Neural correlates of the happy life: the amplitude of spontaneous low frequency fluctuations predicts subjective well-being

Neuroimage. 2015 Feb 15;107:136-145. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.11.033. Epub 2014 Nov 21.


Subjective well-being is assumed to be distributed in the hedonic hotspots of subcortical and cortical structures. However, the precise neural correlates underlying this construct, especially how it is maintained during the resting state, are still largely unknown. Here, we explored the neural basis of subjective well-being by correlating the regional fractional amplitude of low frequency fluctuations (fALFF) with the self-reported subjective well-being of healthy individuals. Behaviorally, we demonstrated that subjective well-being contained two related but distinct components: cognitive and affective well-being. Neurally, we showed that the fALFF in the bilateral posterior superior temporal gyrus (pSTG), right posterior mid-cingulate cortex (pMCC), right thalamus, left postcentral gyrus (PCG), right lingual gyrus, and left planum temporale (PT) positively predicted cognitive well-being, whereas the fALFF in the bilateral superior frontal gyrus (SFG), right orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and left inferior temporal gyrus (ITG) negatively predicted cognitive well-being. In contrast, only the fALFF in the right amygdala reliably predicted affective well-being. Furthermore, emotional intelligence partially mediated the effects of the right pSTG and thalamus on cognitive well-being, as well as the effect of the right amygdala on affective well-being. In summary, we provide the first evidence that spontaneous brain activity in multiple regions associated with sensation, social perception, cognition, and emotion contributes to cognitive well-being, whereas the spontaneous brain activity in only one emotion-related region contributes to affective well-being, suggesting that the spontaneous activity of the human brain reflect the efficiency of subjective well-being.

Keywords: Affect balance; Life satisfaction; Resting-state fMRI; Subjective well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Emotional Intelligence / physiology
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Young Adult