Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dopamine impacts your willingness to work

Date:
May 1, 2012
Source:
Vanderbilt University
Summary:
Slacker or go-getter? Everyone knows that people vary substantially in how hard they are willing to work, but the origin of these individual differences in the brain remains a mystery. Now the veil has been pushed back by a new brain imaging study that has found an individual's willingness to work hard to earn money is strongly influenced by the chemistry in three specific areas of the brain.

Slacker or go-getter? Everyone knows that people vary substantially in how hard they are willing to work, but the origin of these individual differences in the brain remained a mystery. Until now.
Credit: © Dana Heinemann / Fotolia

Slacker or go-getter? Everyone knows that people vary substantially in how hard they are willing to work, but the origin of these individual differences in the brain remains a mystery.

Related Articles


Now the veil has been pushed back by a new brain imaging study that has found an individual's willingness to work hard to earn money is strongly influenced by the chemistry in three specific areas of the brain. In addition to shedding new light on how the brain works, the research could have important implications for the treatment of attention-deficit disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness characterized by decreased motivation.

The study was published May 2 in the Journal of Neuroscience and was performed by a team of Vanderbilt scientists including post-doctoral student Michael Treadway and Professor of Psychology David Zald.

Using a brain mapping technique called positron emission tomography (PETscan), the researchers found that "go-getters" who are willing to work hard for rewards had higher release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in areas of the brain known to play an important role in reward and motivation, the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. On the other hand, "slackers" who are less willing to work hard for a reward had high dopamine levels in another brain area that plays a role in emotion and risk perception, the anterior insula.

"Past studies in rats have shown that dopamine is crucial for reward motivation," said Treadway, "but this study provides new information about how dopamine determines individual differences in the behavior of human reward-seekers."

The role of dopamine in the anterior insula came as a complete surprise to the researchers. The finding was unexpected because it suggests that more dopamine in the insula is associated with a reduced desire to work, even when it means earning less money. The fact that dopamine can have opposing effects in different parts of the brain complicates the picture regarding the use of psychotropic medications that affect dopamine levels for the treatment of attention-deficit disorder, depression and schizophrenia because it calls into question the general assumption that these dopaminergic drugs have the same effect throughout the brain.

The study was conducted with 25 healthy volunteers (52 percent female) ranging in age from 18 to 29. To determine their willingness to work for a monetary reward, the participants were asked to perform a button-pushing task. First, they were asked to select either an easy or a hard button-pushing task. Easy tasks earned $1 while the reward for hard tasks ranged up to $4. Once they made their selection, they were told they had a high, medium or low probability of getting the reward. Individual tasks lasted for about 30 seconds and participants were asked to perform them repeatedly for about 20 minutes.

"At this point, we don't have any data proving that this 20-minute snippet of behavior corresponds to an individual's long-term achievement," said Zald, "but if it does measure a trait variable such as an individual's willingness to expend effort to obtain long-term goals, it will be extremely valuable."

The research is part of a larger project designed to search for objective measures for depression and other psychological disorders where motivation is reduced. "Right now our diagnoses for these disorders is often fuzzy and based on subjective self-report of symptoms," said Zald. "Imagine how valuable it would be if we had an objective test that could tell whether a patient was suffering from a deficit or abnormality in an underlying neural system. With objective measures we could treat the underlying conditions instead of the symptoms."

Further research is needed to examine whether similar individual differences in dopamine levels help explain the altered motivation seen in forms of mental illness such as depression and addiction. Additional research is under way to examine how medications specifically impact these motivational systems.

Robert Kessler, professor of radiology and radiological sciences, Ronald Cowan, associate professor of psychiatry, Joshua Buckholtz, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard, Neil Woodward, assistant professor of psychology, Rui Li, senior research specialist of radiology and radiological sciences, Sib Ansari, associate of radiology and radiological sciences, Ronald Baldwin, research associate professor of radiology and radiological sciences, and research assistant Ashley Schwartzman also contributed to the study. The National Institute of Drug Abuse funded the research..


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Vanderbilt University. The original article was written by David Salisbury. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Vanderbilt University. "Dopamine impacts your willingness to work." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501182755.htm>.
Vanderbilt University. (2012, May 1). Dopamine impacts your willingness to work. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501182755.htm
Vanderbilt University. "Dopamine impacts your willingness to work." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501182755.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins