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Optimism and the brain

As humans we have a natural tendency to be optimistic. A recent study has shed light on the relationship between optimism and the brain. They found that people generally tend to be optimistic and that there are specific areas of the brain involved in positive future thinking. This study offers a possible mechanism mediating the observed optimism bias. The research has implications for depression because we know that depressed people tend to be pessimistic. It also has implications for the effect of interventions on the brain. People can learn to be optimistic and it may be that this could positively impact on the brain; further studies would need to examine this.

The study was carried out by researchers at New York University.? Participants were asked to imagine positive future events, relative to negative ones, while having their brain imaged, with an FMRI machine. Participants were asked to think of possible future events.? The researchers found that people ?were more likely to expect positive events to happen closer in the future than negative events and to imagine them with greater vividness?

?'When participants imagined positive future events relative to negative ones, enhanced activation was detected in the rostral anterior cingulate and amygdala, which are the same brain areas that seem to malfunction in depression,'

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