The Chemistry of Emotions


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Emotions are very complex and have different meanings to different people, but essentially, emotions are a conscious experience that are categorized by states of mind, external and internal reactions, and expressions. I chose emotions for my project because they are huge part of everyday life, and emotions affect the decisions we make, and the people we are. I also think that the human brain is fascinating and that studying what it can do is fun.

Composition of ...

Not only are there chemical components of emotions, but there are others such as physical components as well. I’ll start with the chemical components. There are so many chemicals involved with emotions that only the most important ones can be listed. The following are neurotransmitters: dopamine (C8H11NO2), serotonin (C10H12N2O), noradrenaline (C8H11NO3), acetylcholine (C7NH16O2+), histamine (C5H9N3), GABA (C4H9NO2), and glutamic acid (C5H9NO4). The other components are not chemical components, but are parts of the emotional experience. They are cognitive appraisal, bodily symptoms, action, tendencies, expression, and feelings.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. A neurotransmitter is a chemical substance that transmits nerve impulses across a synapse to a postsynaptic element such as another nerve, muscle or gland. Neurotransmitters have a large impact on mood and emotions, and a surplus or lack of neurotransmitters can cause behavioral problems. Neurotransmitter balance has a connection to health, nutrition, environmental factors, external emotional stimulus, and genetic factors. Dopamine (C8H11NO2) is made out of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. It is involved in focus, drive, attention, memory, and thinking clearly. Arvid Carlson discovered dopamine in 1957. It was discovered in Lund, Sweden. Dopamine has a big role in positive emotions, and a lack of dopamine can cause parkinson's disease. Dopamine is also instrumental to the storage and creation of new memories.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, just like dopamine. It’s purpose is to regulate mood, thinking, and impulse control. Serotonin (C10H12N2O) is made out of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. Serotonin affects arousal, anxiety, mood, impulse control, aggression, and thinking abilities. In 1948, Irvine Page, Arda Green andt Maurice Rapport discovered Serotonin in Cleveland, Ohio.

Serotonin regulates emotions. With enough of it, we feel happy, optimistic, etc. However, when there is a lack of serotonin, there can be depression, anxiety, irritability, etc.

Chemistry's Role

Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical. It is produced by the human body, not by man. (However, dopamine can be produced by man and used in the form injectable drugs such as Intropin, Dopastat, and Revimine to treat certain illnesses affecting the nervous system.) Dopamine isn’t produced in just one area of the brain. It’s produced in several areas. These areas include substantia nigra, the ventral tegmental area, hypothalamus, the arcuate nucleus, the zona incerta, and the periventricular nucleus.Within these areas, nerve cell bodies manufacture dopamine. 

Like dopamine, serotonin is produced in the brain, but it can also be produced by man. Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid L-tryptophan by a short metabolic pathway consisting of two enzymes: amino acid decarboxylase and tryptophan hydroxylase. Serotonin can be produced in the lab using Psilocybe coprophila and Aspergillus niger as catalysts. Ethanol, HCL, NaOH, and water are also involved in the process. The first phase to 5-hydroxytryptophan would require allowing tryptophan sit in ethanol and water for seven days, then stirring in enough HCl to bring the pH to three, and then adding NaOH to make a pH of 13 for one hour. Aspergillus niger is the catalyst for this first step. The second step to synthesizing tryptophan itself from the 5-hydroxytryptophan intermediate would require adding ethanol and water, and letting sit for 30 days. The next two steps would be the same as the first phase: adding HCl to make the pH = three, and then adding NaOH to make the pH very basic at 13 for one hour. This phase uses the Psilocybe coprophila as the catalyst.

Background Research

There are many different emotions, including affection, anger, angst, anguish, annoyance, anxiety, apathy, arousal, awe, boredom, confidence, contempt, contentment, courage, curiosity, depression, desire, despair, disappointment, disgust, distrust, dread, ecstasy, embarrassment, envy, euphoria, excitement, fear, frustration, gratitude, grief, guilt, happiness, hatred, hope, horror, hostility, hurt, hysteria, indifference, interest, jealousy, joy, loathing, loneliness, love, lust, outrage, panic, passion, pity, pleasure, pride, rage, regret, relief, remorse, sadness, satisfaction, self-confidence, shame, shock, shyness, sorrow, suffering, surprise, terror, trust, wonder, worry, zeal, and zest.

Emotions are not really made out of anything, but how we feel emotions can be described. Emotions come from the arousal of the nervous system. Neurotransmitters and hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin, are chemicals that are involved in the process of feeling emotions.

. Millions of chemical reactions take place in the brain at any given time. Chemical reactions occur because of synapses. Synapses are parts of the nervous system, and it is through these that neurons are able to transmit messages using neurotransmitters.

Emotions are typically measured in physiological responses, such as a pounding heart, sweating, blood rushing to the face, and the release of adrenaline. Expression is also a major part of emotions. Expression is associated with parts of the nervous system such as the motor cortex, limbic system, and the brain stem. The parts of the nervous system that affect emotion the most are the frontal lobes and the amygdala. The frontal cortex is usually associated with feelings of happiness and pleasure. The amygdala is usually associated with feelings of anger, fear, and sadness.


information on what emotions are, how they work, where they come from, how they’re categorized, etc.
information on what dopamine is, how its synthesized, what its role as a neurotransmitter is, etc.
information on what serotonin is, how its synthesized, what its role as a neurotransmitter is, etc.

information on what emotions are, where they come from, what makes them up, etc.

information on what emotions are, how they work, what chemicals are involved, etc.

information on neurotransmitters, what they are, how they work, how they’re involved in emotions, etc.

information about the brain and where emotions are processed in it.

information on where dopamine was discovered, when it was discovered, and the person that discovered it.

information on where serotonin was discovered, when it was discovered, and the person that discovered it.

About the Author

Grace Hubby is a Sophomore at Senior High School. She was born and raised in the Southwest, and just moved to Montana in October of 2013. She enjoys reading, going outside, and spending time with her close friends and family. She plans to attend college in Texas and major in nursing.