Christmas is approaching fast and you can see all the festive decorations lightning up every corner, every shop, every home. How you feel about is a different story. Christmas spirit and the ‘bah humbug’ syndrome have been the research topic of a Danish research team.
What the Danish researchers found is that whether we’re the impersonation of the Grinch, the in-betweens or we get all hyped about Christmas, doctors can see it. With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the Danish researchers took a look at brain activity related to the Christmas spirit and found some pretty interesting facts.
Now, of course the Christmas spirit is a complex cultural and personal concept. How we rejoice or understand the Christmas spirit is deeply rooted in our cultural context and personal experiences. However, the study published in the British Medical Journal-Christmas edition reveals that much of how we react is related to our brain.
Yes, there’s a brain network associated with the jolly Christmas spirit. So Grinch or not, the Danish research team selected 20 volunteers to join their small-scale study. Functional magnetic resonance imaging has been used to pinpoint the exact brain network that fills us with tingly joy as the season to be jolly approaches. Or, to the contrary, feels us with dread and anxiety. fMRI is a technique used since the early 1990s specifically for this purpose: to highlight the functional and emotional regions of the brain.
So while some of us are fully dedicated to the Christmas spirit, others feel what the researchers called the bah humbug syndrome. In their study on the Christmas spirit and the bah humbug syndrome, the 20 volunteers were tested with the help of images.
A set of images depicting Christmas was first presented to the volunteers. While analyzing the photos, functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to capture their reactions and pinpoint brain activity in specific areas.
The test images were a set of everyday life settings, lacking the festive spirit of Christmas. During this session too, fMRI registered every reaction of the volunteers. It turns out that the Christmas spirit and the bah humbug syndrome could be pinpointed to five specific brain areas that make up a neural network.
More precisely, the neural network lightening up on the sight of Christmas imagery comprises the right inferior parietal lobule, the superior parietal lobule, the primary motor cortex and the premotor cortex, as well as the bilateral primary somatosensory cortex.
Each of these brain regions are known to respond to a number of exciting factors which are also associated with Christmas. For instance, the frontal premotor cortex has been shown during previous research to be important for the experience of sharing emotions with others. Then, the neural network of the premotor cortex also responds to eating.
The unusual study is among the few to take a look at the Christmas spirit and bah humbug syndrome only to pave the way to further research on the role of neural connections and brain networks in understanding cultural traditions and festivities.
Photo Credits: Flickr
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