The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live-and How You Can Change Them. I am looking forward to reading this, even more so after listening to this discussion (or at least some of it) on my way between jobs yesterday.
Neuropsychologist Richard Davidson and science writer Sharon Begley explain how your brain chemistry affects the way you think, feel and live - and whether you can change your emotional style. Many neuroscientists used to believe that thinking and emotions run on separate brain circuitry. But new studies using neuroimaging have challenged conventional notions about the brain's role in emotions. Davidson has identified distinct emotional styles and their connection to patterns of activity throughout the brain. Locating the bases of emotion partly in the brain's seat of reason implies people have a greater ability to change than was once thought. In their new book, Davidson and Begley argue that we can retrain our brains so that we can become more resilient, less negative and, possibly, happier. The science behind emotions.
GuestsSharon BegleySenior health and science correspondent, Reuters; author of "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain"; and the co-author (with Jeffrey Schwartz) of "The Mind and the Brain."
Richard DavidsonProfessor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Take A Quiz From "The Emotional Life Of Your Brain:"Depending on whom we are interacting with and in what circumstances, there are different rules and expectations—for interactions with close friends, people you know only slightly, family members, coworkers, or superiors. Nothing good can come of treating your boss like a child, or of treating the cop who just pulled you over like a drinking buddy, let alone treating a coworker like a lover. Sensitivity to the rules of social engagement and the capacity to regulate our emotions and behavior accordingly varies enormously among people. You can think of the Sensitivity to Context dimension of Emotional Style as the outer-directed version of the Self-Awareness style: Just as the latter reflects how attuned you are to your own physiological and emotional cues, so Sensitivity to Context reflects how attuned you are to the social environment.
In the lab, we measure this dimension by determining how emotional behavior varies with social context. For example, toddlers tend to be wary in unfamiliar circumstances such as a lab but not in a familiar environment. A toddler who seems perpetually wary at home is therefore probably insensitive to context. For adults, we test Sensitivity to Context by conducting the first round of tests in one room and then a second round in a different room. By determining to what extent emotional responses vary by the environment in which testing occurs, we can infer how keenly someone perceives and feels the effects of context. We also make brain measurements: The hippocampus appears to play an especially important role in apprehending context, so we measure hippocampal function and structure with MRI.
To get a sense of where you fall on the Sensitivity to Context spectrum, answer True or False to these questions:
Give yourself one point for each True answer to questions 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10; score one point for each False answer to questions 2, 3, 4, and 7. Score zero for each False answer to 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10, and for each True answer to 2, 3, 4, and 7. If you scored below three, you fall at the Tuned Out end of the spectrum, while a score of eight or above indicates you are very Tuned In to context.
- I have been told by someone close to me that I am unusually sensitive to other people’s feelings.
- I have occasionally been told that I behaved in a socially inappropriate way, which surprised me.
- I have sometimes suffered a setback at work or had a falling-out with a friend because I was too chummy with a superior or too jovial when a good friend was distraught.
- When I speak with people, they sometimes move back to increase the distance between us.
- I often find myself censoring what I was about to say because I’ve sensed something in the situation that would make it inappropriate (e.g., before I respond to, “Honey, do these jeans make me look fat?”).
- When I am in a public setting like a restaurant, I am especially aware of modulating how loudly I speak.
- I have frequently been reminded when in public to avoid mentioning the names of people who might be around.
- I am almost always aware of whether I have been someplace before, even if it is a highway that I last drove many years ago.
- I notice when someone is acting in a way that seems out of place, such as behaving too casually at work.
- I’ve been told by those close to me that I show good manners with strangers and in new situations.
Adapted by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from The Emotional Life of Your Brain by Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., and Sharon Begley. Copyright 2012 by Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., and Sharon Begley.