Ricard, a globe-trotting polymath who left everything behind to become a Tibetan Buddhist in a Himalayan hermitage, says anyone can be happy if they only train their brain.

Neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up Ricard’s skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin four years ago as part of research on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.

The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — “never reported before in the neuroscience literature”, Davidson said.

The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe.