February 25, 2010
High Status Means More Brain Striatum Dopamine Receptors

If you have high social status you are more likely to enjoy rewards and feel motivations due to higher dopamine receptor concentrations.

Philadelphia, February 3, 2010 - People have typically viewed the benefits that accrue with social status primarily from the perspective of external rewards. A new paper in the February 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry, published by Elsevier suggests that there are internal rewards as well.

Dr. Martinez and colleagues found that increased social status and increased social support correlated with the density of dopamine D2/D3 receptors in the striatum, a region of the brain that plays a central role in reward and motivation, where dopamine plays a critical role in both of these behavioral processes.

The researchers looked at social status and social support in normal healthy volunteers who were scanned using positron emission tomography (PET), a technology that allowed them to image dopamine type 2 receptors in the brain.

This data suggests that people who achieve greater social status are more likely to be able to experience life as rewarding and stimulating because they have more targets for dopamine to act upon within the striatum.

What's the direction of cause and effect here? Might the higher dopamine receptor concentration motivate people do to more to raise their status? Or does the brain grow more dopamine receptors once higher status has been achieved?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 February 25 11:17 PM  Brain Economics


Comments
Tyrosine said at February 26, 2010 2:08 PM:

It's highly unlikely that non-pathological parents would act to reduce their kids' status, and thus reduce their fitness.

kyle r. said at February 26, 2010 2:17 PM:

What bob badour's comment suggests to me, is that parents who use reinforcement set their kids up to become narcissists, and those that use punishment set their kids up to suffer from depression. Addicted to either adulation or criticism. Meddle with your kids too much either way, either as a parent or a school teacher or therapist, and you get kids that are codependent on drugs and emotional/psychologic (giving or taking) abuse. Politics, journalism, and college professors are a good place to have a steady stream of new but non-lasting hero worshippers. But if your dad's an alcoholic then you'll be one too. But they also say the brain is like a muscle, and you are what you eat. Outside of near-death experiences, i haven't seen too many people have a spontaneous change of their core personality. But that turns into something philosophical, like the existence of free will and if you actually have the ability to influence the direction of your life. One person thinks they are perfect, and the other thinks they are broken. So its easily blamed on nature and not nurture. Is modern science even capable of suspending judgement on something as non-scientific as that? And what is the benchmark of a "normal healthy" individual anyway? Sounds like a quiz in a teen-marketed advice and fashion magazine.

Bob Badour said at February 26, 2010 2:32 PM:

Many would argue that predominant use of punishment is pathological. The Lakota found the Europeans they encountered savages because they beat their own children. ::shrug::

Kudzu Bob said at February 26, 2010 11:23 PM:

Being choosy about whom you marry is seventy percent of all you can do to try to make sure your kids turn out well.

Zach said at February 27, 2010 11:35 AM:

To thread the needle between punishment and encourage, I think spending time with children, a lot more time than most modern parents average, is the most important. I think if you're only communicating with kids 10-30 minutes a day MAX!, then condensed down in that time is a % being used for punishment and encouraging. When a couple of hours are spent (meaning parents aren't watching TV, neither are kids, computer time limited), there's a lot more time to just learn... moments of "rebuke" and/or encouragement are certainly a part of this, but it doesn't have to be a hallmark moment every second as many modern parents try to do when overemphasizing punishment/encouragement and cramming down their parenting into 10 minute blocks per day.

Rita said at September 6, 2010 1:19 PM:

I am a speech therapist in a high school and I just found this article. I read an article yesterday about the lack of change in test scores in the past 40 years despite multiple "new" approaches to education and how student motivation had decreased. Now, considering this article and noting how society has changed...both parents working, increased technology which reduces face-to-face contact....could we be, as a society, affecting brain chemistry negatively by denying adequate social contacts for our children? This also makes me think about my concerns over the past few years with kindergarten children being pushed to read and write while socialization activities, seen as "just play" by many educators, are being virtually eliminated from many of the schools with which I am familiar. Oh, incidently, that trend is being reversed in Germany, the home of the "kindergarten."

syruphead since 1988 said at July 12, 2016 7:16 PM:

[The following is quite disorganized, but upshot, exposure to various addictive stimuli seems to have been a major factor in sparking my early strong interest in video games]

Obviously my memory at age 4 is foggy to say the least, but I got into Nintendo at around the same time I first seriously abused my drug of choice, dextromethorphan* [I remember my parents saying something to the effect that my enthusiasm about Mario Brothers was the first major indication I wasn't retarded after all]. Also, as I understand it, the people at my preschool tried various addictive/addictive-type stimuli to manage my behavior, sort of a poor man's Ritalin (Chris Rock, poverty/no health care, and Robitussin as the cure for everything?)

*Concretely, the only time I can specifically remember consuming clearly hypermedical levels of cough syrup was as a desperate attempt to manage my Chicken Pox symptoms, which my parents had done all they could and more to relieve. On the other hand, I could have choked on my vomit from (ab)using intoxicants at age 4...how many can say that? More seriously, I do remember feelings associated with dextromethorphan (DXM, Robo, etc) 'tripping' as well as many flashbacks at least seemingly to that time.

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