Are You A Lazy Slacker? You May Have Been Born That Way
May 2, 2012

Are You A Lazy Slacker? You May Have Been Born That Way

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New brain research suggests lazy people could be naturally born that way.

Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the study was performed by a team of scientists from Vanderbilt University who found evidence which suggests a person´s willingness to work hard and make money are tied to specific chemicals in 3 areas of the brain.

The scientists also say these new studies could improve the treatment and research of Attention-Deficit Disorder, Depression and schizophrenia.

The Vanderbilt team used a brain mapping technique called positron emission tomography (or PETscan) to conduct their research. They found the typical “go-getters” who were willing to work hard for reward or monetary gain released a larger amount of dopamine in the areas of the brain associated with reward and motivation. Conversely, the brains of slackers released dopamine in a very different part of the brain: The area which plays a role in emotion and risk perception.

Post-doctoral student Michael Treadway said in a statement, “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.”

According to Treadway and his team, the role of dopamine in the emotion and risk assessment part of the brain was a total surprise. The researchers expected the increase of dopamine in the emotive area of the brain to reduce the desire to work, even when the individual knows they will make less money. Since their studies now suggest the opposite is true, the researchers say the use of psychotropic medications used to treat ADD, depression and schizophrenia could be called into question.

To conduct their study, the researchers recruited 25 healthy volunteers from 18-to 29-years old. To determine if these participants were willing to work hard for the money, they were asked to choose from two different “button-pushing tasks.”

The first task was listed as easy, and could have earned the participant $1 cash. The harder task had the potential of earning the participants with up to $4 cash.

Then, the researchers informed the participants if they had a low, medium, or high probability of receiving the award. Each task lasted only 30 seconds, and the participants were asked to perform these tasks repeatedly for 20 minutes.

Professor of Psychology David Zald took part in conducting the research, saying: “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.”

“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.”

In addition to discovering the way a lazy person approaches their work, the researchers are also working to improve the ways doctors diagnose and treat those with psychological issues 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.”