The Atlantic

Can Electrically Stimulating Your Brain Make You Too Happy?

When doctors can directly access patients' cerebral reward networks, someone has to decide just how good people should feel.
Source: Bernadett Szabo / Reuters

It is a good question, but I was a little surprised to see it as the title of a research paper in a medical journal: “How Happy Is Too Happy?”

Yet there it was in a publication from 2012. The article was grappling with the issue of how we should deal with the possibility of manipulating people’s moods and feelings of happiness through brain stimulation. If you have direct access to the reward system and can turn the feeling of euphoria up or down, who decides what the level should be? The doctors or the person whose brain is on the line?

The authors were asking this question because of a patient who wanted to decide the matter for himself: a 33-year-old German man who had been suffering for many years from severe OCD and generalized anxiety syndrome. A

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
CNN Is About to Host a Hunger Games Town Hall
The televised Q&A is a sometimes awkward fusion of politics and entertainment—and it’s becoming a key element of the 2020 hype cycle.
The Atlantic9 min read
Grieving the Future I Imagined for My Daughter
I now had two children, but was only just beginning to understand what it means to be a parent.
The Atlantic7 min readFashion & Beauty
The Mystery of Business Casual
The first time I tried on a pair of Allbirds sneakers, I was in the brand’s San Francisco boutique, sitting on a gently curved wooden stool designed to tip forward in aid of shoe-changing. The stool was created by the same people who design the start