Do you find yourself taking Facebook breaks every five minutes? Well, it may just be your human nature. According to a recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University, researchers found the neurotransmitter dopamine is concentrated in the brain differently in ‘slackers’ than in ‘go-getters.’
The experiment collected data through a technique known as positron emission tomography, a nuclear medicine imaging system that analyzes the brain’s blood flow and metabolic activity.
The scientists noted the individuals that were more intrinsically motivated had higher dopamine levels in regions known as the striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, but the careless ‘chillers’ were more dopamine-rich in the anterior insula. Unsurprisingly, the former two regions influence motivation and reward, whereas the latter is associated with emotion and risk perception.
Scientists involved in the study stated in a press release that this information will help predict the underlying causes of a variety of psychological illnesses including ADHD, depression and schizophrenia.
Vanderbilt postdoctoral student Michael Treadway said that while previous research has indicated that dopamine is critical in motivating rats, the findings of the study reveal dopamine’s involvement in human behaviors.
“Past studies in rats have shown that dopamine is crucial for reward motivation,” Treadway said. “This study provides new information about how dopamine determines individual differences in the behavior of human reward-seekers.
Other than reward motivation, decades of research have shown dopamine’s role in a variety of functions including but not limited to behavior, voluntary movement, learning, mood and attention.
Last year a McGill University study featured in the journal Nature Neuroscience correlated listening to music with dopamine releases. Scientists measured changes in skin conductance, heart rate, breathing and temperature in response to ‘pleasurable’ music versus ‘neutral’ music. Using the PET technique utilized in the Vanderbilt University experiment, researchers noted the neurochemical evidence that suggests music acts as a stimulus for dopamine release.
In a Scripps Research Institute study published earlier this year in the journal Neuron, scientists suggested dopamine plays a role in the process regulating appetite. Thus, the receptors for the hunger-promoting hormone and receptors for dopamine interact with one another, suggesting why that cookiewich is always so goddamn satisfying.
Now that you know about some of the latest findings regarding brain chemistry, you might feel relieved to finally know why you have your preference in either spending your days studying at the library or sleeping in all day. Now you can finally justify your habits of stocking your fridge with Ben & Jerry’s and your iPod with the newest Avicii tracks through actual scientific evidence.
As finals week approaches, keep in mind that while your body’s dopamine has its preferences on where it likes to hang out, you can alter its activity through diet, exercise and music.