Thursday, January 25, 2007

The science of the tingling sensation

Yesterday afternoon, my head hurt, my eyes were sore and there was not one thought worthy of a single moment of attention passing through my system. Luckily, I know what makes me hurtle out of such a coma and back to reality: running. While sweating on a tread mill last night, I localized the deep, pleasant and highly rewarding feeling also known as runner's high. For me, it's like a jellyfish of power mooching about in the center of the abdomen, with tentacles injecting tingling sensations. One had better feed this jellyfish of strength as when it's awake, it makes you feel like you're God almighty crossed with Popeye and Forrest Gump, who ran across the continent. (And yes, it's the same jelly fish arms that arre somehow annoyed when you get a stitch.)

While jogging on, I started pondering whether the runner's high experience is somehow interlinked with my barometer of a good game. According to me, a good computer game is one that makes my stomach tingle. Following the Burning Crusade of WoW, I created a Draenei character (I'm on the Al'Akir server, named Paeonia, so there, now you know to whom you want to address coins of gold) and while learning the secrets of totems, I gained wings and flew off a mountain. And I'll be damned, it actually felt like I was flying myself. The moment my character had no soil under her hoof, a tingling sensation spread in my stomach just as if I was flying myself. This emotion was more temporary and diffuse but nonetheless real and more intense than the runner's high. I'm playing with the idea to wire up some of my friends, or myself, to the skin conductance and pulse electrodes in our lab at work while playing - or flying for that matter - in WoW. There hasn't been all too many studies measuring bodily responses to playing games, although I recently read one where the researchers found a significant effect of conduciveness for pride and joy. That is when the game runs smoothly and you're likely to achieve your goal, emotions like joy and pride are likely to rise. Perhaps it is joy, or pride, I'm feeling as I'm improving my character's skills by flying off the rock, but that's not the whole truth, I suspect.

And speaking of running, why is it that one's strength and stamina improves and lasts longer when someone is running next to you at the exact same pace? Is it an heritage from our 9 months spent in mummy's belly and experiencing the simultaneous beat makes us feel secure and relaxed? I wonder if there's a relation between the heart beats of the child and the mother. Do they beat simultaneously and if the mother's heart beat takes off, does the child's heart pace keep up with her beat? It's funny how I benefit from one rhythmic beat, that is having someone next to me who's heel touches the ground the exact same second mine does while others annoy me. I utterly recent playing the piano with a metrometer accompanying me. I guess I've always regarded the metronome as an intrusion in my creativity, something that limits my freedom to interpret a minuet in my own way. Unfortunately, my piano teacher back in the 1980's didn't agree...


Yenayer said...

Very nice new design for the blog.
Meilleurs Voeux pour 2007.

Paeonia said...

Thanks yenayer, as I know you've read my blog during "the old days", I'm glad that you appreciate the new look :) Meilleurs voeux à toi aussi!