Dopamine Theory of Neurological Disorders


Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
Adrienne Delwho does a nice job explaining this theory

They based their theory on an animal model of MS, called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). It suggests that dopamine problems start in the immune system when T-cells destroy dopamine neurons causing inflammation, and preventing the creation of dopamine.

The Dopamine Hypothesis

In the Frontiers study, researchers brought together findings from neuroimaging as well as studies of neuropsychology, immunology, and pharmacology (drug studies). Their main focus was MS, but they point to similar findings in other diseases believed to involve central fatigue, which is fatigue resulting from abnormalities in the central nervous system.
Here's a quick breakdown of their hypothesis:
  • Dopamine is crucial for proper communication between two areas of the brain called the prefrontal cortex and the striatum.
  • Neuroimaging suggests that central fatigue results from disrupted communication between those regions.
  • Structural and functional neuroimaging studies link central fatigue to abnormalities in the frontal and striatal regions, which deal heavily with dopamine-influenced neurons.
  • Medications that stimulate dopamine activity in the brain have been shown to alleviate central fatigue in people with traumatic brain injury, ME/CFS, and cancer, which supports the idea that dopamine plays an important role.

In another article she notes that low dopamine is linked to ADHD - some form of which I think is probably common in ME/CFS and FM - and problems with movement.
Dopamine has different roles in different areas of your brain. In the thinking areas, it makes you able to focus your attention. Low levels of dopamine in this area are linked with ADD/ADHD. In the movement areas, it helps you control how your body moves. Extremely low levels here lead to Parkinson's disease, which is characterized by tremors and problems with balance and coordination.

Low Dopamine levels are linked with a variety of symptoms found in ME/CFS and FM.
  • Stiff, rigid, achy muscles
  • Tremors
  • Impaired fine motor skills
  • Cognitive impairment (called brain fog or fibro fog)
  • Inability to focus attention
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Strange walking pattern (gait), frequently with small steps

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