Got a Case of the Bah-Humbugs? It Might Just Be in Your DNA
A small study shows there may be an area of the brain that controls how we respond to the holidays.
I have always loved Christmas. The lights, the gifts, the abundance of men in cute red hats.
But my husband? Not so much. In fact, the whole period between Thanksgiving and New Year's is pretty much one great big heachache to him.
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I've never understood his whole "bah-humbug" mentality. Turns out, he may just be wired that way!
Brain scans from a recent small study revealed a neural network that might determine whether or not someone will be decking the halls and fa-la-laing their way throught the holiday season—or not.
According to researchers, certain areas of the brain were activated when people were shown Christmas-related images.
Senior researcher Bryan Haddock said his team stumbled onto the idea of a brain-based Christmas spirit while using MRI scans to study migraines. After noticing that some people appeared to experience specific brain activity when shown Christmas-themed images, Haddock said they decided to test whether this effect was real.
They recruited 10 people who celebrate Christmas and another 10 who don't (admittedly, a very small sample). Participants filled out a questionnaire about Christmas traditions, their feelings associated with Christmas, and their ethnicity. Each person then underwent an MRI scan while they viewed 84 images, some of them Christmas-themed.
Their findings? Those who celebrate Christmas appeared to have more activity in five specific areas of the brain when looking at Christmas-related images, compared to those who don't participate in the holiday.
According to Dr. Matthew Lorber, acting director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital, the study shows how life events can train the brain.
"People over the years who celebrate Christmas have so many positive associations with it that when they're shown a picture of Santa Claus or a Christmas tree, it lights up part of their brain," Dr. Lorber told Health Day.
Nevertheless, Haddock cautions against putting too much stock in the findings. "Something as magical and complex as the Christmas spirit and the emotions involved in it cannot be fully explained by, or limited to, these systems that we've mapped in the brain," he said, adding that it's entirely possible that similar brain areas would activate if a person who celebrates Hanukkah or Ramadan were shown images from those holidays.
Or as written in the study's footnotes: "We acknowledge all those who spread a spirit of warmth, kindness, and generosity, regardless of the season."