Dr. Morten Kringelbach

The well-balanced brain: Lessons from hedonia and eudaimonia

Over the last two decades, a causal understanding has emerged of the brain’s pleasure system essential for survival. Reviewing the evidence, I show how this serves as a cornerstone for the well-balanced brain and can help make progress in understanding the brain’s orchestration of eudaimonia, flourishing and the life well-lived. This depends on how sweet anticipation and prediction are central to extracting meaning from our environment. In fleeting moments this may translate into both pleasure and pain, which over longer timescales can give rise to flourishing and suffering, providing meaning and purpose to life. However, given that the brain is always in non-equilibrium, a deeper understanding requires a new approach. Drawing on progress in field of complex systems, I will discuss how our recent theory of the thermodynamics of mind provides a novel, unifying whole-brain modelling framework for understanding how the brain orchestrates hedonia and eudaimonia. Ultimately, this may provide new insights into tailoring interventions to promote thriving and how best to rebalance the brain in health and disease.

Bio: Prof. Morten L. Kringelbach is the founding director of the interdisciplinary Centre for Eudaimonia and Human Flourishing at Linacre College, University of Oxford, UK. He is also a Principal Investigator at Center for Music in the Brain, University of Aarhus, Denmark. His prizewinning research has helped elucidate the brain systems driven by hedonic and eudaimonic stimuli such as, for example, infants, food, psychedelics and music. He has published fourteen books, and over 350 scientific papers, chapters and other articles and his research features regularly in newspapers, magazines, radio and television.

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