Brain Myth 1 – Dopamine and Serotonin: The (Not Just) Happy Chemicals

Written by: Kane York

Illustrated by: Emma Thornton-Kolbe

Editors: Christian Greenhill, Kristen Loesel, and Jennifer Baker

Hey there, reader! This is the first in a series of articles addressing common myths about the brain. You can find my previous article here, in which I discuss the complexity of depression. Expect more to be coming soon! Enjoy reading.

Imagine eating a jelly donut. Imagine your first kiss. Imagine getting a good performance review from your boss. In each case, you may feel a sense of happiness, joy, or pleasure. Now, think about the brain functions that cause these happy feelings. You might guess that each of these scenarios triggers an instant boost of dopamine and serotonin in your brain. Dopamine and serotonin are two of the most talked about (and two of the most misunderstood) neurotransmitters, the chemicals that brain cells use to communicate. Yes, dopamine is associated with pleasure and serotonin with mood, but to stop there would be missing the full picture. Like many myths, there is some truth here. However, these molecules have a much richer role in the body and behavior than just the happy feelings.

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Depression: Physiology to Psychology is Rarely Simple

Written by: Kane York

Editors: Sophie Hill, Austin Shannon, and Peijin Han


I’m running low on serotonin

Chemical imbalance got me twisting things

Stabilize with medicine

There’s no depth to these feelings

-“Serotonin”, girl in red


Depression. In the time of a global pandemic, a burning ocean, an increasing wealth gap, and other catastrophes too numerous to mention, what could be more topical? Depression is one of the most common illnesses in the world, affecting more than 322 million people. Despite its prevalence, depression is still not perfectly understood. The common view is that depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, but the current research tells us that the condition is far more complex.

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