Positive about life? Thank brain first
29 Sep 2015 - 18:25
If you are generally positive about life and inspires others too to lead a happy life, chances are that you harbour a special set of brain connections not found in people with negative thoughts, researchers report.
According to a team from Oxford University, there is a strong correspondence between a particular set of connections in the brain and positive lifestyle and behaviour traits.
To reach this conclusion, scientists investigated the connections in the brains of 461 people and compared them with 280 different behavioural and demographic measures that were recorded for the same participants.
They found that variation in brain connectivity and an individual’s traits lay on a single axis -- where those with classically positive lifestyles and behaviours had different connections to those with classically negative ones.
The researchers point out that their results resemble what psychologists refer to as the “general intelligence g-factor”.
This variable is used to summarise a person’s abilities at different cognitive tasks.
While the new results include many real-life measures not included in the “g-factor” -- such as income and life satisfaction -- those such as memory, pattern recognition and reading ability are strongly mirrored.
Proponents of the “g-factor” point out that many intelligence-related measures are inter-related, suggesting that if you are good at one thing, you are likely to be good at the others too.
However, the “g-factor” has also received some criticism, partly because it is not clear if these correlations between different cognitive abilities are truly reflecting correlations between distinct underlying brain circuits.
The new results, however, may provide an opportunity to understand if that’s correct, or if the processes in the brain tell a more complex story.
“It may be that with hundreds of different brain circuits, the tests that are used to measure cognitive ability actually make use of different sets of overlapping circuits,” explained professor Stephen Smith, lead author of the paper.
“We hope that by looking at brain imaging data, we will be able to relate connections in the brain to the specific measures and work out what these kinds of test actually require the brain to do,” he concluded in a paper appeared in the journal Nature Neuroscience.