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 Atlantic9 min read
I Wasn’t a Fan of BTS. And Then I Was.
The Korean supergroup’s devoted following and chart-topping success have won them comparisons to the Beatles. Why was I surprised to get swept up in their magic?
The Atlantic7 min read
The Future of the City Is Childless
A few years ago, I lived in a walkup apartment in the East Village of New York. Every so often descending the stairway, I would catch a glimpse of a particular family with young children in its Sisyphean attempts to reach the fourth floor. The mom wo
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The Three Myths of the Iran Deal
Any solution to the current crisis will require a clear-eyed understanding of the challenges posed by the regime.