Volume 9, Issue 2: Fall 2013

 

Risky Business: This is Your Brain on a Motorcycle

Bernadette Murphy      

All change in history, all advance, comes from nonconformity.  If there had been no troublemakers, no dissenters, we should still be living in caves.

—A.J.P. Taylor, historian

 

I learned to ride a motorcycle at 48 as a married mother of three during the time my father was dying.  Ultimately, the road to learning ride a motorcycle was part of my larger journey toward authenticity, and as it turns out, my own understanding of who I am as a risk taker. Even after bought my first bike (the day after my father died), I was scared to death.  What was I doing?  Was this just a midlife crisis?  What was the matter with me?

 

Parts of the journey filled me with delight.  How wonderful to discover I could still surprise myself in middle age with a new, never-before-dreamed-of fascination!  Still, I was perplexed:  Why had this happened to me?  Why at that particular time?  And what did it tell me about myself and the connotations of the term “risk taker”? Risk takers are generally people with one foot outside the realm of polite society. I was always a “good girl.”  How had I found myself here?

 

Becoming a motorcyclist was not an overnight transformation, nor was I sure it was a transformation I desired.  But I knew one thing: I had come to crave authentic experiences.  After years of living a “safe” life, I now wanted to embrace my humanity with every bit of strength within me while I had these precious years still to live.  The motorcycle adventure was part of that embrace.

 

It had to do with facing my own fears, yes, but there was more. I was jonesing for a kind of vulnerability, a willingness to allow others to see me in a compromised, less-than-perfect, don’t-take-a-picture-of-me-now state.  A willingness, I think, to finally let the world know I’m not perfect and I don’t have the answers.   Part of it had to do with my readiness (and often, my stubborn refusal) to ask for and receive help and encouragement from others.  Usually, I want to be seen as an expert before I’ve even learned.  And that ego-preserving state has kept me, over the years, from doing many things I would have liked to have done. 

 

In my early 20s, I was dying to be a professional dancer and had trained seriously toward that goal.   Then I got my chance: an audition at Disneyland. I was nervous but prepared.  As the audition became more competitive, however, and dancers who were not keeping up were being asked to leave, I lost my nerve. I didn’t want to be one of those who were escorted from the stage, who were publicly acknowledged as not having the goods.  Within seconds, I convinced myself that I didn’t want the job, that I was better off in my cocktail-waitress life. Before anyone had a chance to ask me to leave, I picked up my bag and sauntered away. 

 

And I never tried again. 

 

Here’s another nasty bit of truth:  I am good at many things naturally.  But if you ask me to do something I don’t naturally excel at, my first instinct will be to shut down.  My second instinct will be to come up with wonderfully creative reasons why I can’t possibly accept the challenge. 

 

But now, in my middle years, I’ve come to realize I can choose a third option besides those two knee-jerk ones.  If I can hush the judgmental voices in my head long enough, another voice speaks in a timbre so soft it’s easy to miss. “It’s okay to try it and not be good,” this voice whispers.   “You might like it.”  Rather than spending my energy endlessly bemoaning what I’m not good at or what doesn’t come easily, getting angry with those “lucky” others who seem to do what I want to do without batting an eyelash, I have a choice.  If I’m willing to spend the time, energy and resources necessary to master this thing that has caught my attention but has thus far eluded me, then I can do it.

 

When I was getting ready to go to the hospital to give birth to my youngest child, my brother Brendan called to wish me luck.  “You using anesthesia?” he asked.  Since I’d delivered my older children without drugs, I’d hoped for the same experience this time and told him so.  “Good,” he said (as if he had any clue what it feels like to give birth!).  “It’s important to feel all of life as it occurs, it’s a gift to be able to do that.”  His words stuck with me. How many years had I spent trying not to feel big portions of life, trying to hide from what felt scary or beyond me or challenged me in ways that made me uncomfortable?

 

So, what changed?  I have no idea.  But I have some thoughts.  Seeing my children struggle with new learning, how they worked to take joy in their own persistence, in the fact that they may not know how to draw, but noticed how much more like an apple their fifth attempt of drawing one became when compared to the previous four.  My friend Nancy, who put herself through medical school as a single mother of four daughters, used to say that intelligence isn’t knowing everything.  It’s the knowledge that we’re capable of learning what we need to know. 

 

So I started looking into what science could tell me to help me understand my new obsession with motorcycles and my sudden, new willingness to risk my life in ways that were patently unnecessary.  What was happening in my brain? Had this risk-taking side of me always been a part of my personality and I had just kept it under wraps?  What could explain these changes? 

 

Risk-taking behavior has been the subject of much study—neuroscience has something to say about it, as does sociology, psychology, psychiatry, even evolutionary biology.1 Some say we’re hard-wired to be a certain way—risk seeking or risk averse—while others argue that our willingness to embrace risk is eminently changeable depending on the context.  I’m quite willing to ride a motorcycle but would never in a million years want to skydive.  I love the challenge of climbing a big mountain, worried that I can’t possibly accomplish this task, but will run and hide if you ask me to take a financial risk like gambling.

 

All the researchers seem to agree that specific kinds of risk-taking behavior are generally not beneficial to one’s overall development: driving recklessly, riding a motorcycle without safety gear, using illicit drugs, engaging in random sexual encounters with strangers.  But behaviors that involve learning something new, challenging old beliefs, exploring spiritual paths, confronting physical limits via sports, or exploring new relationships can be life enhancing. 

 

So why do I want to embrace risk and my friend Tara would rather sit at home and knit?  Science tells us that doing reckless (and in some cases stupid) things is as much a part of our gene pool as red hair or green eyes.  “In fact,” reports an article in Outside magazine on the brain and adventure, “we may owe the continued existence of the human species to those crazy adventurers who weren’t content to squat around and eat bugs with a long stick the ones genetically inclined to seek out the better-tasting protein, the greener pastures, the prettier mates from unfamiliar territory” (Williams).

 

Thomas Crowley, a psychologist at the University of Colorado, Denver, says that, as our species evolved, communities with risk takers might have done better at things like warding off attackers.  Risk taking was crucial for both the species and the individual.  Carl Lejuez, a psychologist at the University of Maryland and an expert on addiction, argues that if the human species hadn’t learned to take risks along its evolutionary past, we, as a people, would have starved.  The benefits of risk taking have always been present. 

 

And the downside?  “It only takes one bad judgment and you’re toast,” says Lejuez.  I swallow hard, thinking of my motorcycle.  Still, he argues, people today as a whole don’t take enough risks. 

 

“People are generally risk averse,” he explains, bemoaning the fact that as a society and as researchers, we focus on those whose risky behavior has created problems.  “Yet most people don’t take enough risk.”

 

How does he know this?  He begins to tell me about BART, the Balloon Analog Risk Test, a gambling computer game used to assess how much risk someone is willing to live with.   The game player, in goggles, sees a cartoon balloon on a computer screen and presses a button to inflate the balloon.  As the balloon gets bigger, the player “wins” more money or points.  But at some point, the balloon will randomly pop, in which case the player will lose everything.  The player can cash out at any time during the game.  The idea is to see how big the player will force the balloon before the balloon pops or the player cashes out.  According to Lejuez, most people perform sub-optimally on this test. 

 

“Everyone is not risky enough.  They’re not expanding enough to find the balance” between risk and benefit, he explains.  I feel a little swelling of pride – it would be hard to argue that I’m not taking enough risks. 

 

Perhaps we, as a species, have become too conservative, have settled down too much?   This trend is especially notable, he says, as we age.  

 

If you don’t want to learn and grow any more, you don’t have to

 

“If you think about transitions in other parts of life,” Lejuez explains, “there’s always new things.  You go to a new school, you get your first job, you have your first child—I’m not saying everyone does all those things, but life, up to middle age, there’s always another transition, there’s always something to knock you off balance and keep you smart.”

 

Lejuez believes it’s unfortunate that we usually judge someone’s success, at midlife, as having removed all additional transitions.  “You’ve now landed in a safe spot and you feel this comfort.  The prosperity that many people experience in middle age compared to other parts of their life is a double-edged sword.”

 

The benefit of risk taking, he explains, is that it forces you to have transitions, to not always know the answers.  “It forces you to wake up on a day and think that there’s maybe something that will happen today that will be totally unexpected.  Because by middle age, we don’t have those days any more—or at least, not usually.”

 

This is especially true for people like me who are sensation seekers (more on that later.) The day-in, day-out process of midlife for those who need novelty and sensation, Lejuez says, will start to feel deadening.  “At first you think: ‘Wow!  This is success.’ And then you wake up one day and think, ‘What the fuck just happened? I thought this was what I wanted and I’m actually feeling less alive than before.’”

 

According to Lejuez, the benefits of taking risks in midlife become operative whether the risk we’re taking is physical—riding a motorcycle, skydiving, base jumping—or not.  There’s financial, emotional, spiritual risks, all of which can provide the same advantages. “I think we overestimate the power, both positive and negative, when it comes to physical risk,” he says.  And that, he explains, is simply because physical risk is so tied to our biological need to persevere and continue life.  “But emotional risks are super important.  They’re the ones that keep us healthy and sharp.”  And believe it or not, emotional risks can hurt even more than the physical risks, “so we tend to not think about that.” 

 

He continues: “We get to a certain point in life when we don’t make mistakes any more.  We don’t have negative consequences. We usually think of negative consequences as bad things, but think of all the growth we go through when we’re younger and how good it feels when you grow through things.“  Lejuez explains something he calls the “learned industriousness theory” (which, when I later Google it, I learn is basically the polar opposite of “learned helplessness” theory).  “It’s totally academic,” he says, but the basic idea is that when bad things happen to us and we persevere our way through them, eventually, the bad things go away and what gets rewarded and reinforced is the hard work that led to getting through the bad event.  “At a biological level, some people learn that effort and hard work and trying something new actually starts to feel good, because in the past, those behaviors were associated with what got them through something hard. So if you’re trying new things and taking new risks, those things you’re doing—when they work out, yes, but especially when they don’t work out and then you keep at it until you get them to work out—all that you’re doing, all that effort, is getting rewarded.”  The more we practice this behavior, the better we get at it.  “The exertion and hard work make you feel more alive, almost as if you’ve been given another chance to grow and learn at a time in your life when, if you won’t want to learn and grow any more, you don’t have to.  There’s a famous saying: Middle age is when our waists expand and our minds shrink.”

 

In his own case, Lejuez says that it was a tattoo that helped him to wake up.  “I was 35, which I think for something like this is rather old, when I got a fairly large tattoo on my back.  I remember that same kind of feeling: it felt very exciting and almost as if I’d lulled myself into some kind of sleep with my life, and that doing something like this tattoo unlocked something else.” 

 

He laments that many people at middle age feel bad about “this growing thing inside them that tells them to do something [risky]. They ignore it and they suppress it.  But what happens to them is that they suppress and they suppress and they’re like this steam cooker that doesn’t have a release.  And then, all of a sudden, one day, some crazy shit comes out and they do something that puts their family in danger or that’s totally reckless because they didn’t heed that need early enough.  It’s amazing: talk to a lot of adventure people and they’re like, ‘we’re not risky at all.  We like the adrenaline, but we check everything first.  It’s that lunatic who comes out here and who doesn’t have a plan, who doesn’t do it right—he’s the one to be concerned with.’” 

 

So the question comes down to this: How do you feed the need for risk that’s growing inside of you in a way that is safe and healthy and can bring all the benefits?  How can you not suppress what’s inside of you and what’s asking to be nurtured? 

 

According to cognitive psychologist and researcher Russell Poldrack, how one performs on that balloon test will reflect that person’s real-world risk taking.  Adolescent boys will pump up the balloon more than adolescent girls, for example.  They’re also more likely to take risks like smoking, engaging in unprotected sex, and drunk driving.  There is a clear correlation between one’s willingness to pump up the balloon and that person’s willingness to take real-world risks.  “The way we generally think of the brain, there are two different systems that come together to drive choices.  One is bottom-up motivation.  We want to get good things out of the world.  This is a choice for more good stuff.  Yes, give me more.  Five pieces of chocolate are better than one piece.”  This is the part of the brain—the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, in the front of the brain—that codes for value.  “What would the possible good outcome be worth to me?  How much do I value what I might get out of this risk?” 

 

The second brain system that impacts risk-taking behavior is the part that codes for risk, located in the prefrontal cortex.  “This is the part of the brain that says while getting another 25 cents out of this game looks good, the risk is too much.  It’s time to stop.”

 

This a dual-process story,” he says.   These two parts of the brain fight against each other, work to balance each other out.  The “animal spirit” is motivated to get the good things.  The reflective part turns down the brain’s response to the rewarding things in the world.  

 

Poldrack says that while we know some things about how the brain contributes to a person’s level of risk tolerance, we don’t know a lot.  For instance, science can tell us a fair amount about how risk taking in the financial realms works because it’s easy enough to hook someone up to an MRI and have them take risks with money.  But physical risk?  “It’s hard to do a functional MRI on a base jumper.”

 

(As part of the article for Outside magazine, he did manage to give the BART balloon test to a base jumper and scan his brain.  What is interesting about that experience, he explains, is that the part of the brain that would have shut down in a “regular” person when the balloon exploded and the player lost everything was reversed in the brain of the base jumper.  That part of his brain lit up.  He got a rush from the balloon exploding!”)

 

Poldrack explains that neuroscience can see how risk differs with age.  In adolescence, we take more risks.  Teenagers are known for this and now neuroscience is getting a better understanding of how and why that is so.  Teenagers have a hyper-responsive reward system, so the motivation is higher in adolescents than in either adults or children. Meanwhile, the other parts of the brain—the ones likely to rein in the impulses—aren’t fully functional.  “It’s like the gas pedal is stuck on high and the brakes don’t work,” he explains.  And, as many of us know, we become less willing to take risk as we age.  “Your investment advisor tells you this: as you get older, take less risk with your portfolio.  There’s less room for error.  Be more conservative.” 

 

This may be true, he posits, with physical risk as well.  After all, “it’s harder to recover from an injury as we get older.”   

 

Still, that doesn’t mean that avoiding risk altogether is a good thing.  There’s much to be learned from actually taking risks.  Poldrack considers his own life.  “I started rock climbing a few years ago,” he tells me.  “I had to ask myself, ‘what’s the upside, other than the exercise? What makes me do something that scares me?’”  He thinks maybe there’s a drive, in some people, to achieve new things, to set a goal—and one that involves risk is not a trivial goal.  Still, he concedes, neuroscience can’t fully explain his own rock climbing to him.  “There’s work being done in the neuroscience realm on the ‘near-miss effect.’  If you’re gambling and you almost win, but don’t quite, it triggers the same overlapping rewards systems as if you actually won.  Maybe there’s a reward—or a rush—that’s gotten from being in a situation that’s dangerous and making it through, having a near miss.” 

 

He ponders a bit.  “But really, I don’t think we have the science to explain it.” 

 

What happens to us is just as important as our neural wiring

 

Carl Lejuez, the addiction specialist, though, tells me not to be so fast to blame the brain and biology for my own risky behavior. People are always looking to say it’s the brain that causes certain things, he says, “but it’s really important to keep in mind the bi-directional aspects.  There are two pieces.  The first one is when we think about behavior and our environment, and then our brain.  We always want to remember that our current neural make up certainly affects what we do.  But also, what happens to us affects our brain.  It’s a much more dynamic system than we sometimes think about.  We often think, ‘Wow, that is a really powerful explanatory tool’ when we consider the brain, but it’s just as much something that’s affected as it is something that causes.”

 

To explain, Lejuez uses an addiction metaphor.  “There are two reasons, from a learning perspective, why someone might use drugs,” he explains.  The first is what’s called positive reinforcement.  It’s what we think of with drugs: the high, what feels good about it.  “But in many cases, what’s really more important is the negative reinforcement aspect, essentially a process where we take away something bad.” 

 

To illustrate, he conjures up heroin users.  “If they’re experiencing withdrawal and they use again, it will take the pain of withdrawal away.  That’s negative reinforcement.” It’s an enormous mistake though, he cautions, to only think about this on a physiological level.  “There’s also an emotional component.”  A cocaine user, for example, might find the drug helps with her depression and in a weird way makes the user feel more sane and normal than she would without it.  Likewise, a person who suffers from anxiety attacks but doesn’t know that’s what’s happening: “They’re walking around and all of a sudden their chest feels tense, their heart starts to hurt a little, they think they’re having a heart attack or they’re going crazy.  Well, a drug like heroin can medicate that.”  A heroin user might be medicating these kinds of emotional symptoms.  With anxiety attacks, it blunts the emotional response. 

 

Lejuez says that the same type of things happen with risky behavior like motorcycling.  “You could argue that the ‘high’ someone gets from that activity may be needed because they’re not feeling a lot of reinforcements in other parts of their life. It brings a high, a new group of friends.”  I think of the thrill I experience when riding, plus the wonderful new people I’ve met through motorcycling. 

 

“But it also removes something, a negative,” he continues.  “For example, I can imagine someone.  They’ve gotten in such a rut and they don’t know how to say ‘no’ to that rut.  They’re the person who does this or does that and everyone has this expectation of them.  That becomes a negative.”  If that person finds a new love, like motorcycling, they’re suddenly so motivated by it that they get busy and are finally able to say ‘no’ to the things they wanted to say ‘no’ to all along. Through their new passion, they can make those things go away.  “Or, you wake up in the morning and you feel like you’re a robot and wonder ‘why am I bothering?  There’s no excitement!’ So, now, this new passion makes the negative feeling go away.” 

 

Lejuez says that most people would label this scenario as “escape” or “avoidance”—which, he claims, is probably the most powerful human process we have. 

 

“In many cases, we think of avoidance as a bad thing because you’re not doing the things you need to do.  But avoidance really just means being able to make a choice that allows you to avoid something you don’t want before it happens.  That can be really good, also.  You’re avoiding all the kind of deadness that’s built up over time, you’re engaging in something to counter it.  There’s also going to be a release of endorphins, it may increase serotonin or other things that we know have positive effects.” 

 

“Never underestimate the value of making negative things go away.”

 

Lejuez talks for a moment about what’s officially called “punishing a behavior” in learning theory. When a person gets sober, for example, that person is punishing the addiction behavior, he says.  “Punish sounds so pejorative but it’s not meant in that way; it just means what we do to make something stop.” But if you punish one kind of behavior, you have to reinforce alternatives.  People often overlook this, but it’s important, because if you don’t find an alternative, the individual just suppresses everything, or even worse behaviors may arise.  If you punish a behavior and suppress what’s driving that behavior, you may say “yes” to everything you’re supposed to, deny your own true needs, and not look out for yourself while you’re trying to be “good.”  Think of someone on a diet.  And then one day, you may just say, “Forget it!  I’m going to do what I need.”  When that happens, there’s “this explosion of selfishness because they didn’t take the time to look out for themselves from the start,” he says.

 

I hadn’t considered it before our conversation, but I wonder aloud to Lejuez if there’s a connection between my own two-decade sobriety from alcohol and drug use and my desire to ride a motorcycle.   He seems to think there is.  One “can draw the connection from an unhealthy escape/avoidance behavior to a healthy one.”  According to Lejuez, this is an important lesson.  “In addition to whatever the positives are, the story is instructive because every one of us has things that have creeped into our lives and taken over and we wish we could find a more healthy way.”  

 

Temperament and Character

 

There’s a whole section of psychology that studies people and where they fall on a sensation-seeking scale, which also includes a novelty subscale.  As it turns out, people’s need for sensation and novelty can vary widely.  Some people would enjoy seeing the same movie four times; not me.  I would be driven batty by the suggestion.  On the other hand, I have no problem eating at the same restaurant over and over if I know the food is good.  I might feel edgy risking a new place.  

 

If someone who likes novelty has conflicting personality traits like high conscientiousness, that person may have a dangerous pair on his hands.  “The conscientiousness is always going to be getting them to move toward being safe,” Lejuez says.  “But then there’s going to be that part inside them that’s craving novelty and excitement and that part’s getting ignored.” 

 

Where someone falls on this sensation-seeking scale tells us a lot about how a person thinks about who they are and what they need in order to wake up every day and feel alive, and how that person might experience full aliveness in a way that doesn’t put themselves or others in danger.

 

To understand this better, I contact C. Robert Cloninger, Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Genetics, at Washington University in St. Louis, who is known for his research on the genetics, neurobiology, and development of personality.  Cloninger has developed a general measure of personality traits that assess variables particularly important in assessing risk.  (As it turns out, there seem to be about as many different scales to measure these traits and names for the subsets as there are psycho-biologists studying them. For one easily accessible test of one’s own personality in relation to risk, see the Domain-Specific Risk-Attitude (DOSPERT) Scale available through The Center for Decision Sciences at Columbia Business School.)

 

Cloninger’s psychobiological model includes four dimensions of temperament (Novelty Seeking, Harm Avoidance, Risk Dependence, and Persistence), and three of character (Self-Directedness, Cooperativeness, and Self-Transcendence).

 

Three of these characteristics are crucial to create a risk-taking personality: the first is Low Harm Avoidance. “The high end of this dimension involves people being shy, fearful and apprehensive, whereas the low end involves being outgoing, risk-taking and optimistic,” he explains.  The second variable is what some call Novelty Seeking, which involves being impulsive and disorderly when high, versus being orderly and rigid when low.  Thus, being high in novelty seeking and low in harm avoidance is characterized by being a thrill-seeker, both impulsive and risk-taking.  These emotional drives, then, are regulated by the third: one’s character traits, which involve our conscious goals and values and our capacity for self-regulation of the emotional drives.  Being Self-Directed, for example, means a person is responsible, purposeful and resourceful, whereas those who are low in this trait have personality disorders characterized by placing blame on others and being aimless. 

 

Once he’s gone through this matrix, he takes what little he knows of me from our conversation to figure me out.  “So, if you are high in Self-Directedness as most people with your academic achievements are likely to be, then you would have the ability to judiciously regulate and express your emotional drives.”  If, on the other hand, I had been high in Novelty Seeking, low in Harm Avoidance, and low in Self-Directedness, I would have an impulsive personality disorder.  According to Cloninger, longitudinal studies have found that the quality of Self-Directedness increases with age from 20 to 45 then levels off at the high level of maturation. In contrast, Novelty Seeking and Harm Avoidance do not have a consistent direction with age—equal numbers go up to those who go down depending on the individual life experiences so that average in the population stays the same.   This applies to men and women with little difference between the genders except that women are a little more harm avoidant and a lot more reward dependent and cooperative.   

 

There is a frequent relationship between passionate temperament profiles (low Harm Avoidance, high Novelty Seeking, high Risk Dependence) and creative characters (Self-Directedness, Cooperativeness, and Self-Transcendence), he tells me. 

 

“So risk-taking is related to creativity.  You might even think creative writers tend to become bikers!” he concludes.

 

Risk preps us for life 

 

Having looked into these risk factors, I can conclude a few things about why I was suddenly smitten by motorcycling at 48 years of age, even if I cannot definitely answer why.  First, my father’s death, in leaving me orphaned and next in line to face the existential questions of life, reminded me that my time in this life is limited and that feeling alive, by whatever safe means I can access, is a good and needed thing.  As our days on earth grow fewer, sometimes we need to pack more life into them.  Or, at least, I do. 

 

It’s also clear, looking at my history, that to some degree I’m biologically wired to take risks.  I have been a competitive skateboarder and a professional dancer.  I have backpacked and scaled numerous peaks, taken creative risk in my writing and research, and run marathons.  Risk taking is simply part of who I am.

 

Most importantly, however, is that fact that this particular episode of risk taking was preparatory for what life would have in store for me.  Within a year of saying goodbye to my last living parent and hello to my motorcycle, I told my husband of 25 years that I no longer wanted to be married.  Raised to be the “good girl” and to meet others’ expectations of me, this was a step that required a flinty “biker chick” persona to pull off without drowning in shame and sorrow.  It was, hands-down, the biggest risk I’ve ever taken and one that still leaves me with shaky legs and an erratic heartbeat.  But knowing I could ride the motorcycle and be okay as a solo woman in what seems sometimes to be a big, bad world gave me the strength to do it.  A year later, I made a cross-country motorcycle trek with a female friend who had likewise never undertaken such a large adventure. That trip was, in an odd way, preparing me to say goodbye my youngest child as she left for university. One thing prepares us for the next. 

 

I am now alone, my three children grown and gone, with a divorce pending.  And the motorcycle taught me I can travel this path and be oaky. 

 

Looking back, I can see that by first taking risks in the physical realm via the motorcycle, I found within myself the inner courage I’d need to take these more emotional risks.   I just didn’t know that was what I was doing at the time.

 

Notes

 

1 See, for example, Apter, Brown, Meyer, Parks, “Risk-Taking Behaviors,” Thompson, Young and Alexander.

 

Works Cited

 

Apter, Michael J.  The Dangerous Edge: The Psychology of Excitement.  New York: Free Press, 1992.  Print.   

 

Brown, Brené.  “The Power of Vulnerability.”  TED Talks. December 2010.  Web.  3 May 2012. 

 

Cloninger, C. Robert M.D., Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Psychology and Genetics, and Director of the Center for Well-Being, Washington University in St. Louis.  Personal email exchange.  August 16, 2012.

 

Lejuez, Carl, Ph.D., Director, Center for Addictions, Personality, and Emotion Research Department of Psychology University of Maryland.  Personal phone interview.  August 17, 2012.

 

Meyer, Patricia.  We’re Just Women Who Like to Ride”: An Ethnographic Journey on a Woman’s Motocycle. Diss.  Southern Illinois University, 1999.  Print. 

 

Parks, Alice.  Why We Take Risks—It’s the Dopamine.” TIME. December 20, 2008.

 

Poldrack, Russell, Ph.D. Imaging Research Center, University of Texas at Austin. Personal phone interview.  July 29, 2012.

 

“Risk-Taking Behaviors.” FAQ.org. Advameg, Inc. n.d. Web. 2 May 2012.  

 

Thompson, William E.  “Don’t Call Me ‘Biker Chick’: Women Motorcyclists Redefining Deviant Identity.” Deviant Behavior 33.1 (2012): 58-71.  Print.

 

Williams, Florence.  “This is Your Brain on Adventure.”  Outside.  March 19, 2009. Print. 

 

Young, Larry D. and Brian Alexander.  The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction.  New York: Current Hardcover, 2012.  Print.

 

 

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