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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Lo que quiere la nariz: ¿Por qué el olor a gasolina es irresistible para algunos?

For the first post in our Spanish series, The Language Bank* at the University of Michigan translated a post written by Shweta Ramdas: “What the Nose Wants: Why the Scent of Gasoline is Irresistible to Some.”

Por Shweta Ramdas 

Traducido por Joan Liu*

Editado por Yanaira Alonso

Hace acerca de un mes, le comenté a mis compañeros de laboratorio que el olor a la gasolina era un tanto irresistible y que había robado un marcador de pizarra de nuestro laboratorio para olerlo cuando me sentía frustrada con mi investigación. Esto tuvo dos resultados: ahora mis colaboradores de laboratorio se burlan de mí despiadadamente, y me di cuenta de que no todos se sienten atraídos a estos olores tanto como yo.

El último resultado fue una epifanía: pensaba que para todo el mundo el olor a gasolina era agradable. Entonces, ¿Por qué esto no es cierto? Como una genetista, por supuesto mi primer pensamiento fue que los genes deciden la preferencia.

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A mi compañero de laboratorio no le atrae el olor del marcador tanto como a mí.

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Introverts & Extroverts: It’s Not as Simple as Shy or Outgoing (Part 2)

Author: Ellyn Schinke

Editors: Whit Froehlich, Nayiri Kaissarian, and Irene Park

In my last post, I wrote about the social differences between introverts and extroverts and the misconceptions surrounding the two personalities. This post will focus on the underlying brain biology that contributes to whether a person is an extrovert or an introvert.

The more I read about these personalities, the more I wondered—are there ways in which the biology can explain the social differences? It turns out that there are several known, key differences in the brain biology between introverts and extroverts.

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What the nose wants: Why the scent of gasoline is irresistible to some

By Shweta Ramdas

A month or so ago, I casually mentioned to my labmates that I can’t get enough of the smell of gasoline, and that I had stolen a whiteboard marker from our lab to sniff when I was particularly frustrated with research. This had two results: my labmates now tease me mercilessly, and I realize that not everybody is as enamored by these smells as I am.

The latter was quite an epiphany: I had imagined that everyone finds the smell of gasoline ambrosial. So why isn’t it true? Being a geneticist, of course my first thought was that it must be all in the genes.

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