🦄 vol. 45
senyo (this week's feature) chats about dopamine 🧠
guess who’s back!? senyo (this week’s feature) is back to chat about dopamine - the thing that releases when you receive our newsletter in your inbox every monday morning. 😉
don’t know what we’re talking about?!
dopamine hits 🧠
You’re on holiday at the beach, the sun is shining, the drinks are flowing 🏖️.
You’re sitting there wondering, “why can’t life always be this good?”. Fast forward two weeks, you’re back at your 9 to 5 staring at a computer all day 👩🏾💻. All you can think about is the next holiday, that next thrill. You’re in pursuit of happiness or, as scientists would put it, in pursuit of your next dopamine rush.
Caroline dopamine 🍭
Dopamine is the chemical in your brain responsible for your mood, feelings of pleasure and your motivation. When you were on holiday basking in the sun? That’s a generous amount of dopamine being released into your 🧠. Feeling inspired and motivated to work hard? Another sweet, sweet dose of dopamine.
When we talk about increasing dopamine levels, it’s important to note that this is relative to one’s “baseline” dopamine level (the standard amount of dopamine released in your brain throughout the day). This is different for everybody. How enjoyable an experience is to you is based on how much it raises your dopamine levels above your own baseline.
So how do I get more? 🤤
…drugs 💊, as you may have guessed. But there are healthier ways of course: exercise, eating your favourite food, retail therapy and… social media. Scientists, with all their knowledge and wisdom, have done the good work of figuring out just how much these activities raise our dopamine levels.
A few well-documented examples:
🍫 Eating chocolate - 1.5x
🏋️♀️ Exercise - 2x
🚬 Nicotine - 2.5x
⛷ Cocaine - 2.5x
💊 Amphetamine - 10x
As we can see, amphetamine appears to be a game-changer. However, we’d prefer that you don’t take drugs (but still get amphetamine-like increases in dopamine).
Turning dopamine into profit 🤑
Social media companies and psychedelic startups have figured out that pumping our 🧠 with dopamine is good for business.
📲 Social media companies use it to keep our eyes on the screen:
It’s well documented that these companies have long figured out that feeding us a continual stream of content that we love spikes our dopamine. In fact, now-defunct Dopamine Labs attempted to use AI and machine learning to make all apps as addictive as Facebook, Instagram and the likes. Dopamine makes money 💰.
🧠 Psychedelics startups use it to improve motivation and focus:
Earth Resonance is one of many startups selling psychedelic microdosing kits. “Increased motivation and focus” is one of the benefits they report from their product. Many people have tried it, reporting that it actually works. Silo Wellness has even gone so far as to develop a psychedelic nasal spray so customers can microdose with more ease.
This category of startups is still in its infancy, as there are still a number of hurdles to becoming mainstream (customer perception, testing, and regulation being the main ones). VCs are seemingly aware of these risks, with only around $100 million being invested into the space in the last year. However, as we’ve seen before, one breakout success could change the fate of the entire category.
What goes up must come down 🎢
No discussion on dopamine is complete without discussing its catch 🎣. Have you ever had an amazing experience, only to feel pretty lousy later? There’s an explanation for this. After a spike in dopamine, your dopamine levels will drop below your baseline for some period of time (typically a few hours). If you have less dopamine than normal, you will feel down 😔.
This cycle has tangible effects on us: when we do something exciting for the first time, we get a significant increase in dopamine. This acts as a “reward”, causing us to do the same thing again to get that same dopamine rush. The problem is, if we do it too frequently, we’re depleting our dopamine faster than it can replenish. This effectively lowers our baseline level and we never recover back to our natural baseline. 🤯
Dopamine for good 🦸🏽
Social media companies actively try to increase our dopamine for engagement. While it is enjoyable in the moment, over time this can have negative effects, as we all know. On the positive side, controlling our dopamine can help improve our mental health, motivation and focus. I’m excited for the new crop of startups tackling this challenge head on.
Maybe taking psychedelics isn’t such a bad idea after all 😜.
senyo’s piece was inspired by a podcast on dopamine by stanford professor, andrew huberman
karl was shocked that african blockchain companies raised 1168% more in q1 of this year than last, with $91 million being raised (according to cv vc's african crypto report)
matt recently picked up (and can’t put down) deep work by cal newport
sash visited instabul, and was amazed to learn about turkey’s booming mobile gaming industry
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