Dopamine: The Fashionable Neurotransmitter for 2009


Natalie Angier, writing for the Science Times, investigates the neurotransmitter dopamine (you know, that one associated with cocaine, Adderall, Ritalin, and nicotine), which science is finding to be "less about pleasure and reward than about drive and motivation." Angier's examination is fascinating for neurotransmitter junkies (we exist!), but what about regular people? How can an article on dopamine be sexied up? Like this!:

"Dopamine has lately become quite fashionable, today’s “it” neurotransmitter, just as serotonin was “it” in the Prozac-laced ’90s."

But truly, in this economy, everything has to be about the economy. Set 'em up:

"Scientists have detected a modest connection between a relatively elongated version of dopamine receptor No. 4 and a tendency toward impulsivity and risk-taking behavior, particularly financial risk-taking."

Now, knock 'em down:

"One can’t make too much of these preliminary correlations in behavioral genetics, but maybe before the next bailout, we should demand that bankers be tested for the presence of risky, long-form receptors. It’s the economy, dopamine."

With long-form receptors, who needs cocaine? It's 2009, after all.

A Molecule of Motivation, Dopamine Excels at its Task [NYT]