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An Introvert's Craving for Acetylcholine

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Answering the Questions To Put Your Mind at Ease

Last summer I wrote a blog delving into how the brain chemistry of introverts and extroverts is so different and drives our personality traits. The article provides some eye-opening conclusions and introduced more questions I'll answer today.

The gist of the blog was that extroverts crave dopamine. When their brains receive dopamine, extroverts are happy and receive pleasure. They receive this

dopamine largely from outside stimulation like social events and frequent interaction. Introverts on the other hand have a much lower tolerance to dopamine so we can get overstimulated quite easily. Too much social interaction exhausts us. This should come as no surprise to introverts.

Conversely, introverts crave acetylcholine. We want more of this chemical to feel satisfied and content. And introverts get that rush of acetylcholine through quiet, alone time, and introspection. So the more solitude we get, the more acetylcholine quenches our brains.

Another way to look at it is that dopamine creates a "fight or flight" approach in extroverts. They are primed for action either way. They need it. Meanwhile, introverts are primed for the "rest and digest" approach. Each works for the respective person because that is what their body craves. We may all generally have the same amount of dopamine or acetylcholine, but extroverts have many more dopamine receptors in their brain and introverts have many more acetylcholine receptors. Hence, we need to experience those activities that cause more dopamine or acetylcholine to gush toward our respective receptors.

Key Takeaways

The Biggest learning I had last year substantiated what I suspected. I don't believe people just "choose" to be introverts. I don't believe you can "fix" your introversion or get rid of it. It is who we are, much like other personality traits.

Many introverts have had that hunch or belief. But the information about our brains really proves it. Our brains are different from extroverts. They are built differently, crave differently, and react differently. So rather than seeking "solutions" or ways to "change ourselves" we should be embracing our introversion and finding ways to learn about ourselves and use our strengths to be the best person we can be. And given the fact that extroverts are wired much differently, the world really does need introverts to provide the many strengths which extroverts lack. So if the brain and how we are wired are so critical in defining who we are, I want to know more...

New Questions

After researching and publishing that blog last summer, I was wondering more about acetylcholine. What characteristics or skills are more noticeable in those with proper acetylcholine levels? How might my acetylcholine levels change? What if my acetylcholine levels drop? Will I be happier with more acetylcholine? Can I get more?

What characteristics or skills are more noticeable in those with proper acetylcholine levels?

People with ample acetylcholine and an active receptor system often have resilient memories, strong cognitive skills, and sharp problem-solving capabilities. They typically don't "shoot from the hip" but need some additional time to process data, analyze information, and formulate opinions to share (because the acetylcholine paths are longer than the dopamine paths extroverts most often utilize). These characteristics should sound familiar. These are some of the most common strengths of introverts.

How might my acetylcholine levels change?

There are two important actors here. Acetylcholine levels and the number of receptors. Introverts have many more acetylcholine receptors and thus crave acetylcholine to quench the many receptors. Most people, introverts and extroverts, have about the same amount of acetylcholine. However, that level can naturally change. As we get older, our acetylcholine levels tend to drop. If this happens, our receptors are less satisfied.

What if my acetylcholine levels drop?

This can lead to a less happy (or unhappy) state for older introverts. I don't think this means all older introverts are depressed or unsatisfied. It may indicate that perhaps those activities which have satisfied us (reading, solo hobbies, long quiet nature walks) may be less satisfying than they once were.

What if my acetylcholine levels are low?

Medical studies have shown those with low acetylcholine levels have a much higher risk of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and heart disease. Intrinsically, this makes sense. Many of these diseases are connected to memory loss or high blood pressure and anxiety. Many introverts achieve a calmer state when their acetylcholine receptors are quenched. We are calmer and more reserved than your typical extrovert.

Will I be happier with more acetylcholine?

Theoretically, yes. As discussed at the top, introverts find their happy place by satisfying our acetylcholine receptors. If we either have less acetylcholine or do fewer activities that push the chemical to its receptors, that can be a problem. We want to keep those receptors satisfied.

Can I get more?