Differences in dopamine may determine how hard people work

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COMMENTS: Higher dopamine in the reward circuitry (striatum, pre-frontal cortex) was reflected in more effort and motivation.

Differences in dopamine may determine how hard people work Human study suggests biological basis for individual differences in behavior

Washington, DC — 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. 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. Previous rodent research also showed that dopamine activity in motivational centers is important for long-shot decisions. However, in the current study, the researchers were surprised to find that those with increased dopamine activity in the insula were the least likely to expend effort on the task.

"These results show for the first time that increased dopamine in the insula is associated with decreased motivation — suggesting that the behavioral effects of dopaminergic drugs may vary depending on where they act in the brain," said lead study author Treadway. "Previous research has indicated that dopamine influences the motivation to seek out rewards.

Now, this elegant new study provides the clearest evidence to date that individual differences in dopamine-related motivation might be a trait," said Marco Leyton, PhD, an expert on dopamine at McGill University, who was not involved in the study. "A striking implication highlighted by the authors is that abnormal dopamine transmission could affect a wide range of decision-making processes and susceptibility to depression.

" ### This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Mental Health. The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of more than 42,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system. More information on decision-making can be found in the Society's Brain Briefings.

Comments

many ways to interpret

First, some people get a reward from a challenge, whether they succeed or not - a Thomas Edison type. Others appear to want a more tangible rewarding outcome. That's my basic Interpretation. Some can delay gratification, some can't.

To flip it around, low dopamine in the reward circuit, such as a chronic addiction, might lead to low motivation to achieve long term goals, or having a low frustration tolerance.

As we see here, returning your dopamine system to full strength leads to tackling long term goals, from education, to exercise, diet, relationships, etc.

 

depends

if one simply blocks dopamine experimentally, libido will decline, and if dopamine is raised, the sex drive will increase. This is seen in animal experiments, and with parkinsons" patients.

But low dopamine may have us searching for stimuli that fill the void, which could be sex and porn.

The findings suggest that

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.

Whacking our brains with dopamine isn't inherently bad if we do so in a region that will yield a desired outcome? Something tells me they missed something. I can't put my finger on it. If I understand this correctly, I can readily fall into both groups suggesting that the trait aspect might not be correct. Perhaps patterns, habits, outside stimuli, etc. could be inputs that allow the brain to use dopamine to change itself. That seems supported from what we know of addiction and recovery. This study captured a person in time, not the full range of that person over time when self-motivated to change. An interesting aspect might be when a person and thus his brain want one direction and a dopaminergic drug that can target the other brain region is working against that. This might be what is happening with porn addiction. Also, it would be useful to know how these regions respond to dopamine in combination.

To me it says loud and clear

that as people reverse dopamine dysregulation it makes sense that they can pursue their goals with more drive. Happens automatically.

I wonder if the experimenters controlled for heavy porn use. Wink Maybe these differences aren't all genetic, but rather related to balanced habits in life.

To get through my finals this

To get through my finals this year, I ramped my brain up with dopamine for a couple of weeks. Caffeine, sugar, PMO. I was my old highly motivated self and got a lot done, but I expect the dip now that finals are over.

Great article! I read this

Great article! I read this yesterday in the Journal and thought this would be a great article for this site, I come on over to Reuniting and boom there it is. I've always thought that I have never really been super productive in life. I've been successful but I've always thought I could or should push myself more. I'm not saying this is the magic bullet, although I'd like to believe it is, but it's good to know that some changes in behavior might produce a more productive person. One thing though that I find interesting, in orgasm the right prefrontal cortex goes crazy while the rest of the brain almost shuts down. The right prefrontal cortex is usually associated with negative feelings, if I'm not mistaken, while the left side is really the happy and motivated part. Would this be part of the reason for the orgasm hangover? If we are constantly stimulating our "negative" side of the prefrontal cortex then no wonder we feel so bad afterwards.

So say you have two people:

So say you have two people:

Steady Freddie. Steady Freddie plods along. Doesn't get too excited. Doesn't get addicted to things. Works hard enough but isn't enthusiastic. Maybe an accountant by profession.

Excitable Sally. Sally gets really into big rewards. She is in commissioned sales in her own business. She is always bubbling over with new ideas. She also gets really down sometimes. She works in bursts of enthusiasm followed by down periods where she doesn't feel like getting out of bed.

Are these two people opposites in terms of dopamine? Is this study helping us figure out who would buy a lottery ticket, who would work hard, who would look for lazy shortcuts on the path to wealth?

Personally, I would say Sally

Personally, I would say Sally sounds like she may have ADD or ADHD, while Freddie may just not like his job. They probably would be like opposites but Freddie sounds like he may have slightly low dopamine or serotonin since nothing really gets him excited. To me, this study is just a starting point in explaining that different parts of the brain may dictate how industrious someone might be. Now, I'm sure everyone knows people who are both hard working AND addicted to something else, their brain may just work differently. I would think once you remove a negative part of your life(addiction) and replace it with something else more productive your dopamine would start to make you enjoy those productive things. I mean, it has to be stimulated somewhere since you've removed the addiction, why not by being more productive.