The other day I learned why stimulants like Ritalin seem to calm people with ADHD down. This was something I had wondered about for a long time. It turns out that it is stimulating a particular domain of the mind or part of the brain: the executive functions carried out in the prefrontal cortex. On the other hand, a depressant like alcohol can turn it down, resulting in many people being more vivacious.
And if you’ve heard that drowsy driving is worse than drunk driving, the same applies to people who are very tired. I used to be addicted to staying up late. I’d get punchy and funny and wild. I used to think it was that you are trying so hard to stay awake, it makes you manic. But it is just as likely that the part of your brain that makes things decent and normal has gone to sleep.
So here’s an argument for curfews, especially for teens who have just started to drive. I see all these billboards about the bad consequences of teen drinking (well, they’re a thing in Utah at least). But staying up too late can likewise lead to bad decisions, or decisions made without consulting reason and accountability.
It is puzzling to me why this part of the brain would be more prone to tiredness and stimulation. Probably has to do with gray vs. white matter or something. There are also paradoxical medication reactions (bringing us back to our post image.) Benedryl makes some people wired. I tried taking GABA once, and I was clawing the ceiling. In Serenity, 0.1% of the population has the opposite effect to a sedative that renders the population otherwise nonfunctional. As many a parent of a toddler has bemoaned, “They don’t lay down, they never lay down.”
Image: from Serenity Universal Pictures 2005