Brain Babble

Unraveling neuroscience research and FAQs—without the jargon

'Twas the Neural Pathway of Christmas

A nerdy original rendition of the beloved Clement Clarke Moore poem.

The following is an original and extraordinarily nerdy rendition of the classic Clement Clarke Moore poem adapted by yours truly, describing the basic pathway of happiness one feels when one sees a pleasant image—like Santa Claus!

'Twas the neural pathway of Christmas as my eyes do behold
A vision of St. Nicholas—red, so jolly, and bold.

His image burns into my retina, transmitting down optic nerve
Before the optic chiasm crosses in an unexpected swerve.

From optic tract to LGN—the sensory relay
Of six alternating layers; a complex neural highway.

Radiation to layer 4 of the visual cortex comes next—
But what follows leaves even the greatest minds perplexed.

For this vision becomes a signal, signal becomes a sense
Conversion of molecule to emotion—a feeling so intense.

Glutamatergic synapses fire onto the VTA—
A group of tiny neurons on the floor of the midbrain.

But wrong you are if you believe the brain to be tired,
For from VTA to nucleus accumbens dopamine is fired.

It is from this tiny region that glimpsing Santa brings such joy—
Pleasant emotional perception for every girl and boy.

So fleeting this emotion, as your auditory cortex hears,
 "A brainy Christmas to all—now, onward, reindeer!"

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.


Jordan Gaines Lewis is a science writer and Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at Penn State College of Medicine.

Subscribe to Brain Babble

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.