Ever wonder why new experiences are so exhilarating? Thrill-seekers everywhere can attest to the magic of adventure. There is just something about it that leaves you wanting more. The effects of adventure on the brain leave us endlessly in search for new experiences and novelty in life.
Experiences of all kinds can be considered adventure. Extreme sports are a good example of how adventure can leave people seeking more. Base-jumping, long-distance swimming, BMX biking, extreme skiing, and other wild and dangerous sports are the obvious adventurous behaviors.
However, even seemingly mundane events like traveling to new places, trying new food, discovering new kinds of relationships, and trying new cultural experiences are also adventurous acts that react similarly in the brain.
There are certain occurrences in the human brain that actually make new experiences attractive to us and keep us seeking more. When people try new experiences, their brains release dopamine, the reward chemical, into the blood. This gives a temporary euphoria to the person.
Various other feel-good opiodis are released as well. Adrenaline gives the person a “high” feeling. Many people involved in extreme sports describe the feeling when they are performing difficult and dangerous feats as “being in the zone”. The “zone” is a sensation that all your senses are coming to life, the mindless chatter of your brain is all going away, and you begin to feel “alive”.
Thomas Crowley, psychologist at the University of Colorado Denver says, “Risk taking was important for the species and the individual”. That is why the brain adapted various reward mechanisms for risky behaviors. Some people have much less “brakes” than others in their brain to limit or control these rewarding sensations. For example, there are mechanisms that limit the release of dopamine in the drain.
The people with less “brakes” in their brain tend to be the people hurling themselves off cliffs as opposed to staying home watching the food network. These differences in levels of thrill-seeking and risk-taking can clearly be detected in brain scans. These levels very somewhat between the sexes. Men tend to be more daring, but this is not always the case.
Perhaps these brain differences can also account for the different lifestyles people prefer. Some people are perfectly happy with a routine life, repetitive experiences, interacting with the same people, going to the same places and general monotony. While on the other hand, others cannot begin to be happy unless they seek exotic travel, new music, new foods, and new friendships endlessly.
In the extreme sport of street skating, creating new tricks was the measure of success. The famous Bones Brigade was a group of young men continuously seeking to invent and coin more daring, more cool, more extreme skate moves. Skaters were racing to be the innovators that would invent the newest “it” move.
Thrill seeking is what drove the sport to new heights of precision. Their great degree of achievement and innovation was driven by the rewards of trying new things and seeking novelty. This sport was very popular because the adventure was magnetic to the audience. This phenomenon of the brain feeling rewards for experiencing new things may be what drove the sport to its impressive commercial success.
Williams, Florence. “This Is Your Brain on Adventure.” Outside Online. N.p., 19 Mar. 2009. Web. 27 Aug. 2014.