Brains for Thrill and Sensation Seeking

Check out this video to see granny lose her teeth in a daring parachute jump. Would you have taken the dive? Or did you know why not all risk is created equal?

Research shows how risk-taking relates to the brain’s dopamine levels and defies logic. Sadly, we too often stifle rather than support highly intelligent risk-takers.

Few would deny that some people are more apt to take risks than others, because of their mental make-up. They crave that zip and sensation when the brain’s amygdala recognizes  peril and the heart thumps wildly in response. Blood pressure increases, your lips feel dry, and fear or stress sets in paralyzing portions. This panic-process spins your brain’s hypothalamus into surges of hormones that trigger the pituitary gland adrenalins and activates adrenal glands near your kidneys to produce excessive amounts of cortisol. Yikes!

It can be a bit like becoming the main character in a horror scene. You breathe faster and blood races through your body, moving away from less involved areas like your stomach and muscles. Have you ever felt butterflies or weak knees from that action? It’s the brain’s attempt to help you survive the thriller.

When certain chemicals rage through your brain, you’ll likely notice your pupils dilate,  which is the mind’s way of allowing you to see encroaching dangers before they strike. Meanwhile, in a millisecond your immune system prepares to deal with oncoming threats, and emergency supplies of glucose releases along with intense increase of muscle activity.  Some people call this the mind’s preparation for your fight or flight decisions.

What sparks people to leapfrog over their brain’s natural protection tactics against perceived peril, and to throw themselves into bone-rattling risks, that could cost a life?

1. The teenager’s brain is said to be wired more for thrills and adventure. The brain’s limbic system that triggers a sense of thrill and adventure tends to be more highly active in teens. The center of drive and motivation, it sparks a desire for risk and for experiencing new things, according to Dr. Andrew Chambers, at Yale School of Medicine.

Most would agree that teens’ brain can create risk-related problems. Why so? The neural circuits that release chemicals for risky behaviors or novelty seeking in teens, often develops more rapidly in teens than do the mental operations to control and balance these risky urges.  Practically stated, because of fast paced changes and temporary imbalances as teens’ brains develop, they can end up caught in a maze of dangerous drugs, or addictive behaviors, that create problems later in life. Have you seen it happen?

2. Men take risks more than women, and male risking tends to be more dangerous than adventures that attract or involve women. Men tend to go more for racing and thrill movements while women who risk peril, tend to take health related risks such as smoking or excessive drinking.

3. Age and intellectual proclivities are said to impact risk-taking also, and can also alter the nature of adventures pursued. Maturity, for instance,  may lower physical risks and raise financial or social risks. An older and more experienced person may take risks in their uniquely skilled areas.  Sensational seeking behaviors are not only connected to a person’s intellectual capacity, though, they also link to a person’s developmental levels.

Individual differences in how people think and act can result in some people taking more risks and certain kinds of risks. Can you think of a person strong in any of their eight intelligences,  who takes risks to develop it further?


  1. rummuser says:

    This is a new way of looking at taking risks. I really am unable to think of anyone who takes risks to increase his intelligence further. I have been more or less a calculated risk taker and that too only when I am forced to, and never did it to develop any of my intelligences.

    rummusers last blog post..Inspiration For Blogging.

  2. eweber says:

    Ramana, the wonder of so many new insights about the human brain — is that it also equips us to move in rather new (and yet also a bit calculated ways) to grow and develop new talent.

    With leadership change coming to the government here, no time seems better than to take the risks needed to move in new directions, past broken systems that held us back far too long.

    On another note, to take a risk for change and growth is likely what Barak Obama did to shift directions in the first place. We can too and what an exciting hope it adds to an ordinary day:-)

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