May 02, 2012
Dopamine Distribution Causes Slackers And Go-Getters?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and genetic variants for it influence behavior in a number of ways. If you are a slacker you probably have a lot of dopamine activity in your insula. If you are motivated and work really hard you probably have a lot activity in your striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Blame your dopamine if you can't make yourself work hard enough.

Whether someone is a "go-getter" or a "slacker" may depend on individual differences in the brain chemical dopamine, according to new research in the May 2 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that dopamine affects cost-benefit analyses.

The study found that people who chose to put in more effort even in the face of long odds showed greater dopamine response in the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain important in reward and motivation. In contrast, those who were least likely to expend effort showed increased dopamine response in the insula, a brain region involved in perception, social behavior, and self-awareness.

Researchers led by Michael Treadway, a graduate student working with David Zald, PhD, at Vanderbilt University, asked participants to rapidly press a button in order to earn varying amounts of money. Participants got to decide how hard they were willing to work depending on the odds of a payout and the amount of money they could win. Some accepted harder challenges for more money even against long odds, whereas less motivated subjects would forgo an attempt if it cost them too much effort.

My guess is there's genetic differences play a large role in differences in brain dopamine activity. Once it becomes possible to choose offspring genetic variants will people opt make babies who will be more motivated than their parents? My guess is yes, genetically engineered future generations of humans will be more motivated by design.

Brain PET scans were used to determine individual responsiveness to dopamine.

In a separate session, the participants underwent a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET) that measured dopamine system activity in different parts of the brain. The researchers then examined whether there was a relationship between each individual's dopamine responsiveness and their scores on the motivational test described earlier.

Imagine a country where employers are allowed to require a PET scan as a condition of employment. If PET scan costs were cheap enough some employers would use them.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 May 02 09:11 PM  Brain Innate

C said at May 3, 2012 5:06 AM:

When you read your article, it sounds like their test of motivation was whether people would "agree" to do a task for a given reward, not whether they actually worked harder or slacked off. I think that's flawed. In my real world experience, being ambitious is very different from having the motivation to actually follow through.

PacRim Jim said at May 3, 2012 1:02 PM:

"Imagine a country where employers are allowed to require a PET scan as a condition of employment."
The market to the rescue:
I'm sure some enterprising bloke will off a medicament that will temporarily boost one's dopamine level, at least enough to get a job on the board of directors.

Matt said at May 6, 2012 6:32 PM:

A question then; how to I go about creating a greater dopamine response in my striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex?

Will future medicines or therapies be able to temporarily or permanently change this? Or is it possible now? One would assume this would be a very worthwhile trait in practically any field of endeavour.

PacRim Jim said at May 6, 2012 9:26 PM:

Remember Steven Wright's advice:

Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now.

Kai Jones said at May 7, 2012 9:21 AM:

I want a screening test I can use before I go on a second date with a man.

Jank said at May 7, 2012 4:54 PM:

If they perfect such a test I will be even more screwed than I am now if that is possible.

Lono said at May 9, 2012 9:41 AM:


Heh heh - nice!

Warda Syed said at May 11, 2012 5:47 AM:

Yeah this is fine its a fact

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