Your brain digests the view from a cliff, or the feel of a bungee harness, or the sight of a roller coaster. Its conclusion? Whoa!
The amygdala, a center of emotion in the brain, picks up on the warning and prompts the thought, This is so not a good idea.
At the same time, the amygdala cues the body's fight-or-flight response, which unleashes the stress hormone adrenaline.
Adrenaline puts your organs on alert. Your lungs are in overdrive. Your heart pumps faster to push oxygen to your muscles. Your sweat glands ignite to ward off overheating.
Your blood sugar spikes to give your body extra fuel.
Amid all this action, your frontal cortexÃ¢â‚¬”a.k.a. your voice of reasonÃ¢â‚¬”kicks in to remind you that you're not truly in danger. Hey, you might even enjoy it. . .
As you drop, your body feels the effects of g-forces, or the magnified pull of gravity. (If you weigh, say, 150 pounds, the pull is equivalent to about 300 pounds.)
Enter the money shot: Your mouth gapes, your eyes widen, your nostrils flare. All the better for you to see or breathe in danger signals.
If you're really getting your thrill's worth, you may start to feel faint, as blood and oxygen are pulled from your brain into your body.
Dopamine, a pleasure-related brain chemical, may plummet during a scary drop, making you feel more "Eek!" than exhilarated.
But the brain is also emitting endorphins, causing a feel-good rush. This effect may be stronger in people who love taking risks.
You're alive! Dopamine now floods your brain, leaving you with a giddy and triumphant feeling. As that dissipates, your brain may begin to crave more dopamine. That's why people continue to love cheap thrills.
Does the dude next to you suddenly seem kinda hot? A study found that women see men as more attractive and higher in "dating desirability" after a wild ride. It's possible the body interprets all the excitement as sexual arousal. Meow!