Danish researcher looking for Christmas spirit in the brain

There’s a frontal lobe, but do sugar plum visions really live in your head?

Does the Christmas spirit have a special place in the brain? That’s the question Anders Hougaard, a senior scientist at the Neurological Clinic at Rigshospitalet, is trying to answer with, sadly, somewhat inconclusive results.

In connection with another research project on migraines, he did a small additional study in which he tested ten people who celebrated Christmas, and ten people who did not. While scanning their brains, he showed them Christmassy and non-Christmassy pictures: a Christmas tree as opposed to an oak tree, for example. He analysed the results in his spare time.

Tinsel and synapses
Hougaard concluded that the Christmas spirit does not have a defined space in the brain, but those who celebrated Christmas did light up specific regions in the brain.

“I’m a little surprised that the reactions to the Christmas pictures were so clear,” Hiugaard told TV2. “I did not think there would be a difference.”

Joy is universal
The study did not define whether it was only the Christmas spirit that caused the reaction in the brains of those who celebrated. In theory, Muslims, Jews or members of any other faith would also react to images of their holidays.

READ MORE: Christmas not happy for everyone

“Perhaps it is just a common joy we see,” said Hougaard.