Monday, October 18, 2004
Scientists find way to make us slaves
Times Online: "However, experiments conducted on rhesus monkeys have shown for the first time that animal behaviour can be permanently altered, turning the subjects from aggressive to “compliant” creatures.

The scientists did so by blocking the effects of a gene in the brain called D2, which cut off the link between the monkeys’ motivation and perceived reward. Humans have an identical gene.

The project was led by Barry Richmond, a government neurobiologist at America’s National Institute of Mental Health, who has detailed the findings in the journal Nature Neuroscience this month.

The work shows how the monkeys could be made to work enthusiastically for long periods without the need for a “treat”.

The experiments involved getting monkeys to operate levers in response to colour changes on screens in front of them. Normally they work hardest and fastest with the fewest mistakes if they think a reward for the “work” is imminent.

However, Richmond’s team found that they could make the monkeys work their hardest and fastest all the time, without any complaint or sign of slacking, just by manipulating D2 so that they forgot about the expectation of reward.

“Most people are motivated to work hard and well only by the expectation of reward, whether it’s a pay cheque or a word of praise,” said Richmond. “In these experiments we found we could remove that link and create a situation where repetitive, hard work would continue without any reward.”"

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