The Introvert vs Extrovert Brain

Transcript of Neuro Nugget Video:

You are not imagining it. Your extroverted friend who seems so different from you, it’s because her brain is different. Here are three key differences between introverts and extroverts brains, according to science, and let me tell you, it explains a lot.

Number one, introverts are sensitive to dopamine. Why do extroverts like action, but introverts like home? It may have to do with two powerful chemicals found in the brain, dopamine and acetylcholine, jolt juices, if you will that hugely impact our behavior. Dopamine gives us immediate, intense zaps of happiness when we act quickly, take risks and seek novelty. Acetylcholine, on the other hand, also rewards us, but its effects are more subtle. It makes us relaxed, alert, and content. Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, so they need more of it in order to feel happy. The more they talk, move and socialize, the more they feel dopamine’s pleasant effects. But when it comes to those quiet ones, the introverts, too much dopamine can actually overstimulate them, like a kid with a tummy ache all hopped up on too much sugar. On the other hand, when we read, concentrate, or use our minds in some way, we feel good because our brains release the acetylcholine. A happiness bump so gentle that extroverts hardly even register it. This explains on some level why extroverts may seek new and exciting situations as well as social opportunities, while introverts would rather stay at home with a good book or hang out in a meaningful way with just one other person.

Number two, introverts prefer a different side of their nervous system. Another difference between introverts and extroverts has to do with our nervous systems. Everyone’s nervous system has two sides. The sympathetic side which triggers the freeze, fight, fright, or flight response, and the parasympathetic side which is responsible for rest and digest mode. In other words, the sympathetic side is like hitting the gas pedal, while the parasympathetic side is like slamming on the brakes. When your sympathetic system is activated, your body gears up for action, adrenaline’s released, glucose energizes muscles and oxygen increases. On the other hand, when you you engage the parasympathetic side, your muscles relax. Energy is stored like a squirrel preparing for winter and food is metabolized. Now, to be clear, extroverts and introverts use both sides of their nervous systems at different times, but tend to favor one over the other a majority of the time.

Number three, introverts use the long acetylcholine pathway. Ever wonder why introverts are prone to overthinking? It may have to do with how they process stimuli differently than extroverts. When information from the outside world, like someone’s voice or images on a computer screen enters an extrovert’s brain, it actually travels a shorter pathway. It passes through quick response areas of the brain where tastes, touch, sight, and sound are processed. But for the introverts, the pathway may actually be longer, traveling through many areas of the brain, including the right front insular, Broca’s area, the right and left front lobes, and the left hippocampus. This means introverts process information more thoroughly than extroverts do. No wonder it can take introverts longer to put their thoughts into words, react or to make decisions.

Keep in mind that introversion and extroversion are not black and white. No one is completely one way or the other. We all must function at times on either side of the continuum. So those loud, rowdy extroverts, cut ’em a little slack, it’s their brain. Wanna learn more about your brain and how it functions? Call and schedule your brain map today.


Posted on

March 29, 2023