No one wants to admit this, but Christmas can bring a guy down. After you’re done fighting with the in-laws, talking to your kid about Santa without crushing their dreams, and failing to make the holiday about more than presents, you can be forgiven if all you want is to hide behind the tree with a bourbon. If so, Danish neuroscientists have a gift for you: an explanation of what’s going on in your brain to create what they’re calling “Bah Humbug syndrome.”
Apparently, they’re not kidding. “We estimate that millions of people are prone to displaying Christmas spirit deficiencies after many years of celebrating Christmas,” the scientists write in The BMJ. “Accurate localization of the Christmas spirit is a paramount first step in being able to help this group of patients.” In fact, they’re so not kidding that they took fMRI scans of 20 patients who were viewing Christmas-themed images and talking about their favorite kids’ movies. Ten of these people came from families with strong Christmas traditions; 10 did not. Guess which group showed increased activity in the frontal premotor cortex and parietal lobule, which are associated with social behavior, spirituality, and sensory touch?
If you have a little Grinch at home, who points out that maybe those 10 noggins would light up in response to any happy childhood memory or even just red, green, and gold colors, the researchers are way ahead of you: “These findings should be interpreted with caution,” they write. “Bringing these issues up, however, really dampened the festive mood. Therefore we … decided not to ruin the good Christmas cheer for everyone by letting this influence our interpretation of the study.”
So tell your precocious tot to save the probing questions until the New Year. But also get them one of these adorable little medical kits for Christmas — clearly the kid’s going to be a brain surgeon.