The level of energy we feel at a particular moment often decides what we choose to end up doing at that every second. Boredom is something we often feel, and when we’re bored, we often tend to get restless, and think of things to do. But, why do some of us get easily bored as compared to others? The answer lies in explaining and understanding a concept known as the Ascending Reticular Activation System (ARAS).

This framework basically states that there are three levels of activation that we can have. One can be at baseline, which indicates a not too high or too low level of arousal or excitement. One can also lie on either side of this baseline, and have heightened arousal, or low arousal at their own ‘base level’. Thus, those that lie below baseline, and feel less aroused tend to seek more arousal as a natural response. They tend to want to involve themselves in exciting activities, or go out and interact with people to add a little bit of entertainment to their daily routine. These individuals are known as sensation seekers.

On the other hand, those that already feel high levels of arousal tend to feel that they lack the need for higher levels of it. This leads them t often avoid going out with people or interacting with large groups; instead choosing to stay indoors and laze, or hang out with a small bunch of close friends. We tend to typify these people as ‘introverts’. Introverts are thus, satisfied without making an effort to increase their levels of arousal, because they already feel high levels of it on a normal basis.

Image: Gizmodo

Even though we can classify ourselves as introverts and extroverts by gauging roughly how we react to certain situations, the truth is that none of us are purely either one of them. The whole ARAS is like a spectrum, and we can lie on any portion of it. It isn’t necessary that our qualities will reflect a single notion, since the vastness individual difference is remarkable in the contemporary age.

Now, let us zoom in to understand the picture at the level of our anatomy. When we are aroused, there a stimulation of neurons within the body, which leads there to be the release of neurotransmitters at the synaptic gap between two nerve cells. When this occurs, there is a feeling of arousal or stimulation felt. Now, the residue of neurotransmitters remaining between the neurons persists till Monoamine Oxidase is released, which clears out the residue. Now, let us relate the amount of MAO to our innate characters. If our bodies show a tendency for increased MAO release, this leads to the easy clearing up of neurotransmitters, meaning that we would seek higher levels of arousal, and thus turn out to be ‘sensation seekers’ or extroverts.

Image: Lundbeck Institute

If there is a low magnitude of MAO being released, then the neurotransmitters persist in larger concentration at the gap, thus leading us to feel heightened levels of arousal, and avoid seeking any more, thus getting us typified as the introvert, who likes to stay indoors and not venture out into large crowds.

It is truly fascinating to understand how our behavior is guided by both intuition and chemistry, resulting in the varied ways we handle situations, or react to them. We hope that you’re a little self aware about the chemical basis of your boredom now!

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An undergraduate in Psychology, Shantanu is an aspiring Educational Psychologist who will be pursuing his Master’s in 2018 at the Ohio State University. He is adept with psychometric and statistical research, and has honed his grasp over psychology through a 4 year undergraduate course in Liberal Education at FLAME University, Pune.