This Daring Climber Doesn’t Use Ropes – And Scientists Were Amazed When They Scanned His Brain

With no ropes in place, Alex Honnold must rely on his hands to keep him alive as he scales the edge of a cliff. One wrong move could spell the end, and given the unpredictable weather conditions up there, the stakes are always high. So we’ve got a question for you: would you put yourself in that position? No? Well, there’s a reason for that, and it became clear when scientists studied Honnold’s brain scan.

We know what you’re thinking now: what kind of scan? To answer that, we need to look at where the examination itself took place. It was held in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Center for Biomedical Imaging, which houses some fascinating equipment.

Yes, the facility’s home to what are called functional magnetic resonance imaging machines, better known as fMRI scanners. So what do they do? Well, as per the Medical University of South Carolina’s Jane Joseph, the equipment monitors alterations in “blood flow” inside a person’s brain. As the organ absorbs oxygen while it’s active, colors will pop up in the scan. And that’s where Honnold comes in.

You see, Joseph believed that “reactivity” in the human brain might have ties to a certain quirk – that of “sensation seeking.” The term covers anything from narcotic addictions to chasing hazardous thrills. So who better to test that theory on than a climber who doesn’t use ropes while scaling mountains? Honnold was perfect!

Quite simply, Joseph wanted to look at the area of Honnold’s brain that identifies fear. It’s called the amygdala. To test it out, the adventurer was placed inside one of the fMRI machines, which went on to flash up various photos in front of him. Some of them were mundane, while others were designed to provoke strong reactions.