Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
September 28, 1998
Why do we get goosebumps, seek thrills? George Bubenik tells all
THAT GIVES ME GOOSE BUMPS
It does not matter whether the emotional event is live or recalled from memory. The bond between emotion and memory is so strong, we can hear a song that reminds us of our past, or think about emotional events, and give ourselves goose bumps. "Even years later, we can recover how we felt at that precise moment," Bubenik said.
However, the brain cannot distinguish between pleasure and a dangerous emotion. The reaction to hearing a memorable song on the radio or spotting a bear in your backyard will be the same: goose bumps. "There is a thin line between pleasurable and unpleasurable stress."
The reason is that exercise floods the body with addictive "drugs," George Bubenik said. Physical exertion releases the hormones endorphin and enkephalins, natural substances in the body that are similar to opium. The brain responds to exercise the same way it would to opium.
Like any drug, endorphins and enkephalins are addictive. But the body also builds up resistance. "It is a typical addictive substance, the longer you use it, the less effective it is," Bubenik said. People who exercise often have to increase duration or intensity to get the endorphines or enkephalines "high."
FOR THE THRILL OF IT
SIGNAL ME WITH A YAWN
Yawning is the body's way of releasing extra carbon dioxide. When you are mentally or physically tired, carbon dioxide causes deep breathing in the throat, and the body expels the carbon dioxide, George Bubenik said.
But a yawn also can be a signal between two people, a way of communicating. "If I yawn, I'm saying to you ‘I'm tired, you are probably tired too.' You take that cue from me, and you yawn too." People are a lot like animals, and yawning is one way animal herds transmit moods.
A yawn that results from merely thinking about yawning is a subconscious response based on memory. "Humans have a great capacity for memory. Just thinking about a past situation can trigger the same response automatically," Bubenik said.
LEAVING ON A JET PLANE
Flying through different time zones disrupts the body's perception of time. "The brain may be telling the body it is time to sleep, when in fact the eyes are telling the brain it is light outside," Bubenik said.
The brain can catch up to the body at a rate of about three hours a day, so the further away the destination, the longer the "jet lag" lasts.
Bubenik is conducting research on Melatonin, a natural substance. One of its benefits is preventing jet lag. Melatonin also regulates digestion and diurnal rhythms. Taking one melatonin tablet in the late evening the night before a flight, and another tablet on the air plane, can help the body adjust more easily, he said.
CONTACT: George Bubenik
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