Dopamine is a primary neurotransmitter involved in reward-motivated behavior. The brain produces dopamine in the midbrain in the ventral tegmental area, the substantia nigra pars compacta, and as well in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.
Most drugs of abuse along with the subsequent behavioral addictions around them involve dopamine. Without sufficient dopamine function, humans do not feel motivated or driven to work or even be active in physical activity or even basic socialization.
Dopamine in human beings has many other important roles such as mood, attention, creativity, nausea, pain, prolactin, sex drive, sense of time, learning, memory, movement, appetite, socialization, maternal behavior, inflammation, bones, relationships, and sleep. Researchers have most recently been interested in the role of dopamine in mood, addictions, and dementias.
With depression lingering as the number one cause of disability worldwide, the focus of researchers in recent years is shifting from serotonin, as the sole therapeutic target, into the role of other explanations such as dopamine. As the number of dementia cases continues to increase, the attention into the role of dopamine will only grow further in the coming years.
#1 Mucuna Pruriens
The amino acid levodopa, (L-DOPA) is the strongest compound in mucuna pruriens, affecting dopamine by its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and thus enter the brain. This is noteworthy, as dopamine cannot do this.
As we use levodopa in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, there is some support showing that mucuna pruriens with a standardized 15–40% l-dopa is a superior delivery form, possibly because of other alkaloids in the bean. Interestingly enough, the bean has trace amounts of tryptamine, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound.
Like most natural dopamine agonists, we have not yet confirmed the human evidence. There is significant evidence from animal studies, and likewise heavy anecdotal evidence within the nootropics community, suggesting that this compound is one of the very strongest natural dopaminergic compounds.
Catuaba is a medical plant from Brazil, often combined into an extract along with a Brazilian adaptogen plant called Muira Pauma.
Uridine is available in two forms. We witness uridine-5’-monophosphate increasing dopamine levels in rodent studies.
It carries this mechanism through believed mitochondrial function stimulation and improvement of the phospholipid nerve cell membrane structure. For this reason, we will typically stack uridine monophosphate with DHA or omega-3’s, in the phospholipid form of krill or algal oil, along with a B12 or a fully methylated B-complex.
Heavy anecdotal support exists within the nootropic community supporting uridine monophosphate effectiveness when combined with omega-3’s and vitamin B’s. Many will combine choline sources such as Alpha-GPC or CDP-choline along with or in place of omega-3’s.
#4 Krill or Vegan Algae Oil
Proven for dopamine and serotonin synthesis, emerging studies show omega-3’s in the phospholipid form of either krill or algae oil might be superior to omega-3’s in triglyceride-based fish or cod liver oil, because of these structural differences. We believe phospholipids are much more bioavailable and efficient for absorption, as every cell membrane in the human body is made of phospholipids, which allows for reducing the daily dose.
Not only providing astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant, but phospholipids also contain phosphatidylcholine, a superior choline source that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. This is a topic of great interest to the nootropic community, as krill oil can replace several supplements such as uridine, Alpha-GPC, and CDP-choline in delivering cognitive and mood benefits.
Finally, in this form, the risk of heavy metal exposure is reduced, with a much more shelf-stable omega-3 than fish oil, allowing for the use of lower dosages. As more studies are underway, we are also seeing phospholipids as superior to triglycerides for healing and supporting the endocannabinoid system.
Much like CDP-choline, alpha-GPC appears to increase dopamine levels along with other major neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and serotonin, when combined with B-vitamins and uridine monophosphate and as well Omega-3’s. Supporting evidence confirms the use of alpha-GPC for its cognition-enhancing properties in this manner.
Many nootropics users will combine alpha-GPC with one of the racetams.
Powerful evidence exists for the use of creatine supplements to increase phosphocreatine stores in the brain to support ATP levels. Creatine appears to increase mitochondrial function and dopamine levels.
Some nootropics users are now combining creatine with d-ribose, another mitochondria booster, and cardioprotective supplement. We have theorized creatine improves cognition, not only through increased energy but likewise via neuroprotection.
More and more evidence continues to emerge supporting creatine for use as much more than just a popular workout supplement. Finally, creatine appears to be an area of deficiency and potential supplement target for vegans.
One of the twenty amino acids in the body, tyrosine is as well a precursor and cofactor involved in the production of dopamine. This means without tyrosine, dopamine production will not happen.
As a non-essential amino acid, we can synthesize it both from diet and as well within the body, from phenylalanine derived from sufficient protein intake. Animal studies have shown that tyrosine supplements increase dopamine levels and cognition.
Tyrosine remains a very popular dopamine supplement within the nootropic community for those with insufficient and/or low protein diets and/or those with difficulty digesting protein.
Curcumin is the primary active polyphenol compound in turmeric that gives it its bright yellow color. Several curcumin studies support its dopamine effects through potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
While researchers question the low bioavailability of curcumin, one study highlights the BCM-95 curcumin form as effective for dopamine-related depression. Other areas of curcumin research involve its effect on BDNF, working memory, NMDA, glutamate, attention, mood, and cortisol.
Berberine is highly reviewed and proven isoquinoline plant alkaloid studied like curcumin for overall health, anti-inflammatory, and anti-pathogenic purposes. Through activation of adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), the master human metabolic regulator, and inhibition of protein-tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B), berberine is enabled to increase insulin sensitivity.
It appears to be possibly as effective as the popular prescription drug, metformin, now used for anti-aging purposes. We know tyrosine hydroxylase to convert tyrosine into L-DOPA, which converts directly into dopamine.
Top 9 Notables
CDP-choline, caffeine, ginkgo biloba, gotu kola, huperzine A, oil of oregano, nicotine, SAMEe, TMG.
Copper, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6 pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P), methylated vitamin B9 (folate), methylated vitamin B12, phenylalanine, tyrosine, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin D3, zinc.
Indirect: Tyrosine, DLPA, DPA, LPA.
5-HTP, melatonin, neuroleptics, metoclopramide, domperidone.
L-phenylalanine => L-tyrosine => L-DOPA => dopamine.
D1, D2, D3, D4, D5, TAAR1.
L-DOPA, L-phenylalanine, L-tyrosine.
American ginseng, Asian ginseng, BPC-157, bacopa monnieri, black tea, bromantane, butyric acid, COQ10, Cacao, cannabidiol (CBD), cacao, caffeine, carvacrol, cocoa, coca leaf, chocolate, clary sage, cod liver oil, coffee, DHA, DLPA, DPA, D-ribose, danshen, eleuthero (Siberian ginseng), fenugreek, fish oil, green tea, holy basil, iron, kratom (mitragyna speciosa), Korean ginseng (Panax red ginseng), L-Dopa, L-theanine, LPA, maca, matcha tea, Muira Pauma, N-acetyl cysteine (NALT), oregano, PQQ, phenethylamine, phenylalanine, pregnenolone, probiotics, protein, resistant Starch, Resveratrol, Rhodiola Rosea, rosemary, SAM-e, shilajit, St. John’s wort, soluble fiber, ubiquinol, white oolong tea.
“Previously published on Optimize Better”