Injection of workaholism
Gene therapy can turn procrastinating primates into workaholics.
Like many humans, monkeys tend to slack off when their goal is distant, then work harder as a deadline looms. But when a key gene is turned off, the primates work hard from the word go, say researchers of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
The team injected a short strand of DNA into the poor monkeys' brains. The gene encodes a protein called a D2 receptor that makes nerve cells more sensitive to dopamine, a chemical implicated in the perception of reward.
With the gene turned off, the monkeys suddenly became extreme workaholics.
The discovery could help researchers understand the brain mechanisms that underlie human mood disorders, where the perception of reward has gone awry.
Depressed people, for example, commonly fail to find work rewarding. Sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) often work frantically, sometimes for little reward.
I only hope such a treatment will never be used to turn us into working machines.
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