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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Sep 15, 2022

[Epistemic status: very conjectural. I am not a neuroscientist and they should feel free to tell me if any of this is totally wrong.]


Seen on the subreddit: You Seek Serotonin, But Dopamine Can’t Deliver. Commenters correctly ripped apart its neuroscience; for one thing, there’s no evidence people actually “seek serotonin”, or that serotonin is involved in good mood at all. Sure, it seems to have some antidepressant effects, but these are weak and probably far downstream; even though SSRIs increase serotonin within hours, they take weeks to improve mood. Maxing out serotonin levels mostly seems to cause a blunted state where patients can’t feel anything at all.

In contrast, the popular conception of dopamine isn’t that far off. It does seem to play some kind of role in drive/reinforcement/craving, although it also does many, many other things. And something like the article’s point - going after dopamine is easy but ultimately unsatisfying - is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.