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Does Dopamine Explain Why Slackers Slack?

Researchers Find Brains of 'Go-Getters' Handle the Chemical Differently Than Do 'Slackers'

Dopamine and Hard Work: Results

Everyone chose a combination of high-effort and low-effort options.

Those who worked the hardest had higher levels of dopamine in two areas of the brain known to be important in reward and motivation. The areas are the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

That finding wasn't a surprise. Another was: Treadway found that those not willing to work hard for the reward had high levels of dopamine in another brain area involved in emotion and risk perception. This area is the insula.

"The folks with relatively more striatal dopamine were focused on the reward," Treadway says. "The folks with more insular dopamine were thinking about how tired their pinky was. They were focused on the costs."

Eventually, the findings could help doctors monitor treatment for those with illnesses that dampen motivation, he says.

For instance, differences in dopamine levels might explain why some people respond better to medications such as ADHD drugs, he says.

Dopamine and Motivation: Perspectives

The new research suggests scientists should look at a greater number of brain networks when studying dopamine, says Brian Knutson, PhD, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Stanford University. He reviewed the findings.

"This may have implications for how drugs that influence dopamine may affect effort," he says of the new research.

The study shows that the amount of effort a person decides to expend seems to depend on where the dopamine is in the brain, says John Salamone, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

The study, he says, points out that differences in dopamine location from person to person were linked with various degrees of effort.

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