Happiness’ “Home” has been located in the right Precuneus of the Cerebral Cortex. Health Implications

Happiness’ biological location having been found, we can today hope that Medical Schools will offer “Neurology of Happiness” and-or “Happiness Medicine” classes.  In this blog-article, i will first examine a recent discovery that shows where the state of Happiness and Wellbeing may be located in the brain (Section A) and follow-up with an analysis of the healing implications of this discovery. (Section B).

Section A

Happiness’ Brain Location has been found

A positive relationship has been found between the volume of grey matter in the right precuneus (*) and the subject’s subjective happiness score. This finding has been published in one of the leading medical journals, Nature.  (1)

“Psychological studies have shown that subjective happiness can be measured reliably and consists of emotional and cognitive components. (…) To investigate this issue, we used structural magnetic resonance imaging and questionnaires that assessed subjective happiness, the intensity of positive and negative emotional experiences, and purpose in life. We found a positive relationship between the subjective happiness score and gray matter volume in the right precuneus. Moreover, the same region showed an association with the combined positive and negative emotional intensity and purpose in life scores. Our findings suggest that the precuneus mediates subjective happiness by integrating the emotional and cognitive components of happiness.(Source)

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Top: The precuneus region of the brain, in red where happiness-wellbeing resides

The Developed Precuneus Region appears  to be specifically Human

The precuneus seems to be a recently expanded part of the human brain. Although other primates have precuneus brain regions, they appear to be poorly developed.  One study showed that new world monkeys’ superior parietal and precuneate regions were poorly developed. (2)  In this regard, the following has been observed:

It has been noted that “the precuneus is more highly developed (i.e. comprises a larger portion of the brain volume) in human beings than in non-human primates or other animals, has the most complex columnar cortical organization and is among the last regions to myelinate”. (3)

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Top:  Consciouness’ movement

The Happiness State resides in the Same Brain Compartment as Consciousness

Together with the posterior cingulate, the precuneus appears to be key for conscious information processing. (4) The evidence for this connection with consciousness comes from the effects of its disruption in epilepsy, brain lesions and vegetative state. (Ibid & 5) Equally interesting, cerebral glucose metabolism is at its highest in these two areas during wakefulness, yet it is most reduced in them during anesthesia. (6) In addition, during slow-wave deep sleep and rapid eye movement sleep, this  brain area is deactivated. (7)

For these reasons, it is reasonable to assert that the wellbeing or happiness feeling resides in the same brain lobe area as consciousness.

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Top: On the left, the meditative brain is much more relaxed than the walking one.

Section B

The  Findings’ Implications for Health and Wellbeing

If the feeling of Happpiness and wellbeing resides in the same brain lobe as Consciousness, then it follows that for Happiness to exist, to be felt, it  must necessarily be anchored to Consciusness and active mindfulness. For example, it would be difficult to experience happiness and JDV (joie de vivre) in deep sleep or in a coma, because during deep sleep and a coma, we have no consciousness experience or recollection thereof.

In this perspective, one of the best ways to achieve the JDV-Happiness experience is by super-activating Consciousness via holistic techniques. At the Happiness Medicine Institute’s French retreats, we offer breathing, meditation, sophrology, herbs, essential oils, chanting, smell  and other holistic techniques to better activate Consciousness and subjective wellbeing. (See Workshop)

In another setting, a 6-week mindfulness based therapy was found to correlate with a significant grey matter increase within the precuneus. (8)  But because the HMI’s retreats are more intense than what occured during this intermittently based therapy, and because the French Retreat is located in the wild pristine Pyrenean mountains, the Institute is able to increase  this above-mentioned “grey matter” in the precuneus within a shorter amount of time.

Longevity and Health benefits from being in a State of Happy Meditative Consciousness

Chopra and a few other authors have claimed that the State of Mindfulness slows down aging and is by nature healing. (9) (Source)  However, hard evidence via rigorous studies have been lacking. Today, a few scientists have been showing that Meditation and what “Positive Psychology” experts have labeled “ mindfulness” can indeed contribute in upregulating the longevity and health (cellular repair) genes, albeit mildly in most cases. One of the first scientist to have shown this causative correlation between meditation and longevity is Nobel Prize winner Blackburn: In a published  2009 article, she and her colleagues wrote the following :

“Meditative practices appear to improve the endocrine balance toward positive arousal (high DHEA, lower cortisol) and decrease oxidative stress. Thus, meditation practices may promote mitotic cell longevity both through decreasing stress hormones and oxidative stress and increasing hormones that may protect the telomere. There is much evidence of neuroendocrine and physical health benefits from TM, which has a longer history of study than MBSR. The newer studies of mindfulness meditation are promising, and offer insight into specific cognitive processes of how it may serve as an antidote to cognitive stress states.” (10) (Source)

Recently, Ms Blackburn has updated her findings on telomeres (11) in relation to stress, lifestyle, health and longevity.  This book is called “The Telomere Effect”. (12) And a few years back, Dean Ornish added credible evidence showing that  longevity and health can be significantly spurred with meditation, yoga, plant-based diet and a holistic lifestyle. (13)

In still another study, its scientists showed that highly experienced Zen meditators have longer telomeres on average than people of a similar age and lifestyle. (14) (Source) This finding may be also connected to the fact that these Zen meditators tend to be vegetarians and have a compassionate approach to Life and animals.

Furthermore,  when telomeres lengthen, immune cells tend to get stronger. This result occured with a group of workshops who partook in an intensive meditation retreat. (15) (Source)

In this realm, a study published in 2013 found that just 15 minutes’ meditation in novices had immediate effects on the expression of many genes, including, but not limited to the upregulation of the gene that makes telomerase and the downregulation of the gene that promotes inflammatory and stress responses.  (Source)

A contrario, one of happiness’ staunch foes, chronic stress, is  known to accelerate the shortening of telomeres  and the suppression of telomerase amd hence to shorten human lifespan and increase diseases. (16). (Source)

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Top:  Evidence that shows a postive correlation between subjective happiness and the right precuneus (Source)

Still in the perspective of the precuneus’s happiness role, a team of neuroscientists under the direction of Dr  Sato in Japan reported  that people who scored higher on a happiness survey had more gray matter volume in this brain region called the precuneus.

The researchers stated that study participants who “feel happiness more intensely, feel sadness less intensely, and are more able to find meaning in life have a larger precuneus.” (17)  (Source)

To which they added:

“…our results suggest that the precuneus may play an important role in integrating different types of information and converting it into subjective happiness.” (Ibid)

Dr Wataru Sato, who led the research, said:

“Several studies have shown that meditation increases grey matter mass in the precuneus.This new insight on where happiness happens in the brain will be useful for developing happiness programs based on scientific research.” (Ibid)

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In this perspective, a complementary study  found that mindfulness meditation practice was associated with a detectable variation of cerebral gray matter in older adults. (Source)

In still another study, the researchers at Duke University reported that the precuneus is a core hub of the default mode network (DMN), which is active during states of consciousness related to self-reflection, divergent thinking, and daydreaming. (18)  (Source)

Another November 2015 study, by a research team from Harvard Medical School and University of Chinese Medicine (published online in the journal Translational Psychiatry),  found that underconnectivity of the precuneus to other brain regions may be linked to depression. (19) (Source)

Discussion

The Japanese neuroscientists mentioned above have made a significant step forward in understanding the neurology of happiness. They have found that happier people have a larger precuneus, an area towards the back of the brain, hidden between the two cerebral hemispheres.

This study appears to be the first to link this cerebral area to happiness. Connected to these findings, meditation and holistic lifestyle have been shown to promote the expression of self repair and longevity genes, the maintenance of telomeres while nourrishing the growth of the brain’s grey matter in the precuneus. These findings are great as they add even more credibility to naturopathic, holistic and happiness medicine.

However, we still don’t understand all of the mechanisms of action involved in this happiness-to-brain process.  It would thus be useful to conduct additional studies that would integrate meditation with other holistic techniques so that we can better determine the benefits that are bestowed upon the sacred precuneus. Thus, HMI’s impression is that additional studies are warranted in this ground-breaking field.

Conclusion

The neurological location of human Happiness consciousness is significant in that we can better monitor what techniques work in favor of producing additional “grey matter” (20), wellbeing and happiness. Knowing that many prescription drugs destroy “grey matter” while a huge  amount of holistic techniques promote its growth, as well as boosts happiness and wellbeing is useful in that this knowledge can help lead the health practitioner and the patient to choose safe, efficient and cost-effective healing results.

But for happiness and holistic medicine to prevail, we would need to change most of medical schools’ content, in particular its outdated biomedical model.  For example,  the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, the clinical “bible” of psychiatry and clinical psychology, has 500,000 lines of text. There are thousands of lines on anxiety and depression, and hundreds of lines on terror, shame, guilt, anger, and fear. But there are only five lines on hope, one line on joy, and not a single line on compassion, forgiveness, or love. (Source) Same  necro-absurdity with pharmaceutical  and general conventional medicine textbooks, “positive psychology” and “naturopathy” are seriously missing as are hundreds of evidence-strong safe, efficient and cost-friendly holistic protocols that are based on the simple and enpowering Life-building techniques, from adapted human diets, to sun therapy, to hyperthermia, sleep medicine, herbology, smell therapy, breathing techniques and more.

In a following blog, i will examine the role of expanded JDV (joie de vivre) consciousness and holistic medicine in reversing systemic inflammation and oxidative stress that characterize so many chronic diseases, including mental illnesses and severe depression.

Christian Joubert: CSO and HMI director

BrainALL

Reference and Precision Notes

(*).  For those who have not gone to medical school or who have, but who have forgotten their brain anatomy, the precuneus is a part of the superior parietal lobule in front of the occipital lobe (cuneus). It is hidden in the medial longitudinal fissure between the two cerebral hemispheres. It is sometimes described as the medial area of the superior parietal cortex. The precuneus is bounded anteriorly by the marginal branch of the cingulate sulcus, posteriorly by the parietooccipital sulcus, and inferiorly by the subparietal sulcus. It is involved with episodic memory, visuospatial processing, reflections upon self, and aspects of consciousness.
 The location of the precuneus makes it difficult to study. Furthermore, it is rarely subject to isolated injury due to strokes, or trauma such as gunshot wounds. This has resulted in it being one of the less accurately mapped areas of the whole cortical surface.  While originally described as homogeneous by Korbinian Brodmann, it is now appreciated to contain three subdivisions. It is also known via its French name,  as the quadrate lobule of Foville, which comes from  Achille-Louis Foville . The Latin form of praecuneus was first used in 1868 and the English precuneus in 1879. Cf. Cavanna A, Trimble M (2006). “The precuneus: a review of its functional anatomy and behavioural correlates”. Brain. 129 (Pt 3): 564–83,  Margulies DS, Vincent JL, Kelly C, Lohmann G, Uddin LQ, Biswal BB, Villringer A, Castellanos FX, Milham MP, Petrides M (2009). “Precuneus shares intrinsic functional architecture in humans and monkeys”. PNAS. 106 (47): 20069–74.  Cavanna AE (2007). “The precuneus and consciousness”. CNS spectrums. 12 (7): 545–52. Foville AL. (1844). Traité complet de l’anatomie, de la physiologie et de la pathologie du système nerveux cérébro-spinal. Paris, France: Fortin, Masson
(1).  http://www.nature.com/articles/srep16891
(2). Cavanna A, Trimble M (2006). “The precuneus: a review of its functional anatomy and behavioural correlates”. Brain. 129 (Pt 3): 564–83.
(3). Margulies DS, Vincent JL, Kelly C, Lohmann G, Uddin LQ, Biswal BB, Villringer A, Castellanos FX, Milham MP, Petrides M (2009). “Precuneus shares intrinsic functional architecture in humans and monkeys”.
(4). Vogt BA, Laureys S (2005). “Posterior cingulate, precuneal and retrosplenial cortices: cytology and components of the neural network correlates of consciousness”. Progress in brain research. Progress in Brain Research. 150: 205–17. ISBN 9780444518514. PMC 2679949 . PMID 16186025. doi:10.1016/S0079-6123(05)5001
(5).  Cavanna AE (2007). “The precuneus and consciousness”. CNS spectrums. 12 (7): 545–52. PMID 17603406
(6). Ibid.
(7)  Ibid.
(8).  Kurth F, Luders E, Wu B, Black DS (2014). “Brain Gray Matter Changes Associated with Mindfulness Meditation in Older Adults: An Exploratory Pilot Study using Voxel-based Morphometry”. Neuro. 1 (1): 23–26.
(9). http://www.chopra.com/articles/7-secrets-to-grow-younger-live-longer
(10).  Cf., Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug; 1172: 34–53. Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres, by Elissa Epel, PhD.,1,* Jennifer Daubenmier, Ph.D.,1 Judith T. Moskowitz, Ph.D.,2 Susan Folkman, PhD.,2 and Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD.3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057175/
(11). A commonly used proxy for cellular ageing is the length of telomeres, the DNA and protein caps that protect the ends of each chromosome during cell division. These shorten slightly every time the chromosome replicates, until eventually the cell can no longer divide, becoming senescent or undergoing “apoptosis” – the cellular equivalent of suicide. Having shorter telomeres in your cells is associated with the onset of many age-related diseases, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia. Several lifestyle factors have been found to accelerate telomere shortening, such as poor diet, lack of sleep, smoking, drinking and a sedentary lifestyle
(12).  The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel is published by Orion Spring. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jan/29/telomere-effect-elizabeth-blackburn-nobel-prize-medicine-chromosomes
(13). http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/09/17/223386084/healthful-living-may-lengthen-telomeres-and-lifespans
(14). link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-016-0500-5
(15).  www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(15)00696-4/abstract
(16). www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(16)30043-9/abstract
(17).  “The Structural Neural Substrate of Subjective Happiness,” was published in the journal Scientific Reports. For this study, Sato and his team scanned the brains of research participants using MRI. Then, the study participants took a survey to identify how happy they are generally, how intensely they feel emotions, and how satisfied they are with their lives. Cf. www.nature.com/articles/srep16891 In this study, the researchers asked people about the two major components of happiness, the first of which is  their moment-by-moment experience of happiness and the second of which is their general feeling of satisfaction with life. Positive emotions are what we naturally think of as happiness: the pleasure we get from a delicious meal or a fascinating conversation. Satisfaction with life, though, comes more from cognitive evaluations of how well we are doing in general.  Brain scans revealed that both types of happiness were linked to larger grey matter mass in the precuneus.
18). www.jneurosci.org/content/34/3/932.full.pdf
(19). “Subthreshold Depression Is Associated with Impaired Resting-State Functional Connectivity of the Cognitive Control Network” see active link above.
(20). Grey matter  is a major component of the central nervous system, consisting of neuronal cell bodies, neuropil (dendrites and myelinated as well as unmyelinated axons), glial cells (astroglia and oligodendrocytes), synapses, and capillaries. Grey matter is distinguished from white matter, in that it contains numerous cell bodies and relatively few myelinated axons, while white matter contains relatively very few cell bodies and is composed chiefly of long-range myelinated axon tracts.[ (cf.,  Purves, Dale; George J. Augustine; David Fitzpatrick; William C. Hall; Anthony-Samuel LaMantia; James O. McNamara; Leonard E. White (2008). Neuroscience (4th ed.). Sinauer Associates. pp. 15–16.).

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Disclaimer: Nothing in this educational blog should be construed as medical advise
2017 (c). Happiness Medicine Institute and agents. All rights reserved

Professor Joubert teaches in different parts of the world how to extend a healthy Lifespan to 120 years and beyond. Working on a Documentary and book that redefines Medicine in light of new discoveries, ancient wisdoms, innovative research and holistic science, he can be nonetheless available to coach patients back to homeostasis, wellbeing & Joie de Vivre. On occasion, Pr. Joubert can also coach health professionals to better protect their holistic practice when they must deviate from outdated and irrational mainstream “standards of care”. See links on “Contact” and “Mission” (under the “About” link) for details.

Posted in Neuro-endocrinology, neuro-inflammation, synaptic dysfunction, neuro-biology, neuro-inflammation, Neuro-science, Mental Disorders, Happiness & Joie de Vivre Medicine

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