Neuroscience Research Project

Question 1

The compassionate brain section is the primary section that has intrigued me the most. It has enlightened me through the various studies that are mentioned. For example, one research found that some factors affect the extent to which we are generous and compassionate towards other people (Allen, 2019). For instance, how we perceive others, how we care about our similarities and differences with them, and the social context we view ourselves in. I completely agree with this because, from experience, my source of generosity and compassion mainly depends on my relationship with other people, and how I view them. For example, in many cases, I show compassion to people that I feel close to than those I do not know. However, even if I do not know them, I sometimes feel compassionate depending on their friendliness toward me.

Another study about the compassionate brain that has intrigued me is that pro-social behavior can be inspired by stress (Allen, 2019). While I feel that this is true, I also do not understand fully how stress could result in pro-social behavior. However, I also find some logic in it in that stress could make one empathetic to other people’s stresses. For example, when someone is stressed, they become empathetic and start understanding other people. Through understanding, they become empathetic and show pro-social behavior like being generous to them. Nevertheless, this might be a research gap that needs to be studied to exactly show how stress could result in pro-social behavior.

Lastly, one study suggests that compassion is a skill that can be learned through practice (Allen, 2019). People learn to be compassionate by continuously giving and doing generous acts often. I also feel that those that receive from generous and compassionate people would increase their compassion towards others. Even though this is not documented in the article, it could form a solid basis for future research. Nevertheless, if practice and learning can result in increased compassion, then people could normalize giving and being generous to improve their compassion levels.

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Question 2

I selected a peer-reviewed neuroscience article from the BMC women’s health journal. It is a research article that sought to study how compassion in women leaders is associated with less depression and stress, greater attention, and brain response to affective stimuli as the main question (Pires et al., 2018). The context of the study is that women are increasingly assuming major leadership roles, and due to their high levels of compassion, they are likely to experience much higher emotional fatigue than men leaders. The study hypothesized that women leaders with high levels of self-compassion are less stressed and depressed, and show more attention to their everyday activities (Pires et al., 2018)s.

The method used was experimental, where 46 participants were selected and asked to fill four scales measuring self-compassion, beck depression, mindful awareness attention, and perceived stress. Besides, they were subjected to International Affective Picture System (IAPS), and their brain responses and arousal to pleasant and unpleasant pictures were studied. The results were scanned through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and correlation analysis among the variables was done.

As the study predicted, it found that women with higher self-compassion scores are less stressed and depressed, and show higher levels of attention to everyday activities (Pires et al., 2018). This happens when they respond to affective stimuli and the precuneus part of the brain is highly activated. The brain area that the study was interested in was the precuneus, which is the self-referential processing area of the brain. This part is the part where information is integrated and memory and recollection take place. Some of the questions I had about this article is whether the vice versa of the hypothesis is true, that is, if a lower self-compassion is associated with higher levels of stress and depression, and lower attention to activities.

Question 3

I chose relaxing exercises and stretches as my routine activity. Other than completing this project, I chose this activity to help me relieve some stress, gain some physical flexibility, and improve my mindfulness through an active brain and body. From this unit, I have learned that exercise is one way of relieving stress. Of late, I have been dealing with a minor stressful situation and I feel that doing some relaxing exercises and stretches will ease the stress. I will keep the activity in my routine because it will help me deal with other stressful events I might experience in the future. Besides, I am on a journey of losing some weight and since this is not a one-day journey, keeping the activity in my routine will help me accomplish the weight goal. Furthermore, from experience, whenever I do some stretches during the day, I always stay active and my mind and brain work better compared to when I do not do them. Therefore, I also intend to keep my mind and brain activity to enhance my levels of mindfulness. Therefore, because of the possible benefits and goals I intend to achieve through this activity, I will keep it in my routine.

Question 4

After doing some stretches and relaxing my body, I felt some sort of relief. Before, that, I felt tired mainly because I am not used to exercising and thinking that the activity is more tiresome than relieving. However, after some time of relaxing, I felt some relief and knew that it was the after-effects of the activity because exercise and stretches increase and improve the blood flow within the body, resulting in relaxation. Even though I felt relaxed after the first activity of stretching and doing the exercises, I still had the same stress some few hours after. Nevertheless, the relaxation I felt immediately after the exercise convinced me that with the time of doing the exercise, I would overcome the stress and even accomplish my goal of losing some weight.

Question 5

Having healthy coping mechanisms for stress is crucial in preventing mental health problems. Too much stress results in serious mental problems like anxiety and depression. This means that when stress is prevented, anxiety, depression, and other mental problems will also be prevented. Because of the unlimited demands and wants in life that must be fulfilled, stress is likely to be part of life. However, to relieve or prevent stress, having healthy coping mechanisms is crucial. The coping mechanisms help in preventing it, which further prevents serious mental problems like depression.

The second reason is to manage issues with substance addiction. Mainly, when one is unable to manage their stress, they turn to substance abuse, such as drinking alcohol. This could be addictive especially when one finds some short-term relief when they abuse drugs, whenever they are stressed. However, if one is able to manage stress through healthy coping mechanisms, one will avoid drug abuse as a coping mechanism for stress. Keeping a routine is vital because it leads to the long-term impact of stress relief. An individual is likely to gain or benefit from a routine because the results are long-term. This affects the nervous system in that it becomes active because studies reveal that stress would result in slow thinking, learning, and memory (Schwabe, 2016). Thus, when stress is eliminated, the nervous system as a whole becomes active.


Allen, S. (2019). Positive Neuroscience [Ebook]. Greater Good Science Center.

Pires, F., Lacerda, S., Balardin, J., Portes, B., Tobo, P., & Barrichello, C. et al. (2018). Self-compassion is associated with less stress and depression and greater attention and brain response to affective stimuli in women managers. BMC Women’s Health18(1). doi: 10.1186/s12905-018-0685-y

Schwabe, L. (2016). Memory under stress: from single systems to network changes. European Journal Of Neuroscience45(4), 478-489. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13478