True: Researchers at Dartmouth College have identified a region of the human brain that seems to predict a person’s self-esteem levels.

It’s called the frontostriatal pathway, and the stronger and more active it is in the brain, the more self-esteem someone has. The findings, published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, could help change the way we understand self-esteem: not as a panacea for all problems, but as a physical indicator of risk for psychological disorders.

It connects the medial prefrontal cortex, which deals with self-knowledge, to the ventral striatum, which deals with feelings of motivation and reward. Chavez used two different kinds of magnetic resonance imaging to measure both the physical boundaries of the pathway — what he called the “road” — and activity levels on that pathway — or the “traffic” on that road.

If a person had a very strong “road,” he or she was more likely to have higher long-term self-esteem. The “traffic” levels on that road, however, predicted higher momentary self-esteem.

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