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  • Your heart races and your cheeks begin to flush; as you anticipate the surge of energy

  • this win will bring, you move to the edge of your seat - you can't get enough! So why

  • are we so passionately involved or obsessed with sports?

  • Hormones control the way we feel and are stimulated by every action we take. Hugging a friend

  • releases oxytocin making you feel calm, while cramming for an exam releases cortisol leading

  • to irritability - but also alertness. Simply watching sports stimulates hormone levels

  • as well. Testosterone in particular is a hormone linked to dominance and social interaction,

  • but also increases brain power, spatial awareness and muscle growth. And scientists have found

  • that after watching your team win, levels of testosterone skyrocket, especially compared

  • to experiencing a loss. Funnily enough, this has even been documented in politics: during

  • the 2008 US election, males who voted for Obama were found to have much higher levels

  • of testosterone after he won, than those who voted for McCain.

  • When your favourite athlete takes home the gold, a surge of dopamine is also released.

  • This biological rush activates pleasure centres in the brain while increasing memory and learning.

  • This increased memory helps explain why some people continue to watch sports - they're

  • looking to recreate the physiological excitement they can't seem to forget.

  • The brain also contains cells called Mirror Neurons which are not only activated when

  • completing an action, but also when viewing it, or even hearing it. Certain mirror neurons

  • will be activated when throwing a ball, seeing someone throw a ball, or even hearing the

  • word 'ball'. It's the reason we can 'put ourselves in another's shoes, and why we experience

  • a similar emotional and physical reaction to somebody else winning. In fact, scientists

  • monitoring both athletes and spectators see the same parts of the brain activated - as

  • if the viewer were playing the game. From an evolutionary perspective, this allows us

  • to understand the mental states of others and interpret their actions and intentions,

  • as well as empathize with them. It also helps to explain why we find such pleasure and excitement

  • in seeing our favourite team or athlete become a champion.

  • Curiously, scientists have found that some people have problems with this mirror neuron system.

  • This renders them unable to empathize with others, leading to some social disorders.

  • At the extreme ends, serial killers have been found to lack this mirror neuron system.

  • Science says, our obsession with sports may be a great example of our adapted hormonal

  • and neuronal systems at work, keeping us connected as the human race... while watching humans

  • race.

  • Don't forget: we have a new video out every day during the Olympics!

  • But if you can't wait, head to cbc.ca/olympics/ScienceSays for more.

  • Keep asking those burning questions with the hashtag ScienceSays and subscribe for more awesome science videos!

Your heart races and your cheeks begin to flush; as you anticipate the surge of energy

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Why Do People Obsess Over Sports?

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    cathy~ posted on 2015/05/04
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