Dopamine, human behaviour and DNA

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    • Dopamine can act as a neurotransmitter and as a hormone
      • It is a precursor molecule in the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline
        • Abnormally low levels of dopamine are associated with Parkinson's disease
          • The treatment of parkinson's disease is to give the dopamine precursor 'L-dopa'
            • This however means that raised dopamine levels mean that there has been a link between mental health conditions such as schizophrenia
              • There have also been observations of patients that have been treated with L-dopa are prone to behavioural changes
      • Dopamine increases general arousal and decreases inhibition, leading to an increase in creativity in conjunction with cerebral activity
    • There are a number of activities that are affected by the levels of dopamine
      • This is because there is a high number of variations of the dopamine receptors
        • There are 5 different dopmamine receptors DRD1 - DRD5
          • The receptor DRD4 has over 50 variants
            • They  vary because a short section of nucleotides shows a different number of repeats in each variant
              • Some of these variants are implicated in certain human behavioural conditions, inheritance of particular variants of DRD4 affects the level and action of dopamine in the brain
    • ADHD
      • A particular dopamine receptor variant of DRD4 has been shown to be more frequent in individuals suffering from ADHD
      • People with addictive behaviours, eg those that smoke or gamble, have been found to have a particular variant of the DRD4 gene
        • A group of people showing addictive behaviours was administered with L-dopa (which blocks dopamine receptors) - they showed a decrease in risk taking behaviours
    • Psychosis refers to a mental health condition, characterised by an impaired grasp on reality, diminished impulse control and disorder of perception (such as hallucinations)
    • A longitudinal  study is an investigation in which the same individuals are studied repeatedly over a long period of time - gathering data regarding progression
    • Genetic markers are sections of DNA that have known positions on a chromosome and are known to be associated with a particular gene


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