Work Ethic Depends on Dopamine Levels Across the Brain
May 03, 2012 12:16
Work ethics. We read a lot about it but not everyone of us practices it. Some of us work really hard and while others are slackers. New research is showing that its because of dopamine levels in three different areas of the brain that influence our willingness to work.
The study is set to be published in tomorrow's issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, and uses positron emission tomography (PET) to image the rbains of a cross section of participants. As you can imagine, it includes go-geters to slackers.
The participants were asked to choose from a range of tasks from simple to difficult in exchange for varying monetary rewards.
Researchers found that the people who were willing to work hard had higher release of dopamine, a "feel good" neurotransmitter in areas of the brain known to play an important role in reward and motivation in the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
People who weren't keen to work, had higher levels in dopamine in part of the brain that plays a role in emotion and risk perception called the anterior insula. According to researcher David Zald:
"Past studies in rats have shown that dopamine is crucial for reward motivation, but this study provides new information about how dopamine determines individual differences in the behavior of human reward-seekers."
Dopamine has opposing effects in different parts of the brain and that's an interesting and troublesome thing at the same time. This research can give light to developing psychotropic medications, for instance, those used to treat attention deficit disorder. The study suggests that shifting dopamine distribution to other parts of the brain might be more important than merely just adjusting the total amount.
Wired has published a very nice feature on Kip Thorne and the science behind Chris Nolan's Interstellar. Kip Thorne is one of the world's most celebrated theoretical physicists. He and Nolan worked together to ensure depictions of scientific happenings in the film are as accurate as possible. Read more