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  • People seem to love stuff like bungee jumping and sky-diving.

  • But what draws us to these scary life-threatening experiences?

  • Why do we want to jump off of stuff?

  • On May 16, 2015, Dean Potter, a celebrated extreme sportsman, and a fellow climber, Graham

  • Hunt; jumped off a 7,500 foot (2,285m) cliff in Yosemite National Park with the goal of

  • wingsuit flying through the rocky cliffs before parachuting to safety.

  • Both men crashed while trying to fly through an outcropping and were found dead many hours

  • later.

  • BASE jumping is an acronym for buildings, antennas, spans (such as bridges) and Earth

  • (cliffs and mountaintops) -- all places to jump from while wearing a wingsuit, parachute

  • or both.

  • At least 257 people have died BASE jumping to date, according to a major BASE jumping

  • forum; and Potter, who was a major enthusiast for outdoor "extreme" sports, called BASE

  • jumping and free-climbing, "death-consequence" activities.

  • Aren't we all programmed to survive?

  • Why do we risk death for a thrill?

  • More than 800 people have died climbing the mountains of Nepal -- including Everest,;

  • 442 from skydiving from 1998 to 2014 - and even scuba-diving sees about 80 deaths annually.

  • I mean, skateboarding had 30 deaths in 2012!

  • Psychologists believe we perform risky behaviors because of our fear response, and medical

  • researchers believe it has to do with the brain's reward systems; though both are true.

  • In a small study from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia; researchers explored

  • the psychological result of fear responses in extreme sports participants.

  • Fear is an important inborn response to perceived danger.

  • Your body's top priority is to preserve itself; fear is a way to motivate it to do so.

  • But for some people, overcoming fear was a meaningful and constructive event in their

  • lives.

  • They still EXPERIENCE fear, but it's not seen as a negative, but rather, a positive experience.

  • Potter wrote specifically, and poetically, about his experiences with fear, and how overcoming

  • that fear was transformative for him.

  • Unfortunately, that's not easily translatable for a general population -- instead we can

  • only look at how the chemicals in our brains surrounding fear go on to affect our behavior.

  • When jumping out of an airplane or free-climbing up a cliff, an almond-shaped set of neurons

  • in our brain called the amygdala releases hormones which quicken the heart, hone the

  • senses and prepare your body to flee or fight.

  • During this fear response, our brains' reward center releases large amounts of dopamine.

  • Studies have shown, dopamine, a powerful reward chemical for our bodies, is also connected

  • to the recollection of terror.

  • It's released when we eat, exercise, or talk to our friends and family, and reinforces

  • those healthy behaviors by making us feel good about doing those things.

  • But, massive dopamine release is associated with drug use, and addiction; which is how

  • extreme athletes and enthusiasts are often associated with junkies or addicts.

  • Extreme athletes provoke this fear response in themselves, experiencing the fear of death,

  • and enjoying the natural-high they get from the dopamine release that follows.

  • The problem is, the brain can get used to high-levels of dopamine, and thus, more extreme

  • events may have to be performed to simply enjoy day-to-day life.

  • This is called sensation-seeking behavior; language created to describe heavy-use drug

  • addicts.

  • A 2004 study compared ecstasy-users to bungee-jumpers and found similar sensation-seeking brain

  • chemistry.

  • The reason people continue to do these activities, aside from them being fun and making them

  • feel good, is once their brain gets acclimated to higher levels of dopamine, it's difficult

  • to wean it off.

  • Like an addict, the brain craves MORE dopamine to feel the same high.

  • In the end, the risk and reward are real, and people can alter their brain chemistry

  • to get a "natural high" from things like BASE jumping.

  • But I'm not trying to condemn people who seek out sensations.

  • Sure, Dean Potter participated in dangerous behaviors, but he ALSO inspired people all

  • over the globe to explore their planet first-hand; to get off their couches and into their National

  • Parks; into their world, and to try their hand at things they may not have otherwise.

  • Extreme sports can extend to long-distance races like marathons or ultra-marathons; but

  • this man is 104 and still runs races.

  • So they can't be THAT dangerous, right?

  • Seeker Daily reveals a man who just won't quit running (soundup) Thanks for watching

  • DNews, get out there and do something today.

People seem to love stuff like bungee jumping and sky-diving.

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Why Are We Addicted To Extreme Sports?

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    Lily Wei   posted on 2020/09/08
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