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Does This Animation Really Show What 'Happiness Looks Like'? Glimpses of Eden unveils the Delightful Animation

A gif of a protein molecule 'walking' along a filament while carrying a large sphere on its shoulders is one of the internet's most widely shared 'science' posts. It's an adorable "walking" animation of a myosin protein dragging endorphins on a path to the brain. Glimpses of Eden unveils whether this is true or false.** Trending online since 2014, the cute animation continues to receive a great deal of attention whenever it is shared again. Several posters have speculated that it's a visual representation of happiness itself – in short, myosin transporting endorphins in the brain.


The Inner Life of the Cell animated by John Liebler on YouTube. Link original animation of inner life of the cell - Gif recreates this portion. Read at end of post**

It's fascinating and heartwarming to watch that tiny creature exert such effort to bring joy, but is there scientific merit to the claims that it portrays happiness? The short answer is no. The gif (below) is an animation drawn up by an animator called John Liebler,**and not a recording of what is going on below our skull. The viral gif is based on one part of the video, starting at about 1:14, which actually shows a kinesin protein 'dragging' a pouch called a vesicle along a microtubule. Kinesins are motor proteins that lug various cargo about, and microtubules are the internal structural supports of our cells. The vesicle could contain neurotransmitters like endorphins, or it could be carrying some other cargo."



The gif claims to show a molecule of a protein dragging a bag of endorphins inside the parietal cortex. The release of these endorphins results in… happiness! "While it may not be the visual depiction of happiness, if the gif makes you happy, then by all means, share it so others can feel happy too. Just add a scientifically accurate caption if you can." Learn more ** So, what are the main chemicals associated with happiness?

  • Serotonin: a mood-booster, emitted when you feel valued or important

  • Dopamine: a chemical with many functions, among others released when you experience something pleasurable (such as enjoying delicious food or creating an art piece), our brain releases dopamine.

  • Oxytocin: also duped the trust hormone and emitted when feeling close contact. (Scholar Paul Zak recommends eight hugs per day to get your dose).

  • Endorphins: the star of the gif is emitted in response to pain and helps you persevere when facing a difficult task.

And if you are looking for HAPPY GIFTS TO BLESS or UPLIFT a friend, check these out. Customise it with a name or short quote!



 

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** Liebler and the team at XVIVO created the 3D computer animation in 2006 for a biology classroom video called "The Inner Life of the Cell" in collaboration with two Harvard University researchers, Robert Lue and Alain Viel.

The key point here is that the educational video wasn't intended to depict a brain process at all; instead, the video is designed to take the viewer "on a journey through the microscopic world of a cell, illustrating mechanisms that allow a white blood cell to sense its surroundings and respond to an external stimulus." **Art of the Cell - is a Connecticut-based Medical and Scientific 3D Animation company led by award-winning 3D artist and illustrator, John Liebler. John Liebler, former Lead Medical Animator for XVIVO Scientific Animation, is best known for working with Harvard Biovisions to create their pivotal molecular animation "The Inner Life of the Cell". He has over 20 years of experience creating art for education. Today he uses 3D computer animation to create scientific images and animations for a wide range of pharmaceutical, biotech, and educational organizations. From science animation videos used to explain cell biology to students, to scientific method animations used to explain the research of pioneers in the field of bio-science, John's biomedical animations have been used educate and inspire audiences on all levels.

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