Neuroimaging research indicates that our brains are hardwired to determine our positive or negative tendencies. Dr. Richard Davidson and his University of Wisconsin co-workers have identified an area in the brain’s frontal lobe that controls positive feelings, optimism, and happiness.
The researchers used MRI brain scans to show dramatic functional increases in this area when mothers were exposed to photos of their own babies, compared to when they viewed photos of unfamiliar infants.
Dr. Katherine Bangin and her colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, performed MRI scans on older adults during negative emotional states in order to understand their differences in attitude.
After assessing the volunteers’ optimism levels, the researchers examined brain activity in the scanner while the volunteers viewed images of fearful faces. They found that the more optimistic subjects had reduced activation in certain frontal lobe areas.
The scientists concluded that the differences in neural responses reflected increased abilities to regulate negative emotions in optimistic individuals.
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