A Brain Map of Your Emotions

When the pharmaceutical industry finally implodes, it will not be from the many unlawful death lawsuits against them (although there are many), and it will not be from the increasing disclosure by doctors of payments they received from them for doing presumably unbiased research (although disclosure requirements are getting stronger). The pharmaceutical industry will implode from the simple act of customers taking their mental wellbeing into their own hands through increased knowledge of neuroscience. Do you think I’m kidding? Scientists are finding out more and more about how the brain works—and turning that information increasingly over to the public which, in turn, uses it to promote its own health. Let’s take an interesting example that I read in the May 28, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal. Researchers at Yale and the University of Colorado found that when experimental subjects held a warm object, they later would rate a character in a story as warmer than people who held a cold object would rate the character. Holding a warm object also led to a higher likelihood of experimental subjects donating the money they received from the research to charity. The same article noted that waiters get bigger tips on sunny days than on cloudy ones and people who had touched a heating pad would have greater trust than those who touched an ice pack when playing an economic trust game. What gives? It seems the part of the brain that deals with warmth, the insula, fires neurons associated with psychological warmth when detecting physical warmth. That, the article goes on to say, explains why people who feel rejected...
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