Category Archives: Research

Researchers pinpoint brain’s happiness region

creativity1.jpg Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence,” the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said. But how does one reach this goal? According to a new study by researchers from Japan, a person’s happiness may depend on the size of a specific brain region.

Researchers found people who were happier had larger gray matter volume in the precuneus region of the brain.

Study leader Dr. Wataru Sato, of Kyoto University in Japan, and colleagues publish their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

The definition of happiness has been debated for centuries. In recent years, psychologists have suggested that happiness is a combination of life satisfaction and the experience of more positive than negative emotions – collectively deemed “subjective well-being.”

But according to Dr. Sato and his colleagues, the neurological mechanisms behind a person’s happiness were unclear.

“To date, no structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) investigation of the construct has been conducted,” they note.

“Identification of the neural substrates underlying subjective happiness may provide a complementary objective measure for this subjective construct and insight into its information-processing mechanism.”

 

Meditation may boost happiness by targeting precuneus brain region

To address this research gap, the team used MRI to scan the brains of 51 study participants.

After the scans, subjects were asked to complete three short questionnaires that asked them how satisfied they are with their lives, how happy they are and how intensely they feel positive and negative emotions.

The researchers found that individuals who had higher happiness scores had larger gray matter volume in the precuneus of the brain – a region in the medial parietal lobe that plays a role in self-reflection and certain aspects of consciousness – than their unhappy counterparts.YMen.jpg

What is more, the researchers found that one’s happiness may be driven by a combination of greater life satisfaction and intensity of positive emotion – supporting the theory of subjective well-being.

“These results indicate that the widely accepted psychological model postulating emotional and cognitive components of subjective happiness may be applicable at the level of neural structure,” they add.

These findings, the researchers say, indicate that individuals may be able to boost their happiness through practices that target the precuneus, such as meditation:

“Previous structural neuroimaging studies have shown that training in psychological activities, such as meditation, changed the structure of the precuneus gray matter.

Together with these findings, our results suggest that psychological training that effectively increases gray matter volume in the precuneus may enhance subjective happiness.”

Dr. Sato adds that, while further research is required, these current findings may be useful for developing psychological programs that boost a person’s happiness.

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Dance Movement Therapy and Children

Dance Movement Therapist (DMT) practice in a wide variety of settings. One example is DMT’s who work with children and their care givers (such as parents) in a safe, structured and creative environment. In this type of setting DMT’s observe interactions such as how and when a child moves toward and away from their care giver. A DMT might use the Kestenberg Movement Profile (KMP) to observe the natural developmental based rhythms, attunements and clashes of the child and care giver as they play and interact. For instance, a child may have a gradual rhythm and moves slowly into activities and the care giver may have a more aggressive/biting rhythm. A cash of rhythms occurs when the care giver pushes the child into activities at the care giver’s rhythm and not the child’s. The result is the child will often resist the care giver and the more the care giver pushes the more the child resists.
One successful outcome of this situation is to teach the care giver how to attune to the natural physical, mental and emotional rhythms of the child. When the care giver attunes to the child, the child begins to attune to the care giver and instead if resisting each other’s rhythms they begin to “move” together.

Scientist Seeks Neural And Biological Basis For Creativity, Beauty And Love

One of the world’s leading neuroscientists is to search for the neural and biological basis for creativity, beauty and love after receiving over £1 million from the Wellcome Trust, the UK’s largest medical research charity. The research will bring together science, the arts and philosophy to answer fundamental questions about what it means to be human. 

Professor Semir Zeki from University College London (UCL) has received a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award to establish a programme of research in the new field of “neuroaesthetics”. The research will build on his previous work into the neural mechanisms behind beauty and love. 

Together with Professor Ray Dolan, Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, Professor Zeki will look at questions that have been debated for millennia by writers, artists and philosophers and yet have been little studied by neurobiologists: Can we measure beauty objectively” How are beauty and love related” What does it mean to be happy” 

“All human societies place a high premium on art and the pursuit of beauty,” says Professor Zeki. “We all value and reward creativity. We all want to pursue happiness. But what do these entities mean in concrete, neurobiological terms” We hope to address these issues experimentally. The results will not only increase our knowledge about the workings of the human brain but will also give deep insights into human nature and how we view ourselves.” 

Neuroesthetics aims to illuminate the brain’s workings through its cultural products in a similar way to how neuroscientists study the brain through malfunctions caused by disease. However, Professor Zeki believes its impact may be much wider. 

“The new field of neuroaesthetics will teach biologists to use the products of the brain in art, music, literature and mathematics to better understand how the brain functions,” he says. “Success will encourage an interdisciplinary approach to other fields, such as the study of economics or jurisprudence in terms of brain activity. This will have a deep impact on social issues.” 

Using Wellcome Trust funding, Professor Zeki hopes to attract students and researchers from the sciences, arts and humanities in truly interdisciplinary research. Their work will be overseen by an Advisory Board that will include author AS Byatt, physician, opera producer and broadcaster Sir Jonathan Miller and Dr. Deborah Swallow, Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. 

“Professor Zeki is a Renaissance Man for the twenty-first century,” says Professor Richard Morris, Head of Neurosciences and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust. “His research sees no boundaries between science and the arts and humanities and will provide an exciting insight in issues that strike at the heart of what it is to be human.”