Dopamine and Essential Tremor

July 20, 2018

Dopamineis a compound present in the body as a neurotransmitter. It carries signals to the brain. It helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses. It enables us to see rewards and then work and take action towards them. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson’s disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. There are different kinds of dopamine receptors, and people that tend to be more risk-taking have this certain kind of receptor. Since low dopamine levels can interfere with movement, people with Parkinson’s and other disorders tend to take a drug that lets them make more, or get an implant that stimulates deep regions of the brain. 

Addictive drugs become addictive partly because of the addictive and rewarding increase of dopamine in the brain. The anticipation of these rewards is what hooks the brain and makes it crave the drug. In our culture, dopamine is often seen as the main chemical related to pleasure, but dopamine has been found to appear to mediate desire and motivation more than it has pleasure. 

Dopamine also helps with motivating to do things over and over again. When testing lab animals, dopamine leads them to learn about rewards and reinforcements. Lowering dopamine in these animals can make them love pleasure in activities like eating and drinking. When this happens, animals go into a state called anhedonia. 

In the 1950’s and before, it was believed that the brain communicated with nerves through electrical impulses alone. There was little evidence to suggest that chemical messages played a role in movement and other communications. But today, it has been recognized that tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson’s are caused by the death of dopamine-producing cells. After lots of other research, it was found that L-dopa treatment restored the ability of patients with Parkinson’s disease to walk and move normally for about 24 hours. But, it was also found that the treatment had severe side effects of nausea and vomiting. So after much trial and error, by slowly increasing the amounts of the drugs usage, there was a solution found that did work for most patients. 

Even though dopamine deficiencies lead to Parkinson’s and other movement conditions, there is not a strong connection between essential tremor and dopamine. Essential tremor is more of a familial tremor, that is caused by certain genetic traits and neurological issues. These brain and nerve connections can cause essential tremor when they misfire, but it does not seem that dopamine plays a role in the condition. 

Dopamine plays a big role in our motivation and movement centers in different pathways of the brain. It encourages us to learn by rewarding behavior, and also helps nerves communicate with the brain in a way that allows normal movement to occur. Though it was found that dopamine levels are not related to essential tremor, and that genetic factors are more of a characteristic, dopamine can influence other tremor symptoms in other medical conditions.