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Smiling When You're Sad Can Really Make You Happy
Can We Trick Our Brains Into Being Happy?
When discussing people's personalities and moods, neuroscientists inevitably become invoke the nature versus nurture debate. Over the past couple of years, neurology researchers are finding that certain personality traits were linked to the size of various parts of the brain. The size of an area of the brain is often correlated with strength in that area. So someone with a large prefrontal cortex--the part of the brain associated with emotion--might be better at regulating their feelings. Some recent studies looking at chimps has found that our closest genetic relative has some very similar personality traits that we humans do.
A study published in the journal NeuroImage administered MRI scans tp brains of over 100 different chimps while using a list of 40 questions to help them ascertain the chimp's personality. The moods they examined were extraversion, openness, agreeableness, dominance--traits relatively easy judge in humans, less so with chimps. They found definite correlations in the parts of the chimps' brains and their personalities. For example: chimps rated to have more positive traits likes extraversion had more gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex in both sides of the brain. But chimps with negative traits like dominance had more gray-matter in the left anterior cingulate cortex and the right prefrontal cortex.
Can the same connections be made in the human brain? Two studies suggest that certain connections in the brain can spell happiness for some. The journal Nature Neuroscience published a study which examined the "connectomes" (the map of the various connections in the brain )of 461 human research subjects. The researchers found "a strong correlation" of positive traits and specific types of connectivity. But it's not just connection, it's the size of certain regions too. The other study was published in the journal Psychological Research. In it, scientists scanned the brains of over 100 different people and also found links between the sizes of certain brain regions and the subject's personality. This study found that the medial orbitofrontal cortex was larger for those with some positive traits like extraversion. And those with more negative emotions had a larger mid-cingulate cortex. If a scientist could scan your brain right now, they could tell a lot about your personality. It's crucial to remember, however, that neither DNA nor destiny are immutable.
Chimpanzees Show Similar Personality Traits to Humans
"Chimpanzees have almost the same personality traits as humans, and they are structured almost identically, according to new work. The research also shows some of those traits have a neurobiological basis, and that those traits vary according to the biological sex of the individual chimpanzee."