Low Dopamine Symptoms and Age
Age, Risk Taking and Dopamine
How age influences your dopamine levels, your risk preferences and what symptoms to pay attention to.
As people mature they often see a lot of benefit: As they grow more experienced and as they see more and more of their aspirations take concrete form. The one downside that is most obvious is off course how health issues can start to make themselves felt. As the body ages, the risk of disease or limitations will inevitably be a limiting factor. But something else might actually be a more severe litmitation while being a lot less obvious: As you age, your risk preferences will slowly change and gradually make you less bold and daring in your planing and decisions.
This is something that has always been recogized: As power is always in a flux youthfull forces will often overthrow established powers. This seems to be part of the order of nature, but it is not always for the better.
But so far this dynamic has largely been explained by psychological dynamics and as a sign of complacency: As you accumulate wealth, you have more to loose and less to fight for. This was thought to explain why risk taking seems to be correlated with youth.
Based on this kind of thinking there has been quite a few suggestion for how to deal with age and changing risk preferences. Mindfulness, “beginners mind” and an attitude that is more predisposed for “letting go” are all more or less supposed to be ways to deal with the psychological dynamics behind risk aversion. Training yourself to be less focused on potential losses and focused more on potential gains seems like a good idea in general. But the science behind this kind of approach has never been as solid and convincing as you would idealy want.
And now new scientific research have revealed that physiology plays a key role in how risk preferences change as the body ages. Specifically the changes are linked to changing levels of the nerve transmitter substance dopamine.
So what is dopamine?
Dopamine is involved in the way that the brain controls action and how your learn from experience. That is, dopamine fuels the afferent nerves that link your decision process or habits with actual moving your legs, hands or your chin. You might recognise that dopamine is a factor in Parkinsons disease where control over body movements is slowly erroded. But dopamine also play a key role in the expectations that drive behavior: When you sense opportunity – as when you read a financial reports on potential investments or hear about a promising job oppening – dopamine will fuel that sense of opportunity. That means that it will fuel experience of positive emotion and emotionel wellbeing. As those expectations are confirmed or disconfirmed there will be a slight adjusment to the level of expectation that is associalted with the situation that you react to: If your investments in mining stocks time and time again turns into loses or anemic profits, your expectations change accordingly. These changes are mediated by adjustment in the dopaminegic currents between the rewards centers of the mid brain and the prefrontal cortex that is the base for executive function. With a stronger flow and more expectation, you are more likely to engage in risky dispositions and
If you start to shy away from risk taking you might
You might think that
The point of this article is not so much to argue for more risk taking. That seems to me adequatly covered by sources that are more focused on the actual investment dynamics. What we are concerned with here is the link between aging and changing risk preferences.
If you recognise that your rsik preferences have changed you might actually see that as progress. As we change our behavior it often is reflection of changes in preferences that we adjust to, like and become identified with. But if you have a deep seated indentification with being a risk taker that can opperate outside of the comfortzone of most people you might look at this devellopment with a lot less enthusiasm.
In that case you might start to ask yourself what is happening as you watch yourself getting more timid over time. And more to the point: What can I do about it if I am not too thrilled about the changes that i see.
There are two main avenues for dealing with this kind of changes:
>One is focused on the raw function of your risk preferences.
The physiological causes of dopamine reductino is subject to……
There are ways to make adjusments to your instinctive risk preferences, but this subject is beyond the scope of this article.
The other main road to managing risk preferences is
Compensation, meaning that you make sure that you establish some kind of correcting feedback: Setting explicit goals for the degree of risk taking that you choose to aim for AND establishing a review process that will let you take corrective action as you see fit.
This method does not require you to change your basic risk preferences, just to override their influence on your actual behavior. This comes down to ensuring that you have adeqaute resources for doing just that.
Depletion and risk taking
Danziger and the what the judge ate for breakfast
Back in in 2001 Danzinger and xxxx published one of the most intriguing studies in recent years: They ran a comprehensive staticical analysis of decisions made by experienced experts (judges with an average work experience of xx years)
What they could show based on this analysis was that the probablity for a risky desicion (granting probation to an inmate) was at xx % in the early morning, but only yy % just before lunchtime. After a longish break and supposedly a nice lunch, the probability for a risky desicion was calculated to be zz % but droping to a mere ww % as they approached xxx o´clock.
The emerging consesus in the understanding of these phenomena is that your executive brain will burn of lot of calories as it works its wonders and leave you depleted and with less self control as you slowly exhaust yourself.
Resources are a factor in risk taking and deci
has shown how depletion leads to changes in risk preferences, so that chosen investment tends to be on the safe side. The flipside of this is that you can actually avoid your default instincitieve risk preference by using raw self control. This presupposes that you are not depleted, not stressed, not
In short you need to prioritize making your decisisons while you are on top of your game. But this is hardly anything new for you if you are used to making consequential decisions.
But it should give you a bit of motivation to do it with an even keener eye for opportunity and progress.
Risk taking and earnings
Investment under uncertainty requires that the odds are in your favor, so that while you might see a loss in the short term based on a few random results, you would see a net gain in the long run when accumulated results close in on the true probability. The earnings based on a favorable probability is represented by dopamine fueled circuits. Which also means that if you have less dopamine you will have less sense of opportunity. And again, if your sense of opportunity takes a 8% reduction due to physiological changes, your earnings would suffer accordingly. So how much reduction in earnings did the researchers find?
You might think that with age we just become a bit more erratic in our deicisions and that more randomness would explain a degree of change. That woould certainly fit some common stereotypes of aging. But the research did not confirm this. More “noize” and erratic behavior would show up as less consistency in choices made, but the research showed “no age-related change in choice consistency”, thus disconfirming that age would lead to more errors in the decision process.