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article imageOp-Ed: Oxford — Your brain connectivity makes you happy and successful?

By Paul Wallis     Oct 5, 2015 in Science
Oxford - It seems if you make positive life choices, you have “greater brain connectivity,” and are more intelligent. A new Oxford study using MRIs and detailed personal surveys has created a sort of existential debater’s paradise.
The Oxford study in neuroscience has delivered a series of issues along with its findings:
The Human Connectome Project, a National Institute of Health body, provided the MRIs for the study. Data included “in-depth personality, demographics and lifestyle” information from 461 people. The findings are that better brain connectivity is based on high positives in lifestyle and behavior.
That, however, is where the debate lies. The study makes a connection, excuse the pun, between individual neurology, life circumstances, and behavior.
The negative factors include:
***Anger (Again this weird “anger is wrong” theory — presumably nobody in human history has ever had any reason to be angry about anything, including persecution, genocide, insane workplaces, etc.)
***Rule breaking (The classic “obedience” jingle in psychology where departure from any norm, however absurd or unfair, is an indicator of antisocial tendencies, which must be wrong because people are such fun to have around — no rule or law is ever stupid or unfair, and life is full of convenient choices, apparently.)
***Substance abuse (Is pandemic level junk food and an atmosphere full of god knows what a substance?)
***Poor sleep quality (At least half the population; and they don’t like it or choose it.)
Consider better brain connectivity in a case where you’re angry after yet another of life’s little sledgehammer moments, stuck with some turgid bureaucratic horror, full of toxic waste from your diet, and have had 30 minutes’ sleep in the last week. How “connected” would you feel like being?
This is supposed to be a predictive finding. In fairness, the measures are quite logically supposed to be a balance of positive and negative.
One of the problems is a comment:
The study, which was published online Sept. 28 in the journal Nature Neuroscience, finds that happy, successful people who make positive life choices all showed greater connectivity in brain regions associated with high-level cognition.
What if you don’t have many, if any, positive life choices, like about 75 percent of the world’s population? Doesn’t matter how “cognitive” you are, crappy choices are crappy choices. If negatives are the only options, how good is the predictive value? People can make positive choices if they’re available. Does it make you dumb if all your choices are dumb?
What if you’re not happy in this Earthly Garden of Demographic Delights? How happy are you on minimum wage or no wage? While obvious attempts have been made to define circumstances, isn’t it a bit ridiculous to assume that people with no problems and lifestyle security and those without either can behave in the same way?
Cynics may say that the brain, under those circumstances, would be well advised to be “selectively connective,” and that cognition would be quite a luxury. Not connecting with the negatives any more than necessary and adding stress could be considered a positive life choice, too.
If the finding simply equates to the idea that happy successful people are on better speaking terms with their brains, I think we can call that a gimme.
The value in the study is reporting actual facts, so far. A reliable predictive formula looks a very long way off – At the moment about 7.5 billion people away. I’d suggest losing the “happy successful people” motif as the criteria for accuracy. Happy, successful people are hardly the norm.
If you’re going to assess intelligence and connectivity, the applications of those factors have to be able to function. What about studying highly focused people on the job? Wouldn’t they be more mentally efficient, therefore better connected?
Obviously, connectivity is a useful metric. Jingles about “successful people” belong in the celebrity media, where oppressive levels of intelligence are clearly rampant.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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