Caffeine turns hard workers into slackers: Study

Washington: How many cups of coffee you take a day at workplace? Well, a new study has found that caffeine, a substance found in coffee, tea and soft drinks, could turn hard workers into slackers.

However, caffeine does not make lazy ones into productive superstars, found the study conducted on mice and appeared in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

But stimulants like amphetamines appears to turn the less motivated ones into hard workers although it fails to prevent hard workers from becoming slackers, LiveScience reported.

In the study, a team led by Jay Hosking at the University of British Columbia put 20 rats in boxes with two levers and five holes, one of which was to lit up during the task.

By sticking its nose in that hole, the rat received a treat of sugar pellets. Using the levers, the rats could choose between a hard task, in which the hole lit up for a fifth of a second -- about how long it takes to blink – and an easier one, where the hole lit for a whole second.

If they completed the task successfully, the hard task, which required more brainpower, rewarded the rats with twice as many sugar pellets as did the easy task.

These tasks, study researcher Jay Hosking said, would be the equivalent of doing the bare minimum at work or going above and beyond in hopes of a promotion.

As in humans, some rats frequently chose the bare-minimum task, and others went with the hard ones for the bigger payoff, Hosking said.

When the rats were given stimulants, either caffeine or amphetamines, they were more impulsive and responded quicker, but they were just as accurate at nosing the lit-up hole.

However, the two personalities of rat had opposite reactions when made to choose between tasks. On either of the drugs, the hardworking rats became lazy, preferring the easy tasks in trials.

Meanwhile, when the lazy rats were given amphetamines, they became hard workers. Oddly, the same effect was not seen for the caffeine, Hosking said.

"The good news is that caffeine doesn`t make the lazy rats any worse, but it definitely decreases the workers` willingness to put in the work," he said.

"Both end up stimulating, both create arousal, but they have different specific effects on the brain," Hosking said, explaining the difference between the two stimulants.

The results may explain why amphetamine-based stimulants such as Adderall can help calm someone who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Perhaps the drug works to turn those distracted people into focused workers.

Adderall has lots of "off-label" uses, too, Hosking noted. Everyone from overworked college students to long-haul truck drivers may take amphetamines. "One treatment doesn`t fit all individuals," Hosking said.

He said: "In truck drivers, amphetamine is a common stimulant which helps keep drivers alert... but a quarter of truck accidents are related to that amphetamine use as well.

"Some people might do really well on the amphetamines, and some might be taking it and thinking it`s helping and actually harming themselves."