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      The Cultivation of Pure Altruism via Gratitude: A Functional MRI Study of Change with Gratitude Practice

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          Gratitude is an emotion and a trait linked to well-being and better health, and welcoming benefits to oneself is instrumentally valuable. However, theoretical and empirical work highlights that gratitude is more fully understood as an intrinsically valuable moral emotion. To understand the role of neural reward systems in the association between gratitude and altruistic motivations we tested two hypotheses: First, whether self-reported propensity toward gratitude relates to fMRI-derived indicators of “pure altruism,” operationalized as the neural valuation of passive, private transfers to a charity versus to oneself. In young adult female participants, self-reported gratitude and altruism were associated with “neural pure altruism” in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) and nucleus accumbens. Second, whether neural pure altruism can be increased through practicing gratitude. In a double-blind study, we randomly assigned participants to either a gratitude-journal or active-neutral control journal group for 3 weeks. Relative to pre-test levels, gratitude journaling increased the neural pure altruism response in the VMPFC. We posit that as a context-dependent value-sensitive cortical region, the VMPFC supports change with gratitude practice, a change that is larger for benefits to others versus oneself.

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          Most cited references 64

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          The Psychophysics Toolbox.

          The Psychophysics Toolbox is a software package that supports visual psychophysics. Its routines provide an interface between a high-level interpreted language (MATLAB on the Macintosh) and the video display hardware. A set of example programs is included with the Toolbox distribution.
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             Teri S Krebs (2002)
            An automated method for segmenting magnetic resonance head images into brain and non-brain has been developed. It is very robust and accurate and has been tested on thousands of data sets from a wide variety of scanners and taken with a wide variety of MR sequences. The method, Brain Extraction Tool (BET), uses a deformable model that evolves to fit the brain's surface by the application of a set of locally adaptive model forces. The method is very fast and requires no preregistration or other pre-processing before being applied. We describe the new method and give examples of results and the results of extensive quantitative testing against "gold-standard" hand segmentations, and two other popular automated methods. Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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              Unified segmentation.

              A probabilistic framework is presented that enables image registration, tissue classification, and bias correction to be combined within the same generative model. A derivation of a log-likelihood objective function for the unified model is provided. The model is based on a mixture of Gaussians and is extended to incorporate a smooth intensity variation and nonlinear registration with tissue probability maps. A strategy for optimising the model parameters is described, along with the requisite partial derivatives of the objective function.

                Author and article information

                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front Hum Neurosci
                Front. Hum. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                12 December 2017
                : 11
                1Department of Psychology, University of Oregon , Eugene, OR, United States
                2Department of Psychology, Harvard University , Cambridge, MA, United States
                Author notes

                Edited by: Xiaolin Zhou, Peking University, China

                Reviewed by: Hongbo Yu, University of Oxford, United Kingdom; Glenn Ryan Fox, University of Southern California, United States

                *Correspondence: Christina M. Karns, ckarns@
                Copyright © 2017 Karns, Moore and Mayr.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Figures: 5, Tables: 6, Equations: 0, References: 64, Pages: 14, Words: 0
                Funded by: John Templeton Foundation 10.13039/100000925
                Original Research


                practice, fmri, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, altruism, gratitude


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