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Trends Cogn Sci. 2009 Nov;13(11):479-87. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.08.006. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

Towards a functional neuroanatomy of pleasure and happiness.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, University of Oxford, UK.


The pursuit of happiness is a preoccupation for many people. Yet only the pursuit can be promised, not happiness itself. Can science help? We focus on the most tractable ingredient, hedonia or positive affect. A step toward happiness might be gained by improving the pleasures and positive moods in daily life. The neuroscience of pleasure and reward provides relevant insights, and we discuss how specific hedonic mechanisms might relate to happiness or the lack thereof. Although the neuroscience of happiness is still in its infancy, further advances might be made through mapping overlap between brain networks of hedonic pleasure with others, such as the brain's default network, potentially involved in the other happiness ingredient, eudaimonia or life meaning and engagement.

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