Researchers discover link between brain circuits and various aspects of mental well-being

September 25, 2022  09:46

Researcher Miriam Klein-Flugge and colleagues have examined brain connectivity and mental health data for among nearly 500 people.

Specifically, they studied connectivity in the amygdala, a region of the brain known for its importance in processing emotions and rewards. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study seven subregions of the amygdala and their associated networks.

The team also took a more precise approach to mental well-being data by studying a large group of healthy people and using questionnaires that collected information on well-being in the areas of social, emotional, sleep and anger. This has yielded more accurate data than many studies that still rely on broad diagnoses, such as depression or anxiety, that encompass many different symptoms.

The paper, published in the Nature Human Behavior monthly, shows how improved levels of data on brain connections and well-being have made it possible to precisely characterize the brain networks associated with these different aspects of mental health. For example, the brain circuits most important for determining whether a person has sleep problems look very different according to information about social well-being.

The researchers also found that the nature of the brain networks found was different. For example, they found out that connectivity in evolutionarily older subcortical circuits was most associated with the tendency to experience negative emotions, whereas amygdala connectivity with both new cortical and old subcortical circuits clearly contributed to social well-being.

The findings suggest the potential benefit of looking at mental well-being and the brain networks involved at a finer scale than previously; a scale that more closely matches the functional organization of the brain. 

Although more research is needed, in the future it may be possible to target the brain circuits that are most important for the main symptoms.

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