Striking a balance between short-term goals - going out for a meal with friends or buying a new book - and long-term objectives like saving up for a house or a holiday can be tricky. Researchers at University College London have been investigating the role of dopamine in these thought processes and have found that too much of the chemical - which is found naturally and plays a part in transmitting signals in the brain - might make you more likely to take the short-term option. The researchers studied 14 healthy participants asking them to make a choice between a small reward now or a larger one later. They were asked to make the decision after being given a drug called L-dopa, which boosts dopamine, a placebo and a drug called haloperidol which suppresses dopamine. After taking the L-dopa the participants were more likely to take the short-term option although there was little difference between their decisions after taking the placebo or after taking haloperidol. The participants also had brain scans while they took the tests. The L-dopa increased activity in the striatum and prefrontal cortex and the more susceptible people were to the influence of the L-dopa the more activity they showed in their amygdalas.
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