Mike Cohen says looking for excitement is wired into your brain

Would you rather go rock climbing, or stay home? EarthSky spoke to neuroscientist Mike Cohen, who said that part of the decision may be hardwired in to your brain.

Given the choice, would you rather go rock climbing, or stay home? A recent study says part of the decision may be hardwired in to your brain. EarthSky spoke to study author, neuroscientist Mike Cohen.

Cohen and his colleagues at the University of Bonn in Germany wanted to see how the different parts of the brain that relate to personality are connected to each other. Novelty seeking – meaning, experiences like trying extreme sports or traveling – has been associated with two regions of the brain which link new experiences to feelings of reward. Cohen wanted to see if these neural connections are stronger in some people than in others.

First he had people fill out questionnaires which determine whether you’re a novelty seeker. Then he used a brain imaging technique which looks at white matter. White matter consists of the neural fibers that connect different parts of the brain. With people who were novelty seekers, Cohen saw stronger white matter connections between these two parts of the brain.

Cohen said this shows that what we think of as being part of our own personalities, is really rooted to the structures and functions in our brains.

Our thanks to:
Mike X. Cohen
University of Arizona, University of Amsterdam

Lindsay Patterson