Men’s Health – This is Your Brain on March Madness
Posted By: GalantMedia Staff
on March 24, 2019
Men’s Health – This is Your Brain on March Madness , Your team made it to the next round. What could make your brain happier? Well, sex and a national championship, perhaps. But not much else. Heres whats going on as you watch March Madness:
Your Brain on March Madness
After selection Sunday
Devour all the who-made-it-in reports you can: Just thinking about the game activates neurons that release the chemical dopamine, says Marco Iacoboni, M.D., Ph.D., of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. You release more of that feel-good chemical in anticipation of a reward (watching 4 billion games) than when you get it.
At the jump ball
Save the texting for the commercial break; keep your eyes on the ball now. Your mirror neurons fire when, say, your star forward throws down a 360 windmill, making you internally mimic what he does. You vicariously play the game and feel what theyre feeling, says Dr. Iacoboni. More watching means more firing.
When the other team is winning
At the bar, cheers break out next to you when your center gets called for a ridiculous block. Why that anger rises up so quickly: Your team is part of your identity. Your brain thinks, I dont root for the team. I am the team, says Daniel L. Wann, Ph.D., coauthor of Sport Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Fandom. Move to a place where youre around your fellow fans, says Wann; being with your tribe restores some dopamine.
As the bar erupts
Youve only known the people around you for 30 minutes, but theyre your people now. You get a bear hug, and you get a bear hug. All that standing together and cheering fills that human need for affiliation and community, says Samuel Sommers, Ph.D., coauthor of This Is Your Brain on Sports. Its psychologically healthy, says Wann. So theres no such thing as only a game.
When youre up by ten
Just watching a perfect moment-like UMBC upsetting top-seeded Virginia in the first round last spring, perhaps-lights up pleasure centers in the brain that are usually only activated when you experience pleasure firsthand, not secondhand. Mirroring on-court high fives in real life heightens the elation.
When it didn’t go well
No win, no dopamine hit. On top of it, when your team’s eliminated, loss also activates the same parts of the brain that come online when you experience pain. The hack for this: Start watching your archrival play. Research shows that seeing a team that you dont like lose gives you the same pleasure in your brain as watching your favorite team do well, says Sommers. It can be rewarding in a schadenfreude kind of way.
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