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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: Why are some people drawn to intense, even fear-inducing thrills while others shun the mere thought?
Author: Fraser Trevor
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How is it that the same horror movie can be entertainment to one person and tension-filled torture to another? Is something different goi...


How is it that the same horror movie can be entertainment to one person and tension-filled torture to another? Is something different going on in the brains of these people?

Sensation-seeking, the tendency to seek out novel experiences, is a general personality trait that has been extensively studied in psychological research, but neuroscience is just beginning to take aim at it. Beyond understanding why one person relishes the fright factor while the next studiously avoids it, scientists are asking how sensation-seeking relates to substance abuse, addiction, and anxiety disorders like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, areas where the clinical and public-health implications are most clear.

Some studies suggest that people who seek out high-sensation experiences even at great personal risk—so-called high-sensation seekers—are more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse and more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, such as sex with multiple partners. The hope is that by understanding the neural mechanisms underlying such behaviors, both at the molecular level and at the systems level, it might be possible to develop pharmacological or behavioral therapies to prevent or treat addiction or help people channel their taste for adventure toward safer pursuits.

Neuroscience is beginning to tease apart how the brain of a high-sensation seeker might be different from that of someone who generally avoids risk. Recent brain imaging studies have offered some intriguing clues, finding a direct link between the size of the hippocampus and experience-seeking behaviori and shedding light on how the brain responds differently to intense or arousing stimuli in Why are some people drawn to intense, even fear-inducing thrills while others shun the mere thought? How is it that the same horror movie can be entertainment to one person and tension-filled torture to another? Is something different going on in the brains of these people?



Sensation-seeking, the tendency to seek out novel experiences, is a general personality trait that has been extensively studied in psychological research, but neuroscience is just beginning to take aim at it. Beyond understanding why one person relishes the fright factor while the next studiously avoids it, scientists are asking how sensation-seeking relates to substance abuse, addiction, and anxiety disorders like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, areas where the clinical and public-health implications are most clear.



Some studies suggest that people who seek out high-sensation experiences even at great personal risk—so-called high-sensation seekers—are more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse and more likely to engage in other risky behaviors, such as sex with multiple partners. The hope is that by understanding the neural mechanisms underlying such behaviors, both at the molecular level and at the systems level, it might be possible to develop pharmacological or behavioral therapies to prevent or treat addiction or help people channel their taste for adventure toward safer pursuits.



Neuroscience is beginning to tease apart how the brain of a high-sensation seeker might be different from that of someone who generally avoids risk. Recent brain imaging studies have offered some intriguing clues, finding a direct link between the size of the hippocampus and experience-seeking behaviori and shedding light on how the brain responds differently to intense or arousing stimuli in highs vs. lows. vs. lows.

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