At some point in life everybody wonders what makes some persons happier than others. Looking for happiness with the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), a team of Japanese researchers from the Kyoto University lead by Waturu Sato, have found the answer to be in our brains. The study has been published in Scientific Reports on November 20.
It seems that our center of happiness is the precuneus, the part of the brain responsible for emotions. The precuneus, situated in the right hemisphere of our brains, is the place where thoughts and feelings mix together to provide what we call the sense of happiness. According to the authors of the study, happiness is a mixture between positive emotions and satisfaction of life, which they call subjective happiness.
The MRI scans determined that the intensity of our emotions is connected to the amount of grey matter in the precuneus. It seems that the subjects with a larger precuneus have the ability of feeling happiness more intensely and sadness less intensely.
In order to determine this connection, the scientists have scanned the brain of more subjects, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging and then they asked them questions regarding their general intensity of emotions. People who answered that they feel happiness more intensely than sadness tended to have a larger precuneus than those who felt both emotions in the same way or those who felt sadness more intensely than happiness.
Researchers argue that for people with smaller precuneus the hope isn’t totally lost. The quantity of gray matter could be increased through specialized psychological training that could be developed with the help of this study. This means that not only the sense of happiness is dependent upon the quantity of grey matter in the precuneus but also that the volume of grey matter is dependent of our feeling of happiness.
However, the study has its limitations. The researchers couldn’t find any other brain area connected to the subjective happiness even if in previous studies there have been associations of happiness with the anterior cingulate gyrus and the amygdala. Authors of the study explain these discrepancies as a result of different methodological approaches, since all those studies were measuring the hemodynamic responses of the subjects at different happiness-inducing stimulants.
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