Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter that activates the brain’s Limbic “reward” system (though not the only one). When dopamine levels rise, neurons in the reward system are excited, causing the feeling of pleasure. But dopamine is about more than just gratification. It’s also central to learning from it, highlighting pleasurable experiences to remember how to repeat them. That is, to learn from positive experience.
Addictive drugs cause large surges of dopamine in the Limbic system. So drug use not only causes a high, it also has significant impacts on learning, memory and motivation.
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