Are you the type of person who groans loudly every year the first time you see a Christmas commercial (likely the day after Thanksgiving)? Or are you the type to put up the stockings above your fireplace that day?
Well, according to a new study in the BMJ, brain scans can reveal a neural network that might determine whether someone will have the “Christmas spirit" or be a tiny-hearted Grinch. (It's not your fault.)
A team of researchers in Denmark looked at 10 people who celebrate the holiday and 10 who didn't. They had the participants look at images of Christmas-related pictures, and pictures of everyday items, and scanned their brains using MRI.
Through the brain scans, the team was able to see that several areas of the brain — those that control sense of touch and body language interpretation — lit up in the people who celebrate Christmas when they saw the holiday pictures. Those parts of the brain stayed dark for those who don't, which led the researchers to conclude there is, in fact, a "Christmas spirit network" in the human brain.
Why does this matter? Well, the researchers believe this discovery could potentially help reverse what they call the “bah humbug” syndrome, which puts a damper on Christmas for others. (The Scrooge Effect, if you will.)
But let's not take these findings too seriously — as the scientists themselves aren't doing so. Though the results are real, their interpretation of them is just a bit of holiday fun.
"Although merry and intriguing, these findings should be interpreted with caution," they explain in a press release. "Something as magical and complex as the Christmas spirit cannot be fully explained by, or limited to, the mapped brain activity alone."
Plus, it’s entirely possible that similar brain areas would activate if a person who celebrates Hanukkah or Ramadan were shown images from those holidays. That doesn't necessarily mean they're balloon-poppers.
Anyway, let's hope Santa doesn't start performing brain scans — or a lot more people will be getting coal in their stockings.
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