Hedonia: Transnational Research Group

Pleasure is central to our lives and intimately linked to emotional, cognitive and reward processing in the brain. In general, hedonic experience is arguably at the heart of what makes us human, but at the same time it is also one of the most important factors keeping us from staying healthy. Understanding the underlying brain mechanisms can therefore help us understand and potentially treat the serious problems of affective disorders.

Hedonia: Transnational Research Group is based both in the Department of Psychiatry, Oxford, and at CFIN, Aarhus University, Denmark. We use a range of behavioural, neuroimaging, neurosurgical and computational methods to investigate the many facets of pleasure in health and disease. We are interested in the fundamental pleasures afforded by food, sex and social interactions, which are central to survival, but we are also interested in higher order pleasures such as music and art which have strong links to eudaimonia, the meaningful and engaging life. In particular, we are investigating the neural mechanisms of music as part of the newly established Music in Brain centre at Aarhus University, funded by the Danish National Research Foundation. We are also investigating the fundamental brain mechanisms of taste and smell in the Flavour Institute.

Infants are a focus of our research and especially how their sounds, looks and smells strongly influence the adult brain. The ERC is funding our research to better understand the parent-infant relationship which may also help to shape the way we can intervene when things go awry, e.g. in sleep deprivation or post-natal depression.

Another main focus is understanding and modelling how pleasure systems are fundamental in the dynamic allocation of brain resources. As we have come to understand more of the delicate balance and transitions between different brain states, we can now directly rebalance and recalibrate brain networks through deep brain stimulation. Together with Prof Gustavo Deco at UPF in Barcelona, we are building whole-brain computational models that allow us further probe and understand the human brain in health and disease.

When pleasure systems become unbalanced, it can be very difficult to rebalance the brain. One of our main interests is to help advance our understanding of the effects of war and disaster for which we have setup Scars of War Foundation at The Queen’s College. One current project is investigating the brain changes related to post-traumatic stress-disorder in war veterans.

Overall, the time is now ripe for modern neuroscience to study the many faces of pleasure, opening up for new treatments and perhaps even better lives.

"The central premise is that in order to more effectively treat affective disorders, we need to develop a better understanding of hedonic processing – that is the affective component of sensory processing – in the human brain."

Aim of research

Research Team

Prof Morten L Kringelbach

Prof Morten L Kringelbach

Morten is interested in understanding pleasure in its many forms, including chocolate. Professor Kringelbach uses advanced neuroimaging, neurosurgical and computational methods to understand brain function together with Hedonia team members and international collaborators. He is on the advisory board for Scientific American and a Fellow of the ASP. He has published fourteen books, and over 250 scientific papers, chapters and other articles.

Hedonia team

Hedonia team

The Hedonia team is based at the Universities of Oxford (UK) and Aarhus (Denmark) and funded by a number of competitive grants from the ERC, TrygFonden, Braveheart, Lloyds RBL, Danish National Research Foundation and Medical Research Foundation.

Lab Twitter Feed

Parental brain

Parental brain

ERC funded five-year project

Scars of War Foundation

Scars of War Foundation

... advancing understanding of the effects of war and disaster

OXGLAD

OXGLAD

Oxford Global Institute for child development and well-being in adversity.

Music in the brain

Music in the brain

Danish National Research Foundation "Music in the brain" centre at University of Oxford

Why brains matter

CONTACT US

Contact Info

  • Department of Psychiatry
  • Warneford Hospital
  • University of Oxford
  • OX3 7JX Oxford
  • www.kringelbach.org

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