Top Gun’s Return Triggers Another Adrenaline Rush

The adrenaline zone

Winnefeld remembers the adrenaline rush of his days as a fighter pilot. His blood would pump rapidly as his F-14 landed on a moving aircraft carrier in the pitch darkness of a cloudy night. He also remembers the same feeling at times later in his career when making decisions as commander of an aircraft carrier or briefing the president on special operations.

Winnefeld’s latest project, “The adrenaline zoneis a podcast that interviews people who have taken physical, financial, emotional or reputational risks. And with those risks comes a lot of adrenaline. Him and co-host Sandy Magnusprofessor of practice and graduate of the School of Materials Science and Engineeringhave previously featured adrenaline pumping jet pilot, race car driver and country music star Tim McGraw.

What exactly is adrenaline and how does it play a role in decision making and performance?

According to Scott Moffatassociate professor in college of scienceSchool of Psychology, an adrenaline rush is a state of high excitement and anxiety triggered by something that the brain assesses as dangerous. Two processes occur in response to this excitation. The first is the adrenaline hormone released from a particular part of the adrenal gland called the adrenal medulla. This hormone is released into the bloodstream and causes an increased heart rate and higher glucose consumption – it prepares your body for a high state of excitement.

“Depending on the situation, some people will call this state of high arousal, fear or anxiety, or even panic,” Moffat said. “However, some people almost take advantage and thrive in these conditions.”

The second response, Moffat explains, is often described as the stress response. It’s a slower response that also comes from the adrenal gland in releasing a hormone called cortisol. Its objective is to reduce the response of the immune system to prepare its body for the use of energy.

Moffat says people react to an adrenaline rush in different ways.

“People who thrive on a rush of adrenaline may see their performance improve when performing a task, especially if they’re expert at that task,” Moffat said. “But the adrenaline rush will have the opposite effect for those who find the conditions more stressful, potentially sending them into a state of panic.”

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