It appears like a psychedelic landscape – sharp ridges and dark valleys – softened by a sprawl of colour. There’s something remarkably mountainous about the scene, but the flow of pink, blue green and orange may prompt the question; what actually is it?
Despite appearing other-worldly, this is an image of a substance that occurs naturally within all of us. This micrograph, created by Spike Walker, depicts dopamine crystals illuminated by polarised light. The orientation of each crystal within the structure determines how they refract light. As a result, the wavelength of the reflected light varies, creating this spectral wonder captured under a microscope.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that mediates a variety of brain processes. Its release, in the parts of the brain known as the limbic system, is associated with pleasurable activities, such as eating or having sex. Some recreational drugs such as MDMA (otherwise known as ecstasy) exploit…
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