Shared Opinions Light Up Brain's 'Reward Center'

Finding your thoughts validated by others brings mental satisfaction, study finds

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THURSDAY, June 17, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Finding common ground with others often leads to a sense of satisfaction, and a new study suggests that the reason why is because the "reward" area of the brain is activated when people agree with our opinions.

A research team from England and Denmark used functional MRI scans to monitor activity in the ventral striatum area of the brain in 28 volunteers who listened to two experts' opinions about songs the participants liked. There was increased activity in the ventral striatum when the participant and the expert had a shared opinion, according to the report in the June 17 issue of the journal Current Biology.

"We all like getting rewards and this is reflected in brain activity in the ventral striatum," first author Dr. Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn, from the Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience at Aarhus University in Denmark, said in a Wellcome Trust news release. "Our study shows that our brains respond in a similar way when others agree with us. One interpretation is that agreement with others can be as satisfying as other, more basic, rewards."

The researchers also found that most participants were likely to increase their positive opinion of a song if the experts also liked it, and lower their rating of a song if the experts didn't like it. This shift in opinion was reflected in ventral striatum activity.

"It seems that not only are some people more influenced by the opinions of others, but by looking at activity in the brain, we can tell who those people are," study author Chris Frith, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London, England, said in the news release.

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Harvard University and MIT have collaborated to provide the Whole Brain Atlas.

SOURCE: Wellcome Trust, news release, June 17, 2010

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