Daniel Lieberman, MD, and Michael E. Long, behavioral health specialists, set out to take complex, chemical brain functions and simplify their functions into everyday language. In The Molecule of More, they used easy-to-understand concepts such as “up” and “down” to explain the two chemical categories that occur in our cognition. According to Lieberman and Long, “down” refers to those things within our reach that we can control and require little to no planning. The terms “here and now” (H&N) are substituted for the word “down,” which represents the things in our present. Conversely, “up” is used to describe those things in our life that require planning and some calculated effort on our part and are often in the future.
The H&N activity in our brain is fed by the chemicals called neurotransmitters. Their responsibility is to help us enjoy what we are experiencing or fight or run away if there is no satisfaction. The “up” chemical in the brain is dopamine. Lieberman and Long explained that dopamine is not what the scientific community once thought it to be. Initially, dopamine was thought of as the chemical that fed our brain’s pleasure center. However, based on further research, dopamine is much more – it is the chemical in the neurotransmitter that drives anticipation, love, creativity, addictions, and more, according to Psychology Today. Dopamine is the key to the brain’s reward processing center. “It is the reward when you obey, and it makes you suffer when you don’t.”
Lieberman and Long have intertwined real-life situations culled from the research of many scientific experiments. Their ability to draw us in with personal stories helps us more easily relate to scientific terminology and, at times, apply it to our lives.
As I read the introductory materials in The Molecule of More several questions immediately came to mind. The first question I needed to ask and answer was to learn more about the chemical dopamine itself. Secondly, I had questions regarding dopamine’s influence on addictions and wanted to know more. My last question was how Lieberman and Long’s dopamine research relates to Dr. Caroline Leaf’s analysis. Dr. Leaf is a Christian and has worked in cognitive neuroscience since 1985. She is a proponent of changing your brain (chemistry) by taking control of your thoughts.
Question One: What is Dopamine?
To learn more about dopamine, I had to find material that a layperson like myself could readily understand with only a few days to research. I found several articles on the Psychology Today website that explained dopamine and are slightly different from Lieberman and Long. One of the main things that stood out from one of the articles is that dopamine changes the brain on a cellular level due to using drugs. It creates a lasting and “important” memory of the drug use as pleasurable. The second insight from the article is that dopamine levels can increase through essential self-care and natural nootropics, including L-Tyrisine and L-theanine.
Question 2: What is the Impact of Dopamine and Addictions?
So why this curiosity about addictions? Because I have family members who are drowning in addictions. Alcohol, heroin, food, and marijuana. Lieberman and Long write on page 23 that dopamine got its nickname as the “pleasure molecule” based on experiments with addictive drugs. In Chapter Two, the Drugs chapter, the authors ask, “Who is in charge of my brain?” “Why do I do the things that I do?” Reading about the havoc drugs cause and living through it with family members can cause family and friends to give up hope that the person will ever overcome the addiction. However, the second question was, “Why do I do the things I do?”. It immediately reminded me of Paul’s discourse in Romans 7:19 “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” This scripture gives me hope. The Creator of the brain, the dopamine chemicals, and all its intricate complexities understood that there would be times of darkness in the human experience that would cause us to cry out. So, why do I do the things I don’t want to do? And so, I’m hopeful that just like there are ways to increase dopamine levels, there will someday be a cure to reverse the effects of extreme cellular changes in the brain. But, until then, there is the ability to change the toxicity in the neural pathways, according to Dr. Leaf.
Question Three: How Do I Use Scripture?
There needed to be more time to research the correlation from a scientific standpoint, the specific connection between Lieberman and Long and Dr. Leaf. I’m assuming Dr. Leaf’s work is more in line with the H&N versus dopamine chemicals for this paper. However, some intriguing threads connect the two. Both discuss the evolution of the brain and the chemicals that create the neural pathways and the neurotransmitters but use slightly different terms. In Switch On Your Brain, Dr. Leaf uses neuroplasticity to describe how the brain can change and grow. One significant difference is that Dr. Leaf has developed a system using scripture to rewire the brain and replace negative, damaged neurotransmitters with positive ones. Her research and ministry are based on many Scriptures. The main one I’ll emphasize is from Romans 12:2, which speaks to renewing your mind.
In closing, several years ago a film called Limitless was a big hit. The main character used a specialized nootropic drug to increase his ability to utilize all his brain and to improve his lifestyle. This led to my thinking, perhaps there is already a remedy being developed in a lab somewhere to change the brains neurotransmitters, including dopamine, but in the meantime, I’ll stick with Scripture. It works.
 Daniel Lieberman and Michael E. Long, The Molecule of More, (Dallas: BenBella Books, Inc., 2018), xv.
 Ibid, xv – xvi.
 Ibid., xvi.
 Ibid., 3.
 Daniel Lieberman and Michael E. Long, The Molecule of More, (Dallas: BenBella Books, Inc., 2018), xvi.
 Daniel Lieberman and Michael E. Long, The Molecule of More, (Dallas: BenBella Books, Inc., 2018), 28.
 Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2013), 14.