Go-Getter or Slacker: Brain Chemicals Decide

The next time your parents complain that you're a slacker, and not a go-getter like your sibling, tell them this: it's your brain's fault.

Scientists have discovered that different levels of dopamine in three brain regions determine if a person is a go-getter or a slacker:

Dopamine does different things in different areas of the brain. So while high levels in some brain regions were associated with a high work ethic, a spike in another brain region seemed indicate just the opposite — a person more likely to slack off, even if it meant smaller monetary rewards.

"To our surprise, we also found a different region of the brain, the anterior insula, that showed a strong negative relationship between dopamine level and willingness to work hard," study researcher Michael Treadway, graduate student at Vanderbilt University, told LiveScience.


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Nice! One thing to keep in mind is that dopamine is a reward chemical which seldom acts alone and can act on receptor sites in different regions resulting in different effects.

It's reasons like that, that I get discouraged by the popularization of isolated neuroscientific facts. Paul J. Zak famously discovered Oxytocin in humans and much speculation has followed on the role Oxytocin plays. However, prior research also showed that Vasopressin played a similar role to Oxytocin, and that both of these chemicals were likely to be associated with Phenethylamine and Norepinephrine, and probably Cortisol too. Everything is a "cocktail" of activation across the brain and understanding any part of it means understanding all of it. Makes it hard to popularize it without the truth dropping out of it at the same time.
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