Thursday, August 12, 2004
Thanks to Prometheus 6 (a spectacular blog you should check out at the first opportunity) for this L.A. Times report on the latest scientific breakthrough in our valiant nation's ongoing struggle against unionization of the workplace:
Laboratory monkeys that started out as careless procrastinators became super-efficient workers after injections into their brains that suppressed a gene linked to their ability to anticipate a reward.
The monkeys, which had been taught a computer game that rewarded them with drops of water and juice, lost their slacker ways and worked faster while making fewer errors.
Government researchers used a new technique to temporarily block a gene, known as D2, that normally produces receptors for the brain chemical dopamine — a component in the perception of pleasure and satisfaction . . . .
It turns out that the work ethic of rhesus monkeys resembles that of many humans.
"If the reward is not immediate, you procrastinate," said Barry Richmond, a neurologist who led the study at the National Institute of Mental Health . . . .
Before their genetic treatment, the monkeys in the test dawdled when the gray bar [indicating an imminent reward] was dim. Only when it glowed did they become conscientious.
All that changed after a snippet of DNA known as an "anti-sense expression vector" was injected into a part of the brain known as the rhinal cortex. The vector suppressed the expression of the D2 gene for several weeks, hampering the ability of the rhinal cortex to detect dopamine.
The monkeys no longer understood the meaning of the gray bars. As a result, their interest never waned. They worked their levers like obsessed gamblers, never knowing when the jackpot would be delivered. They stopped only after their thirst was quenched.