Professor Morten L Kringelbach leads the Hedonia Research Group based at the Universities of Oxford and Aarhus. His prizewinning research uses neuroimaging and whole-brain computational models of, for example, food, infants, sex, drugs and music to find ways to increase eudaimonia (the life well-lived). He has published fourteen books, and over 300 scientific papers, chapters and other articles and his research features regularly in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. He is a fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford, of the Association for Psychological Science, on the advisory board of Scientific American and a board member of the world’s first Empathy Museum.
Anhedonia, the lack of pleasure, has been shown to be a critical feature of a range of neuropsychiatric disorders. Yet, it is currently measured primarily through subjective self- reports and as such has been difficult to submit to rigorous scientific analysis. New insights from affective neuroscience hold considerable promise in improving our understanding of anhedonia and for providing useful objective behavioral measures to complement traditional self-report measures, potentially leading to better diagnoses and novel treatments.
Reviewing the state-of-the-art of hedonia research and specifically the established mechanisms of wanting, liking, and learning, I propose to conceptualize anhedonia as impairments in some or all of these processes; thereby departing from the longstanding view of anhedonia as solely reduced subjective experience of pleasure. I show how advances in whole-brain computational modelling can help stratify the heterogeneity of anhedonia across neuropsychiatric disorders, depending on which parts of the pleasure networks are most affected. These advances may also help us finally get a handle on eudaimonia and well-being which are difficult to study empirically. I will show how diverse routes such as caregiving of infants, drugs or music could potentially offer new insights. The evidence suggests that eudaimonia could be linked to optimal metastability in the pleasure system, which in turn has implications for diagnosis and treatment of anhedonia.
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