UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Virtual: Brain meeting: Dr Robb Rutledge

15 May 2020, 3:15 pm–4:15 pm

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Happiness in the Human Brain: A Computational and Neural Model for Mood Dynamics

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to





Justyna Ekert and Elisa van der Plas and Gabrielle Sheehan


N/A via Zoom
N/A via Zoom
N/A via Zoom
N/A via Zoom
United Kingdom

Brain meeting 

The happiness of individuals is an important metric for societies, but we know little about how daily life events are aggregated into subjective feelings. We have shown that happiness depends on the history of rewards and expectations, a result we have now replicated in thousands of individuals using smartphone-based data collection and quantified in relation to major depression. Using fMRI, we show how happiness relates to neural activity in the ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex. Computational modelling shows precisely how feelings vary across individuals in relation to a wide variety of factors including intrinsic rewards, future prospects, social inequality, and altruistic behaviour. Finally, we show that happiness reflects learning processes and does not always depend on reward.

About the Speaker

Dr Robb Rutledge

at Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research