Are there neurological differences between introverts and extroverts?

What are they?

Absolutely.

Introverts utilize a different dominant neurotransmitter in the brain than extroverts do.

Neurotransmitters are basically chemicals that signal activity in the brain.

What’s even more interesting is that the actual blood flow in an introvert’s brain follows a completely different pathway than the blood flow in an extrovert’s brain.

Extroverts use a lot of dopamine, which is one type of neurotransmitter.

You might have heard of dopamine production in the context of drug or alcohol use, which does occur but more generally speaking, dopamine is associated with any type of sensory pleasure or stimulus.

Since extroverts have a higher dopamine threshold, they require more of it in order to trigger that “feel good” sensation. This is just another way of saying they require more external stimulation or activity to get their pleasure fix.

extrovertpathway
The extroverted brain’s blood flow pathway.

The blood flow in an extrovert’s brain follows a shorter pathway that hits the areas of the brain associated with external stimuli. This pathway is fueled by dopamine. Probably not a coincidence.

Introverts, on the other hand, use a longer, more complex blood flow pathway in their brains.

This pathway utilizes a different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is like dopamine’s alter ego. Instead of external stimulation, acetylcholine triggers internal stimulation and energy conservation.

Tapping into internal activities such as intense mental concentration, long-term memory and REM sleep is how introverts have their blood flow pathways in their brain humming along nicely, keeping them feeling good.

introvertpathway
The introverted brain’s blood flow pathway.

Photos by Marielle Coppes [1].

Introverts have a much lower dopamine threshold than extroverts which means that if they engage in activities that provide too much external stimuli, instead of feeling good, they feel overwhelmed.

It’s almost as if they are having to use a foreign brain pathway that they’re not used to, which is somewhat true.

These neurological differences can actually be explained by genetics and are the reason for different social tendencies between introverts and extroverts. This is something I learned from reading The Introvert Advantage, which is a book I highly recommend for introverts.

Footnotes

[1] The introvert brain explained – Magical Daydream

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