Question from an outsider: have we been able to pinpoint where exactly the feeling of pleasure comes from?

I know that there are several types of pleasure, I'm talking about the 'liking'. If that involves several separate pleasure centers (which is probably the case), I'm interested in any/all of them.

I am wondering if it is the electrical stimulation part, or maybe the release of some chemicals/hormones (but then, where do they go to produce the feeling?), or maybe a chemical reaction somewhere? How much have we been able to narrow it down? Do we know which part of the chain reaction is actually responsible for the feeling of pleasure?

Is it possible to like without a body, just a "head"? Are there experiment on rats (or people) whose body is completely paralyzed?

Any reference to scientific paper, as well as personal opinions or suggestions as to where I could find this type of information would be greatly appreciated.


1 Answer 1


Well, I'm glad you're curious, but you must realise that your question is highly complex. You'd certainly have to refer to a research paper for the exact, factual information. All the same, I can tell you a bit about Dopamine (the pleasure hormone) based on recent reading.

Dopamine creates pleasurable feelings when it is released in areas such as the nucleus accumbens and pre-frontal cortex. This happens when positive, or rewarding actions are undertaken. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so consistently tied with pleasure that neuroscientists refer to the region as the brain's pleasure centre. However, this is not the ONLY pleasure centre.

Now this is all I know. You should probably check out this page for more, in-depth info: http://wings.buffalo.edu/aru/ARUreport01.htm

It's a long read, but I'm sure you'll find something worth your time.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In the central nervous system, dopamine is a neurotransmitter and not a hormone. The 'pleasure signal' idea was an old hypothesis that has since been debunked. It's true that nucleus acumbens activation is linked to pleasure, but the case for PFC isn't clear. It would be more accurate to think of dopamine as modifying brain function in response to reward/reinforcement, but not directly responsible for feelings of pleasure. In fact, it can even be released in response to unpleasant stimuli. But, it has many other roles, like low level motor control. $\endgroup$
    – user20160
    Jun 6, 2016 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, dopamine has many functions, apart from being associated with the brain's pleasure system. And as far as PFC is concerned, it has been observed that depressed people have significantly low levels of activity in the PFC. Also, I've read in psychology that when we're joyous, activity in the left Prefrontal Cortex is stimulated, so I guess there is a relation. But yes, how far and to what extent does dopamine influence pleasure system is indeed questionable. All the same, thanks for the update on the debunked hypothesis. Feel free to edit anytime. $\endgroup$
    – Irena
    Jun 6, 2016 at 18:52

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