Certain Brain Connections Linked With Positive Human Behaviors

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Brain Connections According to a new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, people who have positive behaviors and lifestyles have different brain connections than those with negative behaviors and lifestyles.

For the study, researchers at Oxford University’s Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain analyzed the connections in the brains of 461 people and compared them to 280 different demographic and behavioral measures that were recorded for the same study participants. Researchers found that classically positive behaviors and lifestyles had different brain connections and individual traits on a single axis when compared to those with classical negative lifestyle and behaviors.

The research team used data from the Human Connectome Project (HCP). The brain imaging study is a $30.0 million National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded project led by Oxford, Minnesota and Washington Universities. HCP paired up 1,200 MRI scans in healthy individuals with in-depth data from questionnaires and tests.

The Oxford researchers then took the information from the 461 scans and created an averaged map of brain processes across the participants.

Stephen Smith, the study’s lead author, explained, “You can think of it as a population-average map of 200 regions across the brain that are functionally distinct from each other. Then, we looked at how much all of those regions communicated with each other, in every participant.”

The results produced a connectome for every study participant. It was a detailed description of how the 200 brain regions communicate between each other. It is considered the map of the strongest connections in the brain. Next, the researchers added 280 different demographic and behavioral measures for each participant. They performed a mathematical process called a canonical correlation analysis between two data sets. This process discovered relationships between the data.

The researchers found a strong correlation relating to a participant’s connectome with positive measures at one scale score end, such as life satisfaction, memory, vocabulary, years of education, and income. Participants at the other scale end found high scores for common negative traits, including poor sleep quality, substance use, rule-breaking, and anger.

The results looked like the general intelligence g-factor. It is a variable that sometimes describes how a person performs cognitive tasks. The new results show similarities in memory, reading ability, and pattern recognition; however, real-life measures were not included in the g-factor, like life satisfaction and income.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Smith, S.M., et al., “A positive-negative mode of population covariation links brain connectivity, demographics and behavior,” Nature Neuroscience 2015, doi: 10.1038/nn.4125.
“Particular brain connections linked to positive human traits,” ScienceDaily web site, September 28, 2015; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150928122548.htm.

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