Yuletide spirit resides in brain Using scans, scientists track holiday feelings
Misty Harris, Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, November 27, 2008
You won't find Santa's workshop on a map, but scientists have discovered they can plot the path of the Christmas spirit through your brain.
Now that psychophysiology can reveal physical cues of a menu of human sensations, the holiday spirit no longer is seen as an invention of Charles Dickens. Instead, it's a quantifiable state that shows up in brain scans.
"The brain of a happy, in-the-spirit person" shows activity in the reward centre's amygdala and cingulate cortex, says neurologist Fernette Eide. She adds that in contrast, "the brain of [Ebenezer] Scrooge before his Christmas Day turnaround would have looked like the tiny lump of coal Bob Cratchit had to content himself with -- dark, small and mostly burnt out."
The findings have implications for people's health over the holidays and throughout the year, should those emotions persist.
"There's a whole body of literature showing how different outlooks or temperament really affect a lot of different aspects of cognitive function, as well as performance on the job, resilience in the presence of setbacks, and even your whole body health," says Eide, the Harvard-educated co-author of the book The Mislabeled Child.
"In the brain, what you can see is that optimists are more likely to be flexible with problem-solving, to be able to find their mistakes ... and be able to remember more and perform better on different kinds of challenging tasks."
Although "bah-humbug" personalities can fake-smile their way through family gatherings, Eide says, they won't reap the same cognitive rewards: "Your brain knows the difference."
But at a time when the economic future is uncertain, tapping the vein of yuletide cheer can be challenging, says happiness researcher Scott Kenney.
"People who are dealing with difficult circumstances have to do a lot more emotional labour," says Kenney, an assistant professor of sociology at Newfoundland's Memorial University. "Christmas does highlight the gap between how they're expected to feel and how they're actually feeling."
By trying to fit in with the "norm" of holiday cheer, he says, "being happy becomes a form of work, a form of stress."
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008
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Thread: Bahh Humbug!
11-27-2008, 12:45 PM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.
11-28-2008, 03:34 AM #2
Here is something to get you into the holiday spirit.
Had our first suicide of the holiday season last week. Tonight, on Thanksgiving as of right now at 0136hrs, we have had two suicide threats, some misc. loud party/loud music complaints, several EMS calls, one bar fight so far, and several family fights just since I came into work at 2200hrs.
Tis the season!!
Last edited by Dickey; 11-28-2008 at 03:38 AM.Jason Knecht
Altoona Fire Dept.
IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine
EAT CHEESE OR DIE!!
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