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Researchers at the University of Oxford have uncovered previously unknown details about how changes in the brain contribute to changes in wellbeing.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging showing the four subdivisions of the amygdala and associated networks, social life satisfaction, negative emotions, sleep problens and anger/rejection. © Miriam Klein-Flugge

Associate Professor Miriam Klein-Flügge (Department of Experimental Psychology) and colleagues looked at brain connectivity and mental health data from nearly 500 people. In particular, they looked at the connectivity of the amygdala – a brain region well known for its importance in emotion and reward processing. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to consider seven small subdivisions of the amygdala and their associated networks rather than combining the whole region together as previous studies have done.

The team also adopted a more precise approach to the data on mental wellbeing, looking at a large group of healthy people and using questionnaires that captured information about wellbeing in the social, emotional, sleep, and anger domains. This generated more precise data than many investigations which still use broad diagnoses such as depression or anxiety, which involve many different symptoms.

The paper, published in Nature Human Behaviour, shows how the improved level of detail about both brain connectivity and wellbeing made it possible to characterise the exact brain networks that relate to these distinct aspects of mental health. The brain connections that mattered most for discerning whether an individual was struggling with sleep problems, for example, looked very different from those that carried information about their social wellbeing.

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website

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