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erotonin vs dopamine difference between serotonin and dopamine what is the difference between dopamine and serotonin increase serotonin and dopamine what does serotonin do

Serotonin vs Dopamine: How to maximize both for superior mental wellbeing


There are over 100 brain chemicals that perform many functions [1]. Serotonin and dopamine, two of the most important chemicals for brain health, were recognized around the same time. Serotonin’s discovery in brain health was in 1953 [2] and dopamine’s in 1957 [3].

Today, they are commonly associated with good mood and feeling happy. They perform many other important functions. What is the difference between dopamine and serotonin? Dopamine is your reward and pleasure brain chemical, and its dysfunction is involved in addictions. Serotonin regulates your mood, and its dysfunction is involved in depression and mood disorders. 

How does your brain make serotonin and dopamine?

Both must be produced in the brain to perform brain health functions. They are produced from protein building blocks found in protein rich foods. The difference between serotonin and dopamine is that serotonin is produced from tryptophan, while dopamine is produced from tyrosine. Increase intake of the following sources to increase serotonin and dopamine production:

Food (per 100g)

Tryptophan content (mg)

Tyrosine content (mg)

Frozen dried tofu



Chia seeds



Beef, lean, roasted



Chicken breast, roasted



Salmon, cooked



Pork, roasted



Mozzarella cheese



Parmesan cheese



Powdered full fat milk



Whole egg, boiled



 When tryptophan enters the brain, it is first converted to 5-HTP which is then converted to serotonin. The body only uses 1-3% of tryptophan to make serotonin [4]. A short cut way to increase serotonin is to supplement with 5-HTP. The world’s smallest dense tablet of 100mg 5-HTP can naturally and safely increase serotonin levels.

When tyrosine enters the brain, it is first converted to L-DOPA, which is then converted to dopamine. Tyrosine is essential for dopamine production. Apart from food sources, the world’s 1st natural 800mg tyrosine capsule made from fermented corn is an easy way to increase dopamine production. 

Serotonin vs Dopamine: Happiness 

Serotonin and dopamine promote positive feelings. They both work differently in producing “feel-good” effects. What does serotonin do differently to dopamine? Serotonin is the stabilizing/calming brain chemical. It calms you down and improves your mood to make you happy. Adequate serotonin levels can prevent irritability [7] and promote good mood. 

Serotonin=calm mood=happiness

Dopamine is an excitatory/boosting brain chemical. It motivates you to take up challenges and risks. Dopamine is released in anticipation of rewarding activity to reinforce the feel-good effect after the activity is completed [5]. People who are intrinsically motivated and are “go-getters” have higher dopamine levels [6].

Dopamine=rewarding feeling=happiness

If you are looking to boost your motivation and pump up the “go-getter” attitude, it is worth increasing your dopamine levels. Equally important is balancing the excitement with calmness, so keep up the serotonin levels as well. 

Serotonin vs Dopamine: Sleep/wake cycle

Serotonin helps build restful sleep and dopamine promotes wakefulness. 

Serotonin is light sensitive and is produced during the day. At night, serotonin is converted to melatonin, your sleep hormone. Maintaining sufficient levels of serotonin is required to make melatonin. Animal studies where serotonin brain cells were removed, there was a decrease in dreaming sleep stage [8]. The brain is active at this stage and processes memory and learning [9]. 

Serotonin=restful sleep

Dopamine is involved in keeping you awake and alert. Medications that decrease dopamine promote excessive sleepiness [10]. Animal studies where dopamine action was medically prolonged, led to increased wakefulness [11]. The dreaming sleep stage, where the brain is active is characterized by increased dopamine release [12]

Dopamine=refreshed wakefulness

Adequate serotonin and dopamine levels will help you achieve the right balance of restful sleep and help you wake up feeling refreshed.

Serotonin vs Dopamine: Personality trait

The way you interact with people is influenced by the delicate balance of brain chemicals. Balancing serotonin and dopamine can help improve your social behaviour

Due to serotonin’s role in promoting calm demeanor, low levels increase aggressive behaviour [13]. The role of serotonin in promoting social behaviour was consistently seen by experimentally increasing and decreasing serotonin levels. Adequate serotonin helps maintain control over impulsiveness and harming others, which helps to promote positive behaviour.  When serotonin levels were increased, people were more likely to avoid harmful behaviour [14]. 

Since dopamine helps you take risks and face challenges, excess levels can lead to impulsiveness. Serotonin and dopamine networks in the brain are interlinked. Low serotonin levels can hyperactivate dopamine levels and increase aggression [13]. Animal studies where serotonin was decreased by 80%, dopamine went into overdrive up to 120%, promoting fighting behaviour [13]. 
Balanced serotonin + dopamine=cooperative behaviour

In situations where you want to keep your cool, and behave peacefully, ensure that your serotonin and dopamine levels are topped up and in balance.

Serotonin vs Dopamine: Social behaviour

Serotonin and dopamine together promote pro-social behaviour. Maintaining optimal serotonin levels will make you more selfless. Participants with higher serotonin levels contributed 53% more money to charity compared to those with low levels [15]. Increasing serotonin levels increased empathetic behaviour and avoidance of harm to others [16]. 

Optimal serotonin=More empathy + selflessness

Humans are social creatures and dopamine plays a big role in harbouring community spirit. Positive social interactions are considered to be a gratifying experience because the brain sees happy interactions the same way it sees food and money, as rewards. Activating dopamine brain cells improved communication and increased social interaction in animal studies [17]. Humans kept in isolation, activated dopamine cells when they looked at pictures of their favourite social activity [18].

Optimal dopamine=positive community spirit

Serotonin and dopamine perform different functions but are inter-connected. Their optimal balance is essential for happiness, good sleep-wake cycle, positive personality traits and living in harmony with others.

Watch this video to learn more on how to enhance both to bring joy:

Serotonin vs dopamine   serotonin and dopamine   difference between serotonin and dopamine   what does serotonin do  Increase serotonin and dopamine


  1. Wilkinson, M., & Brown, R. (2015). Neurotransmitters. In An Introduction to Neuroendocrinology (pp. 78-119). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  2. Whitaker-Azmitia, P. (1999). The Discovery of Serotonin and its Role in Neuroscience. Neuropsychopharmacology, [online] 21(2), pp.2S8S.
  3. Yeragani, V. K., Tancer, M., Chokka, P., & Baker, G. B. (2010). Arvid Carlsson, and the story of dopamine. Indian journal of psychiatry52(1), 87–88.
  4. Richard, D.M., et al. (2009). L-Tryptophan: Basic Metabolic Functions, Behavioral Research and Therapeutic Indications. International Journal of Tryptophan Research, [online] 2, p.IJTR.S2129. 
  5. Walton, M.E. and Bouret, S. (2019). What Is the Relationship between Dopamine and Effort? Trends in Neurosciences, [online] 42(2), pp.79–91.
  6. Salisbury, D. (2012). Dopamine impacts your willingness to work. [online] Vanderbilt University.
  7. Young, S.N. and Leyton, M. (2002). The role of serotonin in human mood and social interaction. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 71(4), pp.857–865.
  8. Iwasaki, K. et al. (2018). Ablation of Central Serotonergic Neurons Decreased REM Sleep and Attenuated Arousal Response. Frontiers in neuroscience12, 535.
  9. Peever, J., & Fuller, P. M. (2016). Neuroscience: A Distributed Neural Network Controls REM Sleep. Current biology : CB26(1), R34–R35.
  10. Volkow, N. D. et al. (2012). Evidence that sleep deprivation downregulates dopamine D2R in ventral striatum in the human brain. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience32(19), 6711–6717.
  11. Watson, C. J., Baghdoyan, H. A., & Lydic, R. (2010). Neuropharmacology of Sleep and Wakefulness. Sleep medicine clinics5(4), 513–528.
  12. Dzirasa, K., Ribeiro, S., Costa, R., Santos, L. M., Lin, S. C., Grosmark, A., Sotnikova, T. D., Gainetdinov, R. R., Caron, M. G., & Nicolelis, M. A. (2006). Dopaminergic control of sleep-wake states. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience26(41), 10577–10589.
  13. Seo, D., Patrick, C. J., & Kennealy, P. J. (2008). Role of Serotonin and Dopamine System Interactions in the Neurobiology of Impulsive Aggression and its Comorbidity with other Clinical Disorders. Aggression and violent behavior13(5), 383–395.
  14. Siegel, J. Z., & Crockett, M. J. (2013). How serotonin shapes moral judgment and behavior. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1299(1), 42–51.
  15. Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., & Colzato, L. S. (2014). Tryptophan promotes charitable donating. Frontiers in psychology5, 1451.
  16. Crockett, M.J., Clark, L., Hauser, M.D. and Robbins, T.W. (2010). Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [online] 107(40), pp.17433–17438. 
  17. Matthews, G. et al. (2016). Dorsal Raphe Dopamine Neurons Represent the Experience of Social Isolation. Cell, 164(4), pp.617–631.
  18. Tomova, L. et al. (2020). Acute social isolation evokes midbrain craving responses similar to hunger. Nature Neuroscience, 23(12), pp.1597–1605.

1 comment

  • Can you take this with Prozac, then ween off while taking this product?

    Mary P Troiano

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