Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are brain chemical messengers that help your nerve cells communicate with one another.
Different neurotransmitters attach (bind) to different receptors on nerve cells. When a neurotransmitter binds to the right receptor on a nerve cell, it triggers that cell to take a specific action. Think of it like a key in a lock.
Different neurotransmitters are associated with many physical and psychological processes in the body. For example, dopamine is involved in things like:
- motivation and reward
- attention, learning, and memory
- sleep and dreaming
Neurotransmitters travel along neuronal pathways, which are basically long chains of nerve cells (neurons) that help different parts of the brain talk with one another.
Some pathways that appear to be associated with schizophrenia symptoms have been identified. These pathways use dopamine as their primary messenger, and include the mesolimbic pathway and the mesocortical pathway.