New Study Finds The Possible Reason Behind Pessimism


Pessimism or the consistent negative perspective towards life is definitely something that’s not a “habit” but can be influenced by the neural activity of our body. It is important to understand that people being pessimistic all the time could very well not be the person that portrays themselves as. The new study is exactly about the possible neural connections that could be influencing the activity that makes a person have a negative perspective.

The new study (R) conducted by a group of neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found the influence of caudate nucleus on not just pessimism but also on the negative decision making in times of crisis or under the influence of any kind of mental health issues. The stimulation of the caudate nucleus tends to put more weight on the anticipated drawbacks of a situation rather than the potential benefits of the same.

The scientists further clarified stating the person’s state of deterred mental health, be it because of anxiety or even stress could be a very possible reason behind the negative outlook on every single situation. In order to find the connection of this kind of behaviour with the neural activity of the brain, the MIT scientists started their research.

Upon their test on animals, it was found that the stimulation of a certain part of the brain could very well be the contributing reason behind the possible infliction of the pessimism in every situation. The area of the brain, otherwise regarded as the caudate nucleus was the one responsible for the negative decisions, the scientists found. They further found that the effects of the stimulation could very well persist for an extended period of time, rather than just being momentary. So, if the stimulus was given during the day, the effect of it could extend on till the entirety of the day.

This new finding could very well help contribute to trace the possible reason behind the induction of depression and anxiety in an individual. This is also going to help them come up with better treatment approaches for the same.

Ann Graybiel, an MIT Institute Professor and the senior author of the study stated that during the study, they found proxy for not just anxiety and depression but sometimes the combination of the both. These kinds of psychiatric conditions are so complex that not only are they hard to be diagnosed but even harder to treat.

The paper has been a joint effort on the part of four different researchers – Ann Graybiel, Ken-ichi Amemori and Satoko Amemori (who are research affiliates of the Mc Govern Institute) and another researcher from the Mc Govern Institute, Daniel Gibson.

Decision Making On An Emotional Level

Graybiel, who is one of the lead authors of the study, has already published papers that depict the connections behind the neural circuit associated with a person’s decision making skills. When there are approaches that tally both the positive as well as the negative aspects of decision making, the situation tends to inflict a great deal of provocation to one’s anxiety. Not just that, she has always found connection between chronic stress and decision making.

With all that aside, the new study was conducted with a perspective to produce or rather, induce an effect which is often times visible in people suffering from depression, anxiety or other kinds of mental health issues. In order to proceed with the hypothesis, the researchers stimulated the caudate nucleus in the brain which is predominantly responsible for the emotional decision making process in an individual.

The stimuli was administered with a minimal electrical impulse all the while they were provided with a reward (juice) alongside an unpleasant stimulus much like something of a puff of air on the face. In each of the trial, the ratio between the rewards with the aversive stimuli changed and transformed, primarily because of the fact that the decision making was completely up to the animals. They had the full reign of choosing whether or not they want the reward or the stimuli or sometimes even both.

The possibilities showed that everything comes down to the cost effective balance. When the offered reward was high in balance to the puff of air, the animals accepted it but the moment the tables were reversed, the decision changed as well. This was what happened in normal circumstances.

When the caudate nucleus was stimulated, this cost effective balancing capabilities were completely destroyed. The effects were so pronounced upon the stimulation that the animals started rejecting the combinations that they would have otherwise accepted. The effect of the stimulation was pronounced not just for the time being but continued till the entirety of the day and gradually disappeared the next day.

The researchers concluded the entirety of this stating that the situation is more like where the animals started to devalue whatever they had and instead started to focus more on the negative side effects which is what they explained as the overestimation of the cost relative to the benefit that they were getting.

The lead author, Ann Graybiel stated that there very well could be a number of internal circuits in the nucleus and they were so delicately balanced and even the slightest of the stimuli was more than enough to impact the decision making skills, inclining more towards the aspects of pessimism rather than the opposite of it.