Towards a Neuroscience of Well-Being: Implications of Insights from Pleasure Research

  • Kent C. BerridgeEmail author
  • Morten L. Kringelbach
Part of the Happiness Studies Book Series book series (HAPS)


Despite the best efforts of many people to maximize well-being, the human condition is still marred by great levels of unhappiness. Here we discuss how recent advances in the understanding of the human brain may offer some insights. In particular, progress has been made in understanding pleasure or positive affect (hedonia) and the underlying processes of wanting, liking and learning. Yet, we are still far from understanding its sister element, eudaimonia, the sense of meaningfulness or engagement in life. We survey the key findings showing that hedonic brain mechanisms are shared between humans and other mammals, which have been useful in facilitating the understanding of hedonia. Evidence has also grown to indicate that for humans, brain networks of higher pleasures strongly overlap with more basic sensory pleasures. This overlap may provide a window into underlying brain circuitry that generates all pleasures, perhaps including even the hedonic quality of pervasive well-being. Pleasure plays a crucial role in guiding the survival-related decision-making involved in optimizing resource allocation of brain processes. This systems perspective on positive well-being calls for careful balancing rather than maximization of one process at the expense of others. In turn, successfully balancing wanting and liking processes could be key to linking hedonia states to eudaimonia assessments to create balanced states of positive well-being that approach happiness.


Orbitofrontal Cortex Incentive Salience Default Network Sensory Pleasure High Pleasure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Our research is supported by grants from the TrygFonden Charitable Foundation, Braveheart Charity, and Novo Nordisk Foundation to MLK and from the NIH (MH63644 and DA015188) to KCB. This chapter is an abridged version of a previously published article (Berridge and Kringelbach 2011).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Affective Neuroscience and Biopsychology Lab, Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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