Wednesday, 21 May, 2003
[BBC NEWS World Edition]

Buddhists 'really are happier'

Scientists say they have evidence to show that
Buddhists really are happier and calmer than other
Tests carried out in the United States reveal that
areas of their brain associated with good mood and
positive feelings are more active.

The findings come as another study suggests that
Buddhist meditation can help to calm people.

Researchers at University of California San Francisco
Medical Centre have found the practise can tame the
amygdala, an area of the brain which is the hub of
fear memory.

They found that experienced Buddhists, who meditate
regularly, were less likely to be shocked, flustered,
surprised or as angry compared to other people.

Paul Ekman, who carried out the study, said: "The most
reasonable hypothesis is that there is something about
conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the
kind of happiness we all seek."

Brain activity

In a separate study, scientists at the University of
Wisconsin at Madison used new scanning techniques to
examine brain activity in a group of Buddhists.

Their tests revealed activity in the left prefrontal
lobes of experienced Buddhist practitioners.

This area is linked to positive emotions, self-control
and temperament.

Their tests showed this area of the Buddhists' brains
are constantly lit up and not just when they are

This, the scientists said, suggests they are more
likely to experience positive emotions and be in good

"We can now hypothesise with some confidence that
those apparently happy, calm Buddhist souls one
regularly comes across in places such as Dharamsala,
India, really are happy," said Professor Owen
Flanagan, of Duke University in North Carolina.

Dharamsala is the home base of exiled Tibetan leader
the Dalai Lama.

The studies are published in New Scientist magazine.