Which one are you: full of the Christmas spirit or Ebenezer Scrooge?
The answer, new research suggests, lies inside our brains, where we have a veritable “Christmas spirit network,” scientists wrote in this month’s issue of The BMJ, a medical journal.
Five distinct areas of the brain were much more active in people who celebrate Christmas with gusto and have positive holiday memories than in those who don’t have any Christmas traditions.
Scientists from Denmark stumbled onto the idea of testing Yuletide merriment while conducting a larger study about migraines using brain scans.
For the Christmas spirit experiment, they studied 10 people who regularly celebrate the holiday and 10 who don’t. Participants viewed 84 images — some with clear fa-la-la-la-la themes and others that depicted everyday life. They underwent brain scans while watching the images.
The brains of Christmas enthusiasts lit up in regions that have been linked with spirituality, experiencing emotions shared with others, and recognizing facial expressions.
But before you say “bah humbug” to the findings, the researchers suggest that holidays, in general, may produce the same effect on the brain.
“Location of the Christmas spirit could also contribute to a more general understanding of the brain’s role in festive cultural traditions,” they wrote, “making a medical contribution to cross cultural festivities and goodwill to all.”
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