Procrastinating monkeys were turned into workaholics using a gene treatment to block a key brain compound, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

Blocking cells from receiving dopamine made the monkeys work harder at a task — and they were better at it, too, the U.S. government researchers found.



Dr. Barry Richmond and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health used a new genetic technique to block the D2 gene.



“The gene makes a receptor for a key brain messenger chemical, dopamine,” Richmond said in a statement. Dopamine is a message-carrying chemical associated with rewards, movement and a variety of other important functions.



“The gene knockdown triggered a remarkable transformation in the simian work ethic. Like many of us, monkeys normally slack off initially in working toward a distant goal,” he added.



For their study, Richmond and colleagues used seven rhesus monkeys. They had to push a lever in response to visual cues on a projection screen, and got a drop of water as a reward.



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