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Storm Chasers: Born to Be Wild?
Date:5/26/2013

By Mary Brophy Marcus
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- We've all seen them: the surfers who race to the beach when a hurricane hits, the guy who decides to ride out the storm in his overmatched boat, the tornado chasers who fearlessly steer their cars alongside a scary-looking funnel cloud.

Monday's devastating tornado in Moore, Okla., was the most recent reminder that Mother Nature isn't something to gamble with -- that even when the best safety precautions are taken, people can still get hurt and die.

Yet, even now, when weather experts have the technology to predict potentially dangerous natural disasters far enough in advance for people to take shelter, some still sprint into the melee while the rest of us hunker down in safety.

Why?

Storm chasers, thrill-seekers and their ilk don't fit a single personality profile, mental health experts say. Although genetics probably play a role, learned behavior and maturity are factors, too.

"They may be one of two types: people who have what we call impulsivity or those who are sensation seekers," said Rick Hoyle, a professor of psychology and neuroscience and associate director for the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

An impulsive person tends not to think about the outcome of their actions. "They're more in the moment," Hoyle said. "They think, 'I see this novel, amazing thing in front of me and I have to run toward it. I have to experience it.' "

Sensation seekers, on the other hand, are more likely to understand the risk, but it's worth the high they get, said Hoyle, who has conducted research on sensation-seeking behavior.

"Exposure to a novelty -- what we call stimuli high in sensation value, like an incoming tornado -- tends to activate the reward centers in the brains of people who are high in sensation-seeking behaviors," he said. "In other words, they get the same high from these events t
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