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How Dopamine Levels In Your Brain Affect Your Work Ethic

May 3, 2012, 12:47 AM GMT+2

If you think that simply providing more rewards for your employees are going to make them work harder, think again.

High levels of dopamine activity (shown in orange and yellow) found in the brains of "go getters." Zald Lab, Vanderbilt University

It turns out that an individual's willingness to work hard is strongly influenced by the amount of dopamine in three specific areas of their brain, and rewards — including money — aren't going to transform a "slacker" into a "go-getter," says a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Participants willing to face long odds and work hard for bigger rewards had high levels of dopamine in two areas of the brain that contribute to reward and motivation, whereas people who were less motivated had high levels of dopamine in another part of the brain associated with risk perception, social behavior and self-awareness.

The finding — that dopamine has opposite effects in different parts of the brain — was surprising because it suggests that more dopamine in a certain part of the brain causes a reduced desire to work (no matter the incentives to work harder).

The study says that the research could affect treatment of mental illnesses related to decreased motivation (e.g. schizophrenia, ADHD, depression) because it contradicts the general assumption that dopamine-altering medications have the same effect throughout the brain.


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