Slackers are wired to be lazy

May 02 2012 by Brian Amble Print This Article

We've all come across the office slacker. But it seems that it isn't a lack of motivation that's their real problem, it is that their brain is simply wired differently from their more motivated colleagues.

According to a new study by a team from Vanderbilt University, there are significant differences between "go-getters" and "slackers" in three specific areas of the brain.

Using a brain mapping technique, 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.

Michael Treadway, one of the researchers, said that while past studies in rats had shown that dopamine is crucial for reward motivation, this was the first time that a connection had been made in humans between dopamine and the desire to work.

The research, led by Professor David Zald, is part of a project searching 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," he said.

"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."