Neuroscience Series

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin, often called the snuggle hormone, is better thought of as the neuromodulator of the attachment system.  It is associated with group bonding, empathy through narrative, breast-feeding, and that warm-fuzzy feeling after orgasm.  The dark side of oxytocin, sometimes called the mother-bear effect, is outgroup intolerance, and exclusivity.  The divider between the two effects us […]

Neuroscience Series

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is your stress hormone.  It increases in your body to organize fight, flight, faint behavior.  This includes shutting down any systems not immediately needed for escape or combat, shutting down your immune system, and switching your brain to acting based on habits. On a molecular level, a cortisol cascade shut down the connection that […]

Neuroscience Series

What is Serotonin?

Serotonin is about creating a subjective sense of resource availability.  In lower organisms, this could mean food.  In higher organisms, especially social organisms, this translates into availabilities for mating opportunities, socioeconomic position/dominance, and mood.  It also plays a role in appetite and sleep.   It is derived from tryptophan.  In addition to its role in […]

Neuroscience Series

What is Dopamine? Reward, Learning, and Flexibility

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for reward-based learning. It’s involved in compulsive behaviors and wanting (anticipation, craving) but not liking (pleasure).  Dopamine is made in the Substantia Nigra. dopamine pathway problems include addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia.   My favorite explanation of the function of dopamine is the following: “We suggest that interposed between input […]