Friday, August 22, 2014 MRI measurement are going to tell us how happy we are??

Dolan and collaborators come up with yet another clever use of MRI measurements. (If you enter "Dolan" in the mindblog search box, you will find numerous posts on his work.) The article appears to be open-source, which means I'm not going to pass on some of the eye-catching graphics (showing predictive activity in the striatum and right anterior insula) that you should be able to check out, along with the details of the experiment that recruited over 18,000 participants to play a smartphone gambling game and report their subjective happiness when queried.
A common question in the social science of well-being asks, “How happy do you feel on a scale of 0 to 10?” Responses are often related to life circumstances, including wealth. By asking people about their feelings as they go about their lives, ongoing happiness and life events have been linked, but the neural mechanisms underlying this relationship are unknown. To investigate it, we presented subjects with a decision-making task involving monetary gains and losses and repeatedly asked them to report their momentary happiness. We built a computational model in which happiness reports were construed as an emotional reactivity to recent rewards and expectations. Using functional MRI, we demonstrated that neural signals during task events account for changes in happiness.

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