Christmas Spirit Is Real, and Scientists Have Found It in Your Brain
真有圣诞精神,
科学家在大脑里找到了
(选自《英语世界》2016年第12期)

文/约书亚·A. 克里施   译/高歌   审订/钱多秀
By Joshua A. Krisch

Can we use fMRI[1] brain scans to detect our levels of Christmas Spirit? These neuroscientists think so.

我们可以用核磁共振成像做大脑扫描来探测自己的圣诞精神吗?一些神经系统科学家认为可以。

[1 ]fMRI 功能磁共振成像:功能磁共振成像对流向特定脑区的血液的变化进行检测。它同时提供脑的解剖和功能视图。

Christmas Spirit[2] has finally been located within the human brain, according to a new study in The BMJ[3]. The study suggests that, for some people, there may be a festive network within the brain responsible for recording positive memories of holiday joy, thus associating the Christmas season with the Most Wonderful Time of The Year.

《英国医学杂志》刊登的一项新研究表明,科学家最终在人脑内部定位到圣诞精神。该研究指出,一些人的大脑内部或许存在欢乐记忆网络,负责记录节日欢愉这种积极记忆,从而将圣诞季与当年最美妙的时光联系在一起。

[2] 圣诞节宣讲的是上帝对人类的大爱。圣诞精神,就是自信,坚强,仁爱,分享,善良,坚持。

[3]《英国医学杂志》,英文名称为British Medical Journal,简称 BMJ,是世界著名的四大综合性医学期刊之一。

"We estimate that millions of people are prone to displaying Christmas spirit deficiencies after many years of celebrating Christmas. We refer to this as the 'bah humbug' syndrome[4]," the authors write. "Accurate localization of the Christmas spirit is a paramount first step in being able to help this group of patients. Location of the Christmas spirit could also contribute to a more general understanding of the brain's role in festive cultural traditions, making a medical contribution to cross cultural festivities and goodwill to all."

该研究的作者称:“我们估计,数百万人在多年庆祝圣诞节后容易表现出圣诞精神缺失,我们将此称作‘哼,骗子’综合征。精准定位圣诞精神在帮助这类患者方面走出了至关重要的第一步。这种定位还帮助人们更全面地理解大脑在节日文化传统中的作用,为跨文化庆祝活动及互通友好做出了医学贡献。”

[4]“哼,骗子”综合征,“哼,骗子”用来表达对圣诞节的厌恶。查尔斯·狄更斯所著《圣诞颂歌》中,有一个名叫埃比尼泽·斯克鲁奇的人物讨厌圣诞节,该表达因他而出名。

Until now, scientists had no idea where in our brains the Christmas spirit resided. What neural circuits[5] fire while you're slurping eggnog[6]? What  about when you haul a Christmas tree up four flights of stairs?

至今,科学家们仍未发现圣诞精神存在于我们大脑中哪个部位。在你咕嘟咕嘟地喝蛋酒的时候,究竟有哪些神经环路处于兴奋状态呢?在你将圣诞树拖上四层楼梯的时候,又是哪些神经环路在发挥作用呢?

[5] neural circuit 神经环路。

[6] eggnog 蛋酒,圣诞节最具代表性的饮品,由鸡蛋、牛奶和朗姆酒调制而成。

A team of scientists from Copenhagen University resolved to figure that out for annual Christmas issue of The BMJ,  which approaches novel topics with serious science, like whether the British really have worse teeth than Americans or why there are more men with mustaches in medical school leadership roles than women leaders. And, in this particular Christmas study, the researchers answer an even broader question about neuroscience: How  do our brains store and recall festive cultural traditions?

一支来自哥本哈根大学的科学家团队决心为《英国医学杂志》年度圣诞特刊解决这一问题。该杂志用严谨的科学方法探究各种新奇话题,例如:与美国人相比,英国人的牙齿真的更糟糕吗?为什么医学院的领导者更多的是有胡须的男士,而非女士?在这一圣诞研究中,研究者们还会回答一个神经系统科学领域更为广泛的问题:人脑是如何储存和回忆起节日文化传统的?

Functional MRI may hold the key. fMRI scans measure blood flow and blood oxygenation in specific areas of the brain in response to neural activity. These scans can map out pathways involved in particular mental processes—perfect for detecting brain activity during peak Christmas Spirit. In this particular study, researchers hooked 20 volunteers up to fMRI ("no eggnog or gingerbread[7] was consumed before the scans," the researchers  note) and showed them Christmas-themed images. Afterwards, the participants answered a survey about their Christmas memories and traditions.

功能核磁共振或许能提供答案。它扫描大脑应答神经活动的特定区域中的血流量及血氧。这种扫描能绘制出特定思维过程中所涉及的路径,这对在圣诞精神达到峰值时探测大脑活动来说是完美的工具。在这项专门研究中,研究者们让 20 位志愿者接受功能磁共振成像扫描(研究者们特别提到:“扫描前,受试者没有摄入任何蛋酒和姜饼”),并向他们展示了圣诞主题的图像。之后,给他们做了一份关于圣诞记忆和传统的问卷调查。

[7] gingerbread 姜饼,一种传统圣诞食物,最早可见于古罗马帝国时代。姜饼的主要原料是姜,在当时非常受欢迎而且数量丰富,但在罗马帝国没落后,姜就在欧洲消失了踪影,直到马可·波罗在大约1295年时,再次从中国把姜带回欧洲大陆。

The results highlighted five clusters of activity that differed strongly between participants who celebrated Christmas and those who did not. Specifically, the scientists found increased brain activity near the frontal premotor cortex,  somatosensory cortex and the parietal lobule in people who celebrated Christmas—in other words, a functional Christmas network woven into the human brain.

结果显示,庆祝圣诞节与不庆祝圣诞节的两类参与者在五组活动中表现出显著差别。具体而言,科学家在庆祝圣诞节的参与者大脑中的额前运动皮层、躯体感觉皮层、顶叶周边发现了更多大脑活动。也就是说,人脑中交织着一张功能性圣诞网络。

美文选刊|真有圣诞精神,科学家在大脑里找到了

… and here's how those brain regions are linked to holiday cheer:

Parietal lobules have been shown in earlier fMRI studies to play a determining role in self transcendence, the personality trait regarding predisposition to spirituality. Furthermore, the frontal premotor cortex is important for experiencing emotions shared with other individuals… recall of joyful emotions and pleasant ingestive behaviour shared with  loved  ones  would be likely  to elicit activation here. There is growing evidence that the somatosensory cortex plays an important role in recognition of facial emotion and retrieving social relevant information from faces. Collectively, these cortical areas possibly constitute the neuronal correlate of the Christmas spirit in the human brain.

……以下是那些大脑区域与节日欢乐联系到一起的途径:

早期功能磁共振成像研究显示,顶叶部分在自我超越这种偏精神性倾向的个人特质方面起到了决定性作用。此外,额前运动皮层对与其他个体间共享的情感十分重要……回忆起快乐的情绪,或与挚爱之人共享欢愉时,就很可能会激起该部位的活动。越来越多的证据表明,躯体感觉皮层对识别面部表情并从面部提取相关社会信息有重要作用。总体上,这些皮层区可能构成了人脑中圣诞精神的神经关联。

Now, fMRI has its limitations. In fact, one 2009 study found that fMRI readings are so prone to error that a dead, frozen Atlantic salmon "showed" brain activity on an fMRI scan, despite, well, being dead. The authors acknowledge this limitation, and they respond with a surprising amount of  holiday cheer. "Naturally,  in keeping with the good spirit of the holiday, we disagree with these negative perspectives," they write.

然而,功能磁共振也有一些局限性。事实上,一项 2009 年的研究发现:一条死掉且冷冻的大西洋鲑鱼在功能磁共振扫描下“显示出”大脑活动,虽然其的确是一条死鱼。这说明功能磁共振成像数据极有可能出错。该研究的作者承认这一局限,但他们的回应有着节日般的轻松心态。“很自然,为了与节日的欢乐保持一致,我们不同意那些负面态度。”他们写道。

The authors also note that their Christmas photographs inevitably contain  traditional  Christmas  colors, and  say  that  they  cannot  rule  out  that they  have simply uncovered a neural pathway[8] for processing red and green colors. Furthermore, the scientists admit that their findings are likely not detecting the Christmas Spirit per se[9], but rather homing in on the regions of our brain responsible for processing  any nostalgic holiday.

作者还提出,他们提供的圣诞照片中难免包含一些传统的圣诞色彩,也不能排除他们仅仅揭示了处理红绿色彩的一个神经通路。另外,这些科学家也承认:他们的发现很可能无法探测出圣诞精神本身,而是引导人们看到大脑中那些负责处理节日怀旧情绪的区域。

[8] neural pathway 神经通路,也叫传导通路,神经系统内传导某一特定信息的通路。它能传导某种特定信息,如视、听或随意运动的冲动等。

[9] per se 本身。

"Bringing these issues up, however,  really dampened the festive mood," the authors write. "Therefore we, in the best interest of the readers of course, decided not to ruin the good Christmas cheer for everyone by letting this influence our interpretation of the study." Nice work, everyone.

作者表示:“然而,提出这些问题确实抑制了节日情绪。当然,我们要考虑读者的最佳利益。所以,我们决定不让这种事情毁掉大家的圣诞欢乐,而让它影响我们对研究的解读。”每个人都干得漂亮!