit, it has adverse affects. Once in a while is fine.

Dopamine and evolution

Dopamine is the universal currency of forging and seeking. We need sex to be pleasurable, because as a species/biologically, our goal is to produce more of us.

Also, dopamine helps in movement and makes us go out and seek more, which is crucial for survival. Hence, survival of the fittest.

Seeking things that gives us pleasure in the short term, but extends the species in the long term.

Pleasure - pain balance

  1. There is a repository of dopamine in our body. And we can only deploy as much as we have.
  2. We need to maintain the pleasure-pain balance
  3. What about someone who works hard, plays hard (ME!). You work really hard during the weekdays, lead a healthy life and only have a few drinks during the weekend.

    1. Dopamine doesn’t just get released while drinking/partying. Dopamine gets released if you run 10kms on a wednesday!

      1. Hence, your dopamine level is progressively dropping. And its really subtle.

So if you want to maintain motivation for any kind of activity like exercise, relationship, etc., you have to make sure:

  1. The frequency of dopamine spikes are not too high

    1. Take breaks
  2. And if it happens too often, you vary(at random) the amount of dopamine you experience in every spike

    1. Induce variation in these activities
    2. intermittent reward schedules

How to stimulate long-lasting increases in Baseline dopamine

  1. Cold exposure - Wim-Hof ice man

    1. Improves immune system
    2. Increases baseline dopamine - 2.5x
  2. Caffeine

How to stay motivated?

Intrinsic v/s extrinsic reinforcement

  • If you get a peak of dopamine on getting a reward, the cognitive interpretation is that you didn’t love the process, you just craved the reward.
  • You need to learn to derive pleasure from the effort and process of doing things and not from the reward.

Dopamine affects our experience and perception of time. When we are happy(more dopamine), time flies.

Fasting and dopamine

Food triggers dopamine release.

Food deprivation is similar to dopamine deprivation.

Fasting also induces auto-phagy


  1. Avoid lights in the night 10 pm to 4 am
  2. Oxytocin is released when you are engaging in social connections. Oxytocin and social connection directly simulates the dopamine pathway.