Home » News » Thrill-Seeking Behavior Rooted in Brain

Thrill-Seeking Behavior Rooted in Brain

Rollercoasters, skydiving and bungee-jumping are not for everyone. However, for certain people, the more risk and adrenaline involved in an activity, the better!

What draws some people to daredevil behavior while others shy away from it?

A new study tested how the brains of sensation-seekers differ from those who avoid risky behavior.

In these experiments, two sets of volunteers were recruited, high sensation seekers or low sensation seekers, based on their responses to personality surveys and risk-taking questionnaires.

They were shown a variety of photographs while having their brains scanned with functional MRI (fMRI). The photographs ranged from mundane scenes (for example, cows and food) to very emotional and arousing images, such as erotic scenes and violent pictures.

The results, described in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal some very interesting differences between high sensation seekers and low sensation seekers.

The brain images showed that when high sensation seekers viewed the arousing photographs, there was increased activity in the brain region known as the insula.

Previous research has shown that the insula is active during addictive behaviors, such as craving cigarettes. However, when low sensation seekers looked at arousing photographs, there was increased activity in the frontal cortex area of the brain.

The researchers note that this was an interesting finding because that region is important for controlling emotions. The results show that high sensation seekers respond very strongly to arousing cues, but have less activity in brain areas associated with emotional regulation.

The authors note that their findings may indicate the way by which sensation seeking results in negative behaviors, including substance abuse and antisocial behavior.

They conclude, “Individuals high in sensation seeking not only are strongly activated by exciting, thrilling and potentially dangerous activities, but also may be less likely than other people to inhibit or appropriately regulate that activation.”

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Thrill-Seeking Behavior Rooted in Brain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Thrill-Seeking Behavior Rooted in Brain. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/02/12/thrill-seeking-behavior-rooted-in-brain/4065.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.