Bright areas of this brain cross-section show elevated levels of dopamine.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University say high levels of the brain chemical dopamine contribute to impulsive behaviors, creating problems in acts from shopping to substance abuse.
“Think of it as very similar to how a thermostat works,” researcher Joshua Buckholz told NPR. Sensors in the lower-middle part of the brain ~ called autoreceptors ~ tell the midbrain to start pumping dopamine or stop, but new research shows the autorecptors of highly impulsive people aren’t functioning properly.
Other researchers believe there's more to impulsiveness than the dopamine thermostat, according to NPR. “This is not a very huge effect,” says Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. He thinks other brain chemicals with their own thermostats also play a role.
“I think that there is a circuitry of self-control that's fundamental to many, many aspects of living,” agrees Edythe London, a psychiatrist at UCLA. She says understanding the dopamine thermostat and other factors may lead to successful treatments for addiction and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Click here for the NPR article.