Researchers at the US's National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland have discovered a way to make primates into workaholics by gene therapy. Further research will now be carried out on animals and humans. Hopefully then we can have a pill or something to aid revision for an exam next Tuesday.
Richmond's team trained four monkeys to release a lever when a spot on a computer screen turned from red to green. The animals had to complete several trials correctly before they received a reward. To give them an idea of how many trials were left, a grey bar on the screen became progressively brighter as the task progressed.
The team then injected a short strand of DNA into each monkey's brains, temporarily switching off a key gene in a region of the brain called the rhinal cortex, which is known to be involved in processing reward signals. The gene encodes a protein called a D2 receptor that makes nerve cells more sensitive to dopamine, a chemical that is also implicated in the perception of reward.
With the gene turned off, the monkeys were unable to anticipate how many trials were left before the reward was given. They stopped procrastinating and worked hard throughout the task, making consistently fewer errors at every stage.