Tag Archives: Introverts

Introverts — Different Brain Pathways and Neurotransmitters

Today’s post comes from the book, The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, PsD. I think I’ve mentioned before (or at least intended to) the fact that according to Dr. Laney and others, introvert brains operate differently than extrovert brains. In brain function studies of introverts/extroverts, PET scans were used to determine the most active part of the brain based on blood flow. The results indicated that:

“…introverts had more blood flow to their brains than extroverts. More blood flow indicates more internal stimulation…

“Second, introverts’ and extroverts’ blood traveled along different pathways. Dr. Johnson found the introverts’ pathway is more complicated and focused internally. The introverts’ blood flowed to the parts of the brain involved with internal experiences like remembering, solving problems, and planning. This pathway is long and complext. The introverts were attending to their internal thoughts and feelings.

“Dr. Johnson tracked the fast-acting brain pathway of extroverts showing how they process input that influences their activity and motivation. The extroverts’ blood flowed to the areas of the brain where visual, auditory, touch and taste (excluding smell) sensory processing occurs. Their main pathway is short and less complicated. The extroverts attended externally to what was happening in the lab. “

These differing pathways for blood flow require different neurotransmitters. Extroverts rely on dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with movement, attention, alert states and learning. Extroverts are not terribly sensitive to dopamine, though they require large amounts of it. Unfortunately, while the brain produces some, it’s not nearly enough. Thus,

“Extroverts need [dopamine’s] sidekick, adrenaline, which is released from the action of the sympathetic nervous systems, to make more dopamine in the brain. So the more active the extrovert is, the more Hap[py] Hits are fired and dopamine is increased. Extroverts feel good when they have places to go and people to see.

“Introverts, on the other hand, are highly sensitive to dopamine. Too much dopamine and they feel overstimulated. Introverts use an entirely different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, on their more dominant pathway…

“Acetylcholine…affects attention and learning (especially perceptual learning), influences the ability to sustain a calm, alert feeling and to utilize long-term memory, and activates voluntary movement. It stimulates a good feeling when thinking and feeling.

One of the results of all this, is that it takes introverts longer than extroverts to refill their energy well when it’s been emptied, because their nerve receptor sites are slow to re-uptake the neurotransmitter. So we need more time to recover and get tired more easily.  Something I’ve been experiencing a lot lately. Fortunately, Laney devotes an entire chapter to dealing with this, but that’s a post for another day.

New Things

I’ve taught Quigley how to take something into his mouth and hold it long enough for me to take his picture! Isn’t he cute?

Yes, I know I’ve not posted for almost eleven days now. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, having so much to process and do that I’ve not hardly been able to think. My brain has felt empty, fragmented, blitzed. I’ve had no words to offer the world, no words, at least that would make any sense.  In fact, today in my journal I wrote that I felt like a character pulled out of a story. Someone with no back story, no objective, no narrative of events in which to fit, just a character doing things that seem to have lost all relation to each other. Then, a couple of hours later I read almost that exact description in a book I’ve been reading called The Introvert Advantage,  part of their description of an introvert who is suffering from an “energy crisis” as a result of not having “enough downtime.”

And certainly over the last three weeks or so my downtime has been severely limited and/or compromised. I thought of 2 Corinthians 4 and how there’ll be times we will be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. One of those words — I think it’s “perplexed” — means to lack resources, at least temporarily. Like the resource of internal energy, and the time to be able to process everything so you can actually think straight…

But, since I see that it’s almost time for me to take my mother to get her shot, I’ll have to save my elaboration for another day (and notice I didn’t say “tomorrow” since I have no idea what the rest of today will bring, much less tomorrow).  I do, however, have a new Jeep, and it is without question an upgrade!  I love it:

A Test for Introverts

When you get on the Internet and go from link to link, that’s surfing the web, isn’t it? I don’t know. Seems like a better metaphor would be bread-crumbing through the web. Or Hansel and Gretel-ing through the Web. Okay, surfing is easier, it just seems a lot more purposeful and shorter than following a trail of breadcrumbs, each leading the next as you wander deeper and deeper into the forest… And then suddenly you sit up, look at the clock and say, “What happened?

It’s almost always interesting, and sometimes it’s actually useful.

Like last weekend. A friend sent me to an interesting essay by Maria Shriver. I think there was a link there that caught my eye which led to another link (Job Tips for Introverts– Find a Career to match your personality traits)  and another (What Your Favorite Dog Breed Says About Your Personality) until I had reached A Test for Introverts

Having already been intrigued by statements in the Job Tips article about introverts, and already knowing I was an introvert, I still wanted to see what their criterion was and what the test about. The Job Tips article pointed out the advantage of knowing yourself and more important being comfortable with that knowledge when you go about choosing a career. Obviously it’s a bit late for me to choose a career, and really my career (if you can call it that) chose me, so the whole thrust of the article was not aimed at me, but I’ve mostly come across descriptions of introversion presented as if it were some sort of aberration or handicap.

Indeed, given that our culture seems to favor extroverts, I suppose it can be regarded as such in the eyes of extroverts. It seems that extroverts have taken over, especially the book industry, with all the advice that’s piled on writers, (generally introverted types, who like being alone a lot,) to get out there and work the room, make contacts, sell your book, pitch it in elevators, go make friends with the bookstore clerks, radio people, TV people, do book signings, tours, seek out the stockers that fill the book racks at grocery stores, make friends with them, sell, sell, sell, network, network, network, etc.


I think I might prefer pounding my thumb with a hammer. But, as I said, I am and introvert. Anyway, in the Job Tips article I came across one book that regards introversion as an asset not a mental defect, and another one entitled Self-Promotion for Introverts!  At last.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The article introducing the test for introverted personality traits (said test coming from The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney) (advantage? Did it really say advantage?) promises the test will

reveal some interesting facets of your personality – especially if you’re an introvert! For instance, did you know that introverts don’t think of casual acquaintances as friends? And, introverts take a long time to sort out information…and they dread returning phone calls (that’s me!). 

That’s me, too. In fact, all three of those characteristics are me. The test has 29 questions. If you answer true for 20 – 29 of them you’re a “true introvert”. I answered 26 of them true and one more true and false (“I usually need to think before I speak”. If I stop to think before I speak, I often don’t speak at all. So while I might need to do it, I’m not usually at a loss for words and tend to blurt… )

If you answer 10-19 of them true, you’re both, and 1-9 means you’re an extrovert. “You relish variety, have lots of  ‘close, personal’ friends and will chat with complete strangers…”