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BY JENN GRANNEMAN SCIENCE MARCH 4, 2015

INTROVERTS AND EXTROVERTS


BRAINS REALLY ARE DIFFERENT,
ACCORDING TO SCIENCE



Youre not imagining it. That extrovert who seems so different from you? Its
because his brain is different.

Weprefer different jolt juices.


Why do extroverts like action, and introverts like calm?

It has to do with two powerful chemicals dopamine and


acetylcholine,jolt juices that hugely impact our behavior, according toJ.
Allan Hobson, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard.
Dopaminegives immediate, intense zaps of happiness when its users act
quickly, take risks, and seek novelty.

Acetylcholine also rewards us, but its effects are more subtle. It makes us feel
relaxed, alert, and content.

We introverts are more sensitive to dopamine, so too much of it makes us


overstimulated and anxious, according to Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, who writes
about the differences between introverted and extroverted brains in her
book,The Introvert Advantage.

Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, so they require more of it to feel its
pleasant effects. The more extroverts talk, move, and seek new faces,the
more their brains light up with dopamines happiness hits.


From The introvert brain explained
On the flip side, acetylcholine makes us introverts feel good when we study,
concentrate, or use our minds in any way, but extroverts hardly register this
jolt juices gentle happiness bump.

We use different sides of our nervous system.


We all havetwo sides to our nervous system the sympathetic side, which
triggers the fight, fright, or flight response, and the parasympathetic side,
whichputs us in rest and digest mode.

Think about the sympatheticside as hitting the gas pedal, and the
parasympatheticside as slamming on the brakes.
When the sympatheticsystem is activated, a persons body gears up for
action. Adrenaline isreleased, glucose energizes muscles, and oxygen
increases. Areas of the brain that control thinking are turned off,
althoughdopamine increases alertness in the back of the brain.

Inparasympathetic mode, muscles relax, energy is stored, and food is


metabolized. Acetylcholine increases blood flow and alertness in the front of
the brain.

Of course, both extroverts and introverts use both sides at different times. But
which side do introverts prefer? Youve probably already guessed: the
parasympathetic side,according to Dr. Laney.

We use different brain pathways.


Ever wonder why, as an introvert, you take longer to process things, or why
you overthink?

It has to do with us introverts processing stimuli differently.


Whenstimulation enters an extroverts brain, the pathway to process it is
much shorter. It travels through areas of the brain where taste, touch, visual,
and auditory sensory processing take place.


From The introvert brain explained

For us introverts, stimulation travels a long, complicated pathway through


many areas of the brain, including:

The right front insular, which is associatedwith empathy, self-reflection,


assigning emotional meaning, and noticing errors.

Brocas area, which plans speech and activates self-talk.


Right and left front lobes, which select, plan, and choose ideas or actions;
develop expectations; and evaluate outcomes.

Left hippocampus, which stamps things as personal and stores long-term


memories.


From The introvert brain explained

No wonder it sometimes takes us longer to speak, react, or make decisions!


Our introverted brains analyze each bit of incoming information thoroughly.

We introvertshave more gray matter in the front of our brains.


Astudypublished in the Journal of Neuroscience found that introverts had
larger, thicker gray matter in their prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the
brain that is associated with abstract thought and decision-making. Extroverts
had thinner gray matter in that same area. This suggests that introverts devote
more neural resources to abstract thought, while extroverts tend to live in the
moment.

So what does this mean?


It means that as an introvert, you were probablyborn this way(although the
way you were raised and your past and present circumstancesplay a role in
shaping you, too).

It doesnt mean that as an introvert,youll never enjoy a party or seek new


experiences, or that an extrovert willnever sit still and read a book we
have our own unique interests, and we can develop ourselves and choose
what we do.

And of course, introversion and extroversion are not black and white. No
one is completely one way or another we all must function at times on
either side of the continuum,Dr. Laney reminds us in The Hidden Gifts of
the Introverted Child.

That extrovert? Give him a break. Its his brain.

Image credit: Deviant Art(fogke)

This article was originally posted on Introvert, Dear, an online


publication and community for introverts and highly sensitive people.