DALLAS - So, you think you've had a bumpy, up-and-down week, sports fan - down-in-the-dirt Monday, sky-high Tuesday, and giddy for more of the same?
Blame it on the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Rangers and a regional dose of dopamine.Yep, deep inside your head, the brain keeps close watch over winning and losing, and it likes winning a whole lot better, said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas.
"Our brain loves to win, it loves it," said Chapman, a cognitive neuroscientist. "And winning is something that kicks off a neurotransmitter, dopamine, that is linked to winning and pleasure.
"It's almost the desire to win that triggers this, and when you feel it, you really want to keep winning."
Dopamine has been tied to increased creativity, better job performance and higher activity levels, Chapman said.
"Some people get happy," she said, "and some people get really emotional, because dopamine is a highlighter for things like the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain. When you get that set off, you feel even higher.
"Winning increases sociability," she said. "People get nicer when you win."
And when an area is fully invested in a sports team - the Rangers, for example - that widespread flush of dopamine can make a town like Dallas a much happier place, Chapman said.
But when things don't go so well, like the Cowboys' tough loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the part of the brain that releases dopamine becomes less active.
"You really feel lethargic - the feeling permeates everything," Chapman said. "Unfortunately, we feel the losing part more deeply than the winning. You go down further than you go up."
It doesn't take a neuroscientist to fix that. But we had one handy, so here's Chapman's prescription:
"Our brains love to be happy," she said.
"So come on, Rangers!"