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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Jun;9(6):760-6. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst045. Epub 2013 Apr 5.

The joyful, yet balanced, amygdala: moderated responses to positive but not negative stimuli in trait happiness.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S3G3, Canada, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3E6, Canada, Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA, and Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USADepartment of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S3G3, Canada, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3E6, Canada, Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA, and Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USADepartment of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S3G3, Canada, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3E6, Canada, Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA, and Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA cunningham@psych.utoronto.ca.
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S3G3, Canada, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3E6, Canada, Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA, and Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.

Abstract

Although much is known about the neural dynamics of maladaptive affective styles, the mechanisms of happiness and well-being are less clear. One possibility is that the neural processes of trait happiness are the opposite of those involved in depression/anxiety: 'rose-colored glasses' cause happy people to focus on positive cues while remaining oblivious to threats. Specifically, because negative affective styles have been associated with increased amygdala activation to negative stimuli, it may be happy people will not show this enhanced response, and may even show reduced amygdala activation to negative stimuli. Alternatively, if well-being entails appropriate sensitivity to information, happy people may process any relevant cues-positive or negative-to facilitate appropriate responding. This would mean that happiness is associated with increased amygdala activation to both positive and negative stimuli. Forty-two participants viewed affective stimuli during functional magnetic resonance imaging scanning. Happier participants showed greater amygdala responses to positive stimuli. Moreover, no significant relationships were found between happiness and responses to negative stimuli. In other words, for happy people, a tuning toward positive did not come at the cost of losing sensitivity to negativity. This work suggests that trait happiness is associated with a balanced amygdala response to positivity and negativity.

© The Author (2013). Published by Oxford University Press. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com.

KEYWORDS:

amygdala; emotion; personality; positive emotions

PMID:
23563851
[PubMed - in process]
PMCID:
PMC4040091
[Available on 2015/6/1]
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