Newswise — MILWAUKEE (March 2, 2021) – The results of a neurobiological study, today published in Brain Research, yielded pioneering scientific evidence revealing the potential mental and physical benefits of riding a motorcycle. 

Researchers recorded participants’ brain activity and hormone levels before, during, and after motorcycling, driving a car, and resting. While riding a motorcycle, participants experienced increased sensory focus and resilience to distraction. Riding also produced an increase in adrenaline levels and heart rate, as well as a decrease in cortisol metrics – results often associated with light exercise and stress-reduction.

“Stress levels, especially among young adults, continue to rise, and people are exploring pathways to better their mental and physical health. Until recently, the technology to rigorously measure the impact of activities like motorcycling on the brain didn’t exist,” said Dr. Don Vaughn, the neuroscientist who led the research team. “The brain is an amazingly complex organ and it’s fascinating to rigorously investigate the physical and mental effects riders report.”

Results Highlights:

  • Riding a motorcycle decreased hormonal biomarkers of stress by 25%
  • Sensory focus was enhanced while riding a motorcycle versus driving a car, an effect also observed in experienced meditators vs non-meditators
  • Changes in study participants’ brain activity while riding suggested an increase in alertness similar to drinking a cup of coffee

“While scientists have long-studied the relationship of brain and hormone responses to attention and stress, doing so in real-life conditions such as these is rare,” explained Professor and senior team member, Dr. Mark Cohen. “No lab experiment can duplicate the feelings that a motorcyclist would have on the open road.”

“The differences in participants’ neurological and physiological responses between riding and other measured activities were quite pronounced,” continued Dr. Vaughn. “This could be significant for mitigating everyday stresses.”

Research Overview

The research team monitored participants’ electrical brain activity and heart rate, as well as levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. The Harley-Davidson funded study, entitled “The mental and physical effects of riding a motorcycle” measured the biological and physiological responses of more than 50 experienced motorcyclists, using mobile EEG technology.

Study Disclaimer

Study of healthy, experienced adults, riding their own motorcycles on a designated 22-minute route, under normal conditions. Provided for informational purposes only. Sponsor makes no guarantee that you will experience similar results; actual effects will vary based on equipment, driving conditions and age/health/experience of rider. See research summary here. Views expressed and conclusions reached are solely those of the author, Dr. Don Vaughn, in his personal capacity, and do not necessarily represent the views of UCLA. Sponsor: Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Copyright 2019, all rights reserved. Please contact Sponsor for permission to use or republish any study data. 

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