How Happy is Your Brain?

Happy Brain | St. Bonaventure Knights of Columbus Council 12240
“Brain – Lobes – Temporoparietal junction” by John A Beal. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

Several studies on the temporoparietal junction of the brain (TPJ for short) provide a biological basis for altruistic (unselfish) behavior. One study found a strong connection between the volume (size) of a person’s TPJ and their willingness to engage in selfless acts. The larger the TPJ the more likely the person is to do nice things for others.

In a particular study 30 ‘normal, healthy adults’ played a series of games in which they would either increase or decrease their partner’s monetary payoff. While the subjects went through the experiment, observing and making decisions at certain times, their brain responses were monitored by functional MRI’s. fMRI’s measure levels of blood oxygen where nerve activity is occurring. The cost to subjects for helping their partner (who remained anonymous) varied with each trial. TPJ neural activity was most intensely active when participants faced hard choices – to act altruistically, but at a high cost to themselves.

In one more study, subjects were informed that money would be taken from their bank account and given to charities. They were also given the opportunity to donate to a charity willingly. During both situations brain activity was monitored for the effects of altruism. When subjects had no choice about giving money to charities or not, TPJ’s still lit up on fMRI’s from the pleasure of giving. But when the giving was entirely of free will, brain activity lit up brightest and the accompanying feelings of pleasure were at the highest level.

The first Founding Principle of the Knights of Columbus is Charity. We take literally the words of Jesus quoted by Luke in Acts 20:35 “I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed (happier) to give than to receive.” If you want to light up your TPJ, drop us an email this week.

For information on joining the Knights of Columbus / St. Bonaventure Council No. 12240, contact
Grand Knight Jude Hodges (954) 235-4524 [email protected].
or Membership Director Joe Cox (954) 614-3209 [email protected]