Happiness, or Subjective Well-Being (SWB), is generally considered as a peaceful and satisfied state accompanied by consistent and optimistic mood. Due to its subjective and elusive nature, however, wellbeing has only been scarcely investigated in the neuroimaging literature. In this study, we investigated its neural substrates by characterizing two different perspectives: self- or other-concerned wellbeing. In the present study, 22 participants evaluated the subjective happiness (with button presses 1 to 4) to 3 categories (intra- and interpersonal and neutral) of pre-rated pictures in a slow event-related fMRI. Because wellbeing is constantly featured by pleasure feelings after self-inspection, we predict that happier conditions, featured by “intra-personal vs. neutral” and “inter-personal vs. neutral” conditions, should yield higher BOLD activities in overlapping reward- and self-related regions. Indeed, medial prefrontal (mPFC), pregenual ACC (pACC), precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) were revealed both by General Linear Model (GLM) (categorical contrasts) and parametric modulations (correlations with rating 1-4s), specifically, more connectivity between nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and mPFC, via additional psychophysiological interaction, or PPI, analyses. More interestingly, GLM and multivariate searchlight analyses jointly reveal the subdivision of mPFC and the PCC/precuneus, with anterior mPFC and dorsal PCC/precuneus more for interpersonal, posterior mPFC and ventral PCC/precuneus more for intrapersonal, SWB, respectively. Taken together, these results are not only consistent with the “cortical midline hypothesis of the self”, but also extending the “spatial gradients of self-to-other-concerned processing” from mPFC to including both mPFC and PCC/precuneus, making them two “hubs” of self-to-other-concerned wellbeing network.
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