Examining gray matter structures associated with individual differences in global life satisfaction in a large sample of young adults

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015 Jul;10(7):952-60. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsu144. Epub 2014 Nov 17.


Although much attention has been directed towards life satisfaction that refers to an individual's general cognitive evaluations of his or her life as a whole, little is known about the neural basis underlying global life satisfaction. In this study, we used voxel-based morphometry to investigate the structural neural correlates of life satisfaction in a large sample of young healthy adults (n = 299). We showed that individuals' life satisfaction was positively correlated with the regional gray matter volume (rGMV) in the right parahippocampal gyrus (PHG), and negatively correlated with the rGMV in the left precuneus and left ventromedial prefrontal cortex. This pattern of results remained significant even after controlling for the effect of general positive and negative affect, suggesting a unique structural correlates of life satisfaction. Furthermore, we found that self-esteem partially mediated the association between the PHG volume and life satisfaction as well as that between the precuneus volume and global life satisfaction. Taken together, we provide the first evidence for the structural neural basis of life satisfaction, and highlight that self-esteem might play a crucial role in cultivating an individual's life satisfaction.

Keywords: life satisfaction; parahippocampal gyrus; precuneus; self-esteem; voxel-based morphometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / anatomy & histology*
  • Gray Matter / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Individuality
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / anatomy & histology
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Self Concept
  • Young Adult