Blood flow increases to your muscles, your attention sharpens, and your pupils dilate. Adrenaline is chemically related to the pleasure hormone dopamine, and dangerous situations can also cause your body to produce endorphins, which suppress pain and heighten pleasure.
These systems may have evolved because a certain amount of risk-taking has survival value – we are descended from people brave enough to hunt mammoths, after all. There are specific genes that increase the ‘adrenaline high’ for some people, and a 2002 study for the World Health Organization found these genes in both adrenaline junkies and drug addicts.
- Why do we shake when we’re nervous or frightened?
- Why do we enjoy watching other people fight?
- Why does crying give me a headache?
- Why does drinking alcohol trigger my anxiety?
Asked by: Sarah Weitzman, Penzance
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Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.