The Neuroscience of Positive Emotions and Affect: Implications for Cultivating Happiness and Wellbeing

Rebecca Alexander, Oriana Aragon, Jamila Bookwala, Nicolas Cherbuin, Justine Gatt, Ian J. Kahrilas, Niklas Kaestner, AB Lawrence, Leroy Lowe, Robert Morrison, Robin Nusslock, Sven C. Mueller, Christos Papadelis, Kelly L. Polnaszek, Helene Richter, Rebecca Silton*, Charis Styliadis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)
138 Downloads (Pure)


This review paper provides an integrative account regarding neurophysiological correlates of positive emotions and affect that cumulatively contribute to the scaffolding for happiness and wellbeing in humans and other animals. This paper reviews the associations among neurotransmitters, hormones, brain networks, and cognitive functions in the context of positive emotions and affect. Consideration of lifespan developmental perspectives are incorporated, and we also examine the impact of healthy social relationships and environmental contexts on the modulation of positive emotions and affect. The neurophysiological processes that implement positive emotions are dynamic and modifiable, and meditative practices as well as flow states that change patterns of brain function and ultimately support wellbeing are also discussed. This review is part of “The Human Affectome Project” (, and in order to advance a primary aim of the Human Affectome Project, we also reviewed relevant linguistic dimensions and terminology that characterizes positive emotions and wellbeing. These linguistic dimensions are discussed within the context of the neuroscience literature with the overarching goal of generating novel recommendations for advancing neuroscience research on positive emotions and wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-249
Number of pages30
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date8 Dec 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - Feb 2021


  • Linguistics
  • Neuroscience
  • Positive affect
  • Positive emotions
  • Wellbeing


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