Most artists work for exceptionally low pay. Despite the precarious nature of the art economy, they carry on, ostensibly sacrificing monetary compensation for the loftier reward of creative freedom. But what if some artists are actually—physiologically—hardwired not to care about money?

That’s the implication of a new study published in the Creativity Research Journal, led by Dr. Roberto Goya-Maldonado, who is head of the systems neuroscience and imaging in psychiatry lab at the University Medical Center in Göttingen, Germany. The research team watched for activity in the parts of the brain that produce dopamine—the chemical that delivers rushes of excitement often associated with sex, drugs, and gambling—when groups of both artists and non-artists were presented with offers of free cash.

It’s worth mentioning up front that the sample size of the study is pretty small. Twenty-four participants completed the test and had their brain scans analyzed. Twelve of them worked in the arts, either as actors, painters, sculptors, musicians, or photographers. The other group of 12 included an insurance salesman, a dentist, a business administrator, and an engineer, among other professions, none of whom self-identified as “creative.” Read more