The Emotional Life of Your Brain is written by Dr. Richard Davidson, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin and an expert on the neuroscience of emotion. This post has notes featuring the results of some of the studies cited in the book.
• The six Emotional Style dimensions:
Resilience: slow or quick to recover from adversity
Outlook: short or long sustainment of positive emotion
Social Intuition: oblivious or sensitive to social signals
Self-Awareness: oblivious or sensitive to bodily feelings
Sensitivity to Context: unskilled or skilled at regulating emotional responses to situations
Attention: unfocused or focused
• The Five Factor personality traits and their relation to the six Emotional Style dimensions:
Openness to Experience: high Social Intuition, high Attention
Conscientiousness: high Social Intuition, high Attention, high Sensitivity to Context
Extraversion: high Resilience, high Outlook
Agreeableness: high Sensitivity to Context, high Resilience, high Outlook
Neuroticism: low Resilience, low Outlook, low Sensitivity to Context, low Attention
• Other personality traits and their relation to the six Emotional Style dimensions:
Impulsivity: low Attention, low Self-Awareness
Patience: high Self-Awareness, high Sensitivity to Context
Shyness: low Resilience, low Sensitivity to Context
Anxiety: low Resilience, low Outlook, high Self-Awareness, low Attention
Optimism: high Resilience, high Outlook
Chronic Unhappiness: low Resilience, low Outlook
• A study showed that volunteers had a pattern of greater left prefrontal activation when forming Duchenne smiles.
• A study showed that babies had greater left frontal activation when watching videos of an actress laughing.
• A study showed that babies had greater left-side prefrontal activation when sipping sugar water and greater right-side activation in response to lemon juice.
• A study showed that babies who were distraught in response to their mother leaving a room had higher baseline levels of right prefrontal activation.
• A study showed that low levels of activity in the left frontal region of the brain were associated with depression or pathological crying.
• A study showed that the difference in the left and right prefrontal cortex was as great as 3,000 percent between individuals.
• A study showed that people with greater activation on the left side of the prefrontal cortex recovered much faster after seeing disturbing images.
• Research shows that more white matter between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala is associated with greater resilience.
• Research shows that PTSD is associated with a loss of volume in the hippocampus.
• A neuroimaging study showed that people who are more accurate in estimating their heart rate have a larger insula.
• A study showed that alexithymia is linked with lower insula activity.
• The nucleus accumbens is activated when people anticipate receiving something rewarding or pleasurable.
• A study showed that people who were able to become absorbed in their surroundings had more activity in the visual or somatosensory cortex during the experiment.
• A study showed that young adults who were categorized as strongly inhibited as toddlers showed heightened amygdala activation when they were older.
• Autopsies showed that the brains of people who had committed suicide and had suffered child abuse contained significantly more methylation switches on the gene for the glucocorticoid receptor.
• A study showed that twins reared apart had four times as many epigenetic changes by age fifty as they had at age three.
• A study showed that the correlation between behavioral inhibition at age three and behavioral inhibition at age nine was only .03
• A study showed that the correlation between EEG pattern at age three and EEG pattern at age nine was less than 0.1
• A study showed that people who rated themselves as the least happy had cortisol levels 48 percent higher than those who rated themselves as the most happy.
• A study showed that the least happy participants had a plasma fibrinogen response to stress-inducing tasks that was twelve times greater than in the happiest group.
• A study showed that participants with the highest levels of positive emotions were nearly three times less likely to develop a cold.
• A study of nuns showed that positive emotions were associated with longer life expectancy, but negative emotions were not associated with a greater risk of dying young.
• A study of Mexican Americans showed that those with higher levels of positive emotion at the start were only half as likely to die over the following two years.
• A study of elderly people showed that lower levels of positive emotions were associated with a higher likelihood of having a stroke over the following six years.
• A review of seventy studies showed that happiness was associated with reduced mortality in both healthy and diseased people.
• A study showed that students with asthma had inflammatory markers 27 percent higher during finals than during a low-stress period.
• A study showed that only the asthmatics who showed a strong brain response to words about asthma had serious inflammation.
• A study showed that participants with high left frontal activation had 50 percent more natural killer cell activity than those with high right frontal activation.
• A study showed that participants with greater left frontal activation had antibody levels that were four times higher than the participants with the greatest right frontal activation.
• A study showed that stronger brain activation in the right prefrontal cortex, insula, and amygdala was linked to stronger cardiac contractility.
• A study showed that autistic children had more activity in the amygdala.
• A study showed that siblings of autistic children had higher amygdala activity when looking at faces than typically developing children did.
• A study showed that behavioral activation therapy led to a marked reduction in depressive symptoms in 75 percent of patients. These patients showed an increase in activation in the striatum, which includes the nucleus accumbens.
• A study showed that the inferior prefrontal cortex was less active in children and adults with ADHD.
• A study showed that adults with ADHD had worse neural synchrony.
• A study showed that children with ADHD showed significant gains on measures of attention after undergoing attention training.
• A neuroimaging study showed that activity in the orbital frontal cortex was reduced after OCD patients practiced mindfulness meditation.
• A study showed that people had a 33 percent improvement in attention after intense meditation training.
• A study showed that monks had extremely large increases in gamma activity when practicing compassion meditation.
• A study showed that long-term meditation practitioners had dramatically amplified activity in the insula.
• A study showed that monks had greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, the temporoparietal junction, the posterior superior temporal sulcus, and the posterior cingulate cortex.
• A study showed that participants displayed less amygdala activation in response to images of suffering after practicing compassion meditation training.
• A study showed that people who practiced mindfulness meditation every day for eight years had a larger insula.
• An EEG study showed that practicing open-monitoring meditation made people more receptive to stimuli in their environment.