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Top Hacks to Increase Dopamine & How it Improves Success

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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Man on mountaintop

Do you want to be happier, smarter, wealthier, better with people, or get more stuff done? How about more creative and focused? Join the club. You might need some more dopamine for that.

Here you’ll find out all about how dopamine can make you more successful, and what you can do to increase your levels of it. Welcome to the field of personality hacking through biohacks!

The Birth of Personality Hacking

Have you ever gotten into trying to change your personality with mental hacks? By willing it enough? Been there. Done that. The result was a marked increase in neurosis and then anxiety.

I’m a strong believer that the self-help movement has only helped increase anxiety and neurosis.

I make it my business to not attempt to change anything about myself, even not interfering with my attempts to change myself. Self-help is like poison for me. It’s my kryptonite.

I believe you have to change your natural biological state and let nature take its course. This Zen attitude resonates with me and I am most comfortable with it.

Therefore, I’ve been engaged in an attempt to modulate my personality through biological manipulation.

I am naturally very introverted, but as a CEO of 2 companies, I have been forced to increase my extroverted self.

Once upon a time, I was able to lock myself in a room and speak to no one. But now I am forced to speak to various people most of the day, multi-task, put out fires, and get distracted by various things that come up. These situations have forced me to become extroverted.

Also, in the past 4 months, I’ve been dating quite a bit, speaking with investors, and interviewing potential employees, so it’s been critical to ‘turn on’ my extroverted side for months at a time, or even permanently.

Dopamine and Personality – Joe’s Experience

Overall, the data supports that dopamine and its pathways increase social status and make you more social [1].

In general, it seems like increasing dopamine is a good idea before social situations.

I’ve subjectively noticed that increasing my dopamine makes me more social, funnier, confident – and attractive to women, as nerdy as that sounds.

You can say that dopamine is the “success” neurotransmitter.

My Top Dopamine Hacks

The main methods I use to increase dopamine are:

  1. Keeping inflammation low
  2. Exercise
  3. Sunlight by being outside and getting the morning sun
  4. Music
  5. Nicotine, in the form of Snus
  6. Pregnenolone

I also use various supplements that can be found here.

Read these great posts:

How Dopamine Can Make You More Successful

1) Makes You More Social and Extroverted

Dopamine and its pathways are associated with extraversion [2].

Higher dopamine levels were associated with an extroverted personality in 16 male patients with depression [3].

Low dopamine D2/3 receptors (striatum) were associated with personal detachment, aloofness, and social phobia in healthy human volunteers [1].

Additionally, people with genes that cause increased dopamine activity are more extroverted.

People with an SNP associated with more DRD4 receptors – and therefore higher dopamine activity – had higher levels of extraversion. Specifically, the presence of the “C” allele in this SNP of the DRD4 gene (I have 1 C allele) (in carriers of the COMT A/A genotype – I have one A allele) showed high levels of extraversion and hypomania [4, 5].

The C allele increases DRD4 gene expression by 40% compared to the T allele [4].

The “A” allele for this SNP (I have 1 A allele) in the DRD2 gene has been associated with a one-third reduction in D2-receptors. These people had significantly higher scores on trait Extraversion. Such individuals may be characterized by relatively higher Dopamine activity (as a result of receptor down-regulation) [6]. These people may have higher pleasurable responses (via increased reward prediction error) [6].

2) Makes You More ‘Alpha Male’

Blocking with drugs the dopamine D2 receptor in primates and mice lowered social dominance in high social class primates [7].

In one of these studies, D2 receptors increased by approximately 20% in monkeys that attained dominance but was unchanged in subordinates [8].

The D2 receptors can be changed by the environment, but only before a social structure is in place. In one study, the number of D2/3 receptors did not differ between the animals prior to the establishment of a social hierarchy, but once the social structure was established, the animals that became dominant developed higher D2/3 receptor activity [1].

However, one study found that the rearrangement of the social hierarchy, such that some previously subordinate monkeys became dominant (and some dominant became subordinate) did not produce significant differences in D2/3 receptor activity, suggesting that once established, it may become unchangeable by changing the social hierarchy [1].

3.) Increases Social Status (likely)

success
There is an association between higher D2/3 receptors (striatum) and social status in primates and humans [9].

4) Increases Socioeconomic Status

Healthy people with higher socioeconomic status have more D2/D3 receptors in the brain (caudate and putamen) [10].

Socioeconomic status is determined by the Education score, the type of occupation (i.e., menial labor vs executives, professionals, large business owners) [10].

The more D2/D3 receptor availability, the higher the education people attained [11].

5) Increases Social Support (perceived)

A similar correlation was seen with perceived social support and D2/3 receptor activity (dopamine binding) [1].

This was tested with a scale that assesses 3 sources of social support to the participant: from family, friends, and significant other.

success

6) Increases Novelty Seeking

Dopamine promotes exploratory behavior in animals, which would be the human equivalent of traveling to new places [12].

High novelty seeking has generally been associated with lower D2 receptor activity (availability, subcortical), higher dopamine levels outside of the cell, and increased vulnerability to drug addiction [13].

Higher dopamine (measured indirectly by MAO levels) is associated with higher sensation seeking [14].

Serotonin counteracts the effects of dopamine, by reducing sensation/novelty seeking [15].

Studies of 130 subjects showed that women who genetically have more dopamine (carriers of the COMT A/A genotype vs G/G and G/A) also have a greater intensity of the novelty-seeking trait. People with A/A had novelty seeking score of 11.9 vs 8.7 for A/G and G/G [16].

7) Decreases Drug Dependence

A number of studies have found that there is low D2/3  receptor activity (striatum) in humans with drug and alcohol addiction [17].

Compared to controls, cocaine abusers showed lower D2/D3 receptors availability in the caudate, putamen, and ventral striatum [10].

In monkeys and rodents, low D2/3 receptor activity predicted increased cocaine self-administration [18, 19].

Dominant monkeys with more D2 receptors self-administered significantly less cocaine compared to subordinate animals.

Thus, it appears that the high D2 receptor levels “protected” the dominant monkeys from the reinforcing effects of cocaine which is consistent with data in animals and humans [20212223].

Dopamine and Success

8) Increases Motivation

Dopamine is also known as the “motivation molecule”. It is responsible for intrinsic motivation and provides the motivational/internal drive to do things [242526].

We do things because we find them rewarding. Dopamine is responsible for reward-seeking behavior [2527]. It is the reward signal in the brain.

Activation of dopamine neurons results in a good feeling/reward, while inactivation causes aversion [2829].

In animal experiments, high, moderate, and low concentrations of dopamine induce euphoric, seeking, and aversive states, respectively [28].

Dopamine increases exploration [30], and curiosity and interest are important components of intrinsic motivation [24].

Across different mammalian species, there is a linkage between dopamine and positive experiences associated with exploration, new learning, and interest in one’s environment [24].

People who often experience intrinsically motivated flow states in their daily activities have greater dopamine D2-receptor levels in specific brain regions [24].

On the other hand, low levels of dopamine make people and animals less likely to work for things. Dopamine blockade severely impairs effortful actions to obtain rewards [25].

9) Helps with Memory and Learning

Dopamine activity in the brain plays a big part in memory and learning [31], and it is essential for long-term memory storage and retrieval [32].

Dopamine signals important events. It helps you remember events that have motivational significance. This ensures that memories are relevant and accessible for future behavior [33].

Dopamine also plays an essential role in working memory. Working memory is the capacity to use information from short-term memory and use it to guide your own actions. Dopamine promotes nerve cell activity involved in working memory [34].

Serotonin also works with dopamine during memory formation. Activation of serotonin receptors can increase dopamine release in parts of the brain that are involved in cognition and memory formation (i.e., the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus) [35].

Dopamine release causes an individual to be motivated by certain stimuli. It can control and teach the individual different behaviors. Thus, it plays an important part during reward-driven learning [36].

10) Increases Attention and Focus

Dopamine has a role in focus and attention [37].

Dopamine dysfunction in frontal lobes can cause a decline in attention or even attention deficit disorders like ADHD [38].

Moderate levels of dopamine (not too high or too low) improve the capacity of individuals to switch attention efficiently between tasks [39].

Furthermore, people with moderate levels of dopamine direct attention more efficiently to stimuli that are relevant to ongoing tasks [40].

11) Increases Creativity

Studies show that human creativity relies on dopamine. However, creativity is complex, and different aspects of creativity are affected by different dopaminergic systems [41].

Dopamine has first been associated with creativity after an observation that people with Parkinson’s develop artistic-like tendencies on dopaminergic therapy [4243].

A study shows that Parkinson’s disease patients treated with dopamine-increasing drugs show enhanced verbal and visual creativity [42].

Dopamine is involved in cognitive flexibility – one of the main components of creativity and creative thinking. Dopamine is also responsible for the openness to new experiences, another factor associated with creativity [41].

In healthy people, creativity was positively correlated with gray matter in dopamine-rich regions of the brain [41].

Various aspects of creativity are related to SNPs in COMTDRD2, and DRD4 genes [4144].

An SNP in DRD2, rs1800497 T, is associated with reduced dopamine receptors in the brain. This allele was related to higher verbal creativity [45].

A polymorphism in DRD4 has a complex relationship with creativity. DRD4-7R is associated with impaired flexibility associated with low creativity. On the other hand, this allele is associated with higher novelty-seeking associated with greater flexibility and creativity [44].

Finally, the food we eat may affect the way we think [46]. Creativity in convergent (“deep”)-thinking tasks is promoted by the food supplement L-Tyrosine, a biochemical precursor of dopamine [46].

12) Can Decrease Inflammation Due to Th1 and Th17 Dominance

Dopamine is shown to interact with the immune system. Treatment with dopamine can decrease inflammation and have other therapeutic effects [47].

The dopamine D3 and D5 receptors are more inflammatory, while the D1, D2, and D4 receptors are more anti-inflammatory [48].

Although the immune effects are quite complex, overall, dopamine decreases inflammation. It reduces Th1 and Th17 dominance [48].

Low levels of dopamine would stimulate mainly the D3 receptor in T cells, favoring Th1-like responses and T cell activity. Moderate dopamine levels would stimulate the D5 receptor as well, inhibiting T cell function. All of these increase inflammation [48].

Overall, higher dopamine levels decrease T cell response and inflammation [48].

DRD1 signaling inhibits the NLRP3 inflammasome. Inflammasomes are immune system receptors and sensors that induce inflammation in response to infections. DRD1 activation can potentially treat NLRP3-driven inflammation and diseases [49].

Higher levels of dopamine can help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, and lupus [50].

Q&A

Q: What’s the connection between telling people to increase dopamine but then telling people the study associations are with more receptors?

A: It’s just easier to understand. When I say increasing dopamine, it just means to increase some part of the pathway, including increasing receptors.

It can get complex because if you have more D2 receptors, it can reduce the dopamine you have, but it functions better in specific ways.

The idea is the dopamine system, in general, is very important for success.

For example, light doesn’t increase dopamine, it increases the D2 receptor.

Q: These seem like weak dopamine increasers. Why not dl-phenylalanine, green tea, Rhodiola, etc..?

They don’t seem to have as good of an effect for me.  Green tea/EGCG is not bad. My top hacks are simply a subjective list of what works for me.  The dopamine system is quite complex, so it requires more of a systems or big picture thinking.

Struggling with low mood, low motivation, and symptoms of low dopamine?

The Mood DNA Wellness Report helps you identify your genetic weaknesses and gives you the best way to address them. Check it out here.

SelfDecode is a sister company of SelfHacked. The proceeds from your purchase of this product are reinvested into our research and development, in order to serve you better. Thank you for your support

About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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