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Friday 28th October 2016

Sensitive people's brains different

13th April 2010

People who are introverted or sensitive end up processing the world in a completely different way from other people, according to a joint study by Chinese and US researchers.


The recent study appears to lend weight to the theory that being detail-oriented originates in people's biological makeup.

The researchers said that about 20% of all human beings possess high sensitivity, and that these people can often appear neurotic or inhibited to people who are not.

Sensitive people may also cry more easily than do less sensitive people, and sensitive children may need less punishment than children who are not especially sensitive.

While the finding may seem like common sense to sensitive people, the recent study used brain imaging techniques to go deeper into the reasons why some people are more sensitive to their experiences than others.

Starting off with a questionnaire, the research team was able to separate sensitive people from people who were not especially sensitive.

The team then used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare right cerebellum brain activity in people who were sensitive to people who were non-sensitive.

In order to test sensitivity, the team showed the subjects sets of pictures with slight differences, then looked at the fMRI to see if there was any difference between the brains of the sensitive and the non-sensitive.

The researchers found that non-sensitive people's brains were less active when they tried to spot changes in the photos.

The sensitive subjects displayed much greater brain activation in areas that connected visual input to other parts of the brain.

Researcher Elaine Aron, who is a professor of psychology at Stony Brook University in New York, said that people who were sensitive tended to process things in a deep way.

On the whole, the things that sensitive people experience tend to get processed by other parts of their brains, in addition to the usual ones, she said.

Aron said that sensitive people were more likely to have vivid dreams, and tended to be more aware of the subtleties in their environments.

Lead author Jadzia Jagiellowicz, a doctoral candidate at Stony Brook University, said that sensitive people were better at noticing subtleties in their environment.

However, it is a myth that sensitivity and introversion are the same thing. Aron said that up to 30% of sensitive people were extroverted.

Jagiellowicz said that highly sensitive people made good counsellors and recruiters, since they were able to process both emotion and external detail conjointly.

She said that accounting would also be a good field for sensitive people, although jobs that required people to be both quick and minutely-attuned were not the best option.


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