How do dopamine and serotonin work?


Dopamine and serotonin are key neuromodulators in the brain, influencing a wide range of behaviors and physiological states. Here's a summarized explanation based on what Andrew Huberman has discussed:


  • Role: Dopamine is associated with the drive and motivation for seeking rewards. It helps modulate behaviors towards achieving desired outcomes and focuses on external rewards and possibilities.
  • Effects: In the context of MDMA use as mentioned by Huberman, dopamine contributes to the reinforcing qualities of social interactions and experiences, enhancing the pleasure derived from these activities. It is also involved in the immediate euphoria and energy boosts seen in certain intense situations like sports wins.
  • Daily Influence: Dopamine levels are generally higher in the first half of the day, affecting our perception of time and enhancing our cognitive abilities for problem-solving and task execution.


  • Role: Serotonin generally encourages a content state, focusing on the current situation rather than external rewards. It plays a crucial role in moderating mood and cognitive functions.
  • Effects: Serotonin affects our experiences by enhancing feelings of well-being and stability. Its modulation by psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin can lead to profound shifts in perception and cognition by affecting serotonin receptors.
  • Daily Influence: Serotonin levels increase in the second half of the day, influencing our capability for creative tasks by altering how we perceive time and manage cognitive demands.

Both neurotransmitters interact significantly, influencing each other's release and effects, which adds a layer of complexity to their individual impacts on brain function and behavior. These interactions highlight the sophisticated and interconnected nature of our brain's chemical messaging system 1 2 3.

Serotonin and Dopamine Interaction

Robert and Andrew discuss the complex interaction between serotonin and dopamine in the brain, shedding light on how these chemical messengers influence each other and impact our experiences. They touch on the role of MDMA and its reinforcing qualities, while also highlighting the legal and safety concerns surrounding its use.

Huberman Lab

Dr. Robert Malenka: How Your Brain’s Reward Circuits Drive Your Choices | Huberman Lab Podcast