Scientists Discover Why Extreme Sports Give Us a High

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June 27, 2008

Scientists Discover Why Extreme Sports Give Us a High

Article1029565007f357200000258288_4 A primitive area of our brain makes us adventurous. New research suggests that new experience drives choice behavior in humans, even when the degree of familiarity with an option is completely unrelated to choice outcome. The research reveals fascinating insights into the brain mechanisms that underlie the tendency to explore, and even value, unfamiliar options.

Using brain scans to measure blood flow, British researchers discovered that a brain region known as the ventral striatum was more active when subjects chose unusual objects in controlled tests. The ventral striatum is involved in processing rewards in the brain through the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine.

Novelty seeking can be strongly adaptive because unfamiliarity tends to be associated with uncertainty and the potential for valuable outcomes.

Striatumcortex1_2 "It can be advantageous for an animal to explore new parts of its environment because it might find valuable sources of food there," says study author Dr. Bianca C. Wittmann from University College London. In humans, this tendency is often exploited by manufacturers of everyday goods when they remarket identical products with novel packaging or advertising,

Scientists believe the existence of this age-old reward mechanism indicates there is an evolutionary advantage in sampling the unknown.

Previous research has suggested that novel stimuli may engage parts of the brain's reward system. However, no functional link to choice had yet been demonstrated. Dr. Wittmann and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the brain activity associated with novelty-related decision making. "We sought to test a computational hypothesis that brain systems associated with choice behavior use novelty bonuses to encourage exploration of unfamiliar options," explains co-author Dr. Nathaniel Daw.

'Seeking new and unfamiliar experiences is a fundamental behavioral tendency in humans and animals.
It makes sense to try new options as they may prove advantageous in the long run,' said Bianca Wittmann of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London.

Seeking new experiences is a primeval urge the study found. 'In humans, increased novelty-seeking may play a role in gambling and drug addiction, both of which are mediated by malfunctions in dopamine release,' said Nathaniel Daw, now at New York University, who also worked on the study.

The findings were published online in the journal Neuron.

Posted by Casey Kazan.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-06/cp-nai061908.php

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Comments

I don't understand what the heading has to do with the article. The article has to do with novelty not extreme sports getting us high. Novelty can anything we've never done before. Talking to a girl when you're a kid for instance. Scary stuff but not all that risky.
It may be with the initial choice to try something that can be risky but the high that comes with extreme sports generally comes once you have basic knowledge and familiarity with the situation at least to the degree that you can do them on a basic level. It's when you take the next step and go for it and make it that it get's you high. Amazingly high. Generally the first few times you try something along the line of extreme sports you will get your butt handed to you again and again for awhile. Learning curve.
I don't know about you but that part didn't get me all that high. It's when I made it work and got into what's possible that got me. Still does.

I agree, Je, I'm a person that read the title and thinks the commentary, if any, reading the title I tought that the US army was going to look for a drug to stimulate thar area like in the B movies. je. Now I think that they should use the technique of the monitoring the brain to look for areas that are not being used, je, to see if we can locate the areas lost in the evolutionary adaptation of our brain.

I like racing. I get a real high from street legal drags, and kart. Part of it is the competition with other, but the real satisfaction is from lowering my own track times and beating myself.

Hey, if any of you have ever heard of, or are a fan of Aubrey de Grey's work on ending aging, you should check out the article the Wired just released. I made an audio version of it here, so you can just click and listen. Very good information if any of you "adrenaline junkies" are into extending life ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSk9_ZeciEk

Enjoy!

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