Santa or Grinch? Your Brain in Christmas Revealed in Scans

Dec 18, 2015 12:20 PM EST | By Alexis Villarias

Are you a secret Santa or a Grinch during the holidays? Through brain scans, we can now find out if we are blessed with the holiday spirit.

A new study has found networks in the brain that can determine if you'll be a jolly or grumpy person this holiday season. For the researchers to find out, they showed participants different images. As Christmas related images were shown, certain parts of the brain get activated.

It is important to take note that images relating to their own personal Christmas traditions can activate these parts of the brain. These areas are also linked to a person's spirituality and emotions.

"This network had a significantly higher activation in a people who celebrate Christmas with positive associations, as opposed to a people who have no Christmas traditions and neutral associations," researchers said.

They stumbled onto this discovery when they were using MRI scans to study migraine. Every time they show Christmas-related images, some parts of the brain get activated.

So test if this was indeed real, they recruited 10 participants who celebrate Christmas and 10 more who don't. The participants also answered questionnaires about Christmas traditions, feelings associated with Christmas and ethnicity.

Each person went through an MRI scan while being showed 84 images through video goggles. The images include Christmas-themed images combined with images of everyday activities. Each image was shown for two seconds.

It was found that five areas of the brain become active among those who celebrated Christmas compared to those who did not. The researchers theorized that the same could be said for those who celebrate other holidays such as Hanukkah or Ramadan if they were shown images related to their holidays.

"It's very possible this is a general holiday network. When you see images that remind you of good times with your family, that same network might activate," explained senior researcher Bryan Haddock. He is a medical physicist with Rigshospitalet, a hospital affiliated with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, reports Philly.

Dr. Matthew Lorber, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital, said that the study only showed how life events can train the brain. Most works done in therapy involves removing negative associations and replacing them with positive ones.

However, researchers said not to put too much meaning into their findings. Something as magical as Christmas spirit cannot be fully explained according to Haddock.

So do you think you have the Christmas spirit or are you more of a Grinch?

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