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Four Things to Know About Adrenaline
1. Adrenaline kind of gives you superpowers. In an emergency—whether real or perceived—the release of adrenaline causes a cavalcade of changes in the human body. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, pupils dilate and vision sharpens, and muscles contract. If there’s an injury, the blood coagulates quicker, and gets directed away from the internal organs and skin in order to go to the muscles and the brain. Adrenaline injections even can help counteract otherwise-deadly allergic reactions by opening constricted airways and raising blood pressure.
2. It might not improve your memory—but that could be a good thing. The release of adrenaline during an emergency situation stimulates the vagus nerve, which causes a release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. A little norepinephrine actually boosts memory, but too much can destroy memory formation. Trauma victims often suffer from memory loss immediately surrounding the event, and scientists at the University of Texas have speculated that this could be a mode of self-preservation. Further support for the notion comes from studies showing that highly stressed individuals display selective hearing and pay attention to different things than nonstressed individuals.
3. When you’re feeling butterflies in your stomach, it’s because of adrenaline. The hormone rears its head when people are cold, frightened, or all aflutter because they’ve just seen the love of their life and don’t know what to say. The release of stress hormones disrupts digestive processes and shifts energy away from the stomach to the muscles, which can result in mild nausea.
4. “Adrenaline junkie” is more than a figure of speech and the most-common phrase embroidered on custom parachutes. While many people actively avoid the situations that leave them in such an agitated state, adrenaline seekers crave this rush, which can become habit forming. Neuroscientists have shown that habitual thrill seekers really do have to keep upping the danger of their adventures in order to achieve the same natural high.