The Brains of the Mushy

Have you ever wondered why you’re more likely than your neighbour to feed a stray cat, help a little old lady cross the street or weep inconsolably all through the final scenes of Beaches? Stony Brook University has fresh evidence that some people’s brains actually respond more strongly to emotional stimuli.

This brand-new – and I do mean spanking, since it just came out yesterday – paper says that the 20 percent of our population who are classified as “highly sensitive people,” or HSPs (yes, that’s an official scientific term; BLT is not) actually have different brains. When this group of people looked at photos of sad or smiley faces, functional MRIs showed extra blood flow to parts of the brain linked to awareness, empathy and emotion.

Does this mean the other 80 percent of us has lumps of coal for hearts? Definitely not. Virtually all humans are hard-wired for compassion. But a few people are more highly tuned in to the environment around them – and the stuff they see happens to tug at their emotions.

My belief: Anyone can improve their awareness and focus, as long as they work at it. You don’t have to bawl at the movies to prove you’re kind. A dish of tuna at the back door will do just fine.

Stony Brook University supplied this photo as proof they know what they’re talking about. Uh, we’ll take their word for it.

Stony Brook University supplied this photo as proof they know what they’re talking about. Uh, we’ll take their word for it.

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