MIT researchers think they may have found region of the brain connected to pessimism

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 27: Wellcome trust employee Zoe Middleton poses behind an artwork entitled 'My Soul' by Katharine Dowson, which consists of a laser etched lead chrystal glass formation in the shape of a brain, and was created using the artists own MRI Scan, at Wellcome Collection on March 27, 2012 in London, England. The exhibit makes up part of the Wellcome Collection's major new exhibition, 'Brains' which includes slices of Einstein's brain, 3000 year old trepanned skulls, ancient Egyptian mummified brains and brains in jars, and opens to the public from March 29 June 17, 2012. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/file 2012

Researchers at MIT say they believe they’ve found a region of the brain that can generate a pessimistic mood.

They say that if they stimulate this region, the caudate nucleus, with an electrical current, in test animals, the animals will give far more weight to the drawback of a situation than its benefit. The effect continued through the day after the stimulation, the university said.

The findings could help scientists better understand how some of the effects of depression and anxiety arise, and guide development of new treatments, the university said.


Looking at the activity of the caudate nucleus, “We feel we were seeing a proxy for anxiety, or depression, or some mix of the two,” said Professor Ann Graybiel, senior author of the study and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and senior author of the study. “These psychiatric problems are still so very difficult to treat for many individuals suffering from them.”

The study appears in Thursday’s issue of the journal Neuron. Its lead authors are McGovern Institute research affiliates Ken-ichi Amemori and Satoko Amemori. McGovern Institute researcher Daniel Gibson, an expert in data analysis, is also an author of the paper, the university said.