In what ways does unicycling stimulate your brain?

I got the idea for this thread from both personal experience and an old related thread where many described a host of positive effects of unicycling on their brains (http://195.66.135.134/forums/showthread.php?t=36454).

From my personal experience, I realize that possibly unicycling is much more brain-stimulating than bicycling or maybe even any other activity I have experienced. Whenever I get back from a unicycle ride, usually my mind is stimulated and registers a definite increase in activity and productivity. The creative juices would be flowing in it. It is almost as if my mind’s/brain’s consciousness increases. It is as if my brain has a special place dedicated to unicycling and which responds to the unicycling experience by becoming stimulated and activated. Could this be a brain region all unique to unicycling? I think it is worth doing research to really see what part of a unicyclist’s brain are activated during and following unicycle rides. The results may well be enlightening and teach us a thing or two about the sport we love as well as about ourselves.

When more than a week passes without unicycling, I feel the reduction of this unicycling-specific brain area’s activity. It seems that nothing else can replace it. And it is this unicycle-specific brain activity (and its stimulation/reinforcement through unicycling) that I suspect has us all craving the unicycle experience (despite its difficulties and dangers) and always returning to it and being kind of addicted to it. But it is a positive addiction, a brain-activity addiction, a brain-boosting, consciousness-boosting, life-boosting addiction.

Do you have similar experiences?

No.

Can you elaborate a little? Does unicycling feel like watching TV to you as far as brain-stimulation is concerned? What other activities stimulate your brain?

Hey Luderart. I completely relate to what you are saying. I just finished posting in that old thread that I think you were referring to regarding “brain function”, etc.

After a ride, whether it’s 1 mile or 20 miles, I am always operating in a different plane of consciousness (so to speak). It’s like being more attuned to yourself and your surroundings while also having that exercise rush going for you. Your idea of monitoring brain activity before, during, and after would be very interesting. I also agree with you that no other activity has the same affect, (windsurfing, water & snow skiing, biking, running, whatever), although those activities are all enjoyable. If everyone out there knew all the benefits of unicycling there would be millions of people doing it. I have always felt that unicycling perfected my center of balance which then translated into everything else I have ever tried since the age of 12. When I first tried water skiing, I tried it with one ski, and got up the first try. Snowboarding, was going down diamond trails the first day, etc. I attribute that and many more similar examples to unicycling. :slight_smile: :sunglasses:

Yes, that’s the thread I was referring to. Thanks for your response!

I like the way you put it, “operating in a different plane of consciousness”. Maybe it’s the focus everyone is referring to. Or maybe it is the need to attain a level of perfection in balance (possibly the highest level) where there is no longer any room (or the least possible room) for error. As such, and from this perspective, unicycling may be the most efficient sport in the sense that it asks for the least possible human and vehicular means to achieve what it intends for us to achieve.

I think the uniqueness of unicycling may indeed reside in the perfection of balance that you refer to. In addition to that, and related to that, I think unicycling is the only sport where a person comes into contact with the world and gravity at only one point at a time. Of course, one may mention skydiving as involving no point of contact at all with the world. But in skydiving, one is not self-powered and on the contrary totally at the mercy of gravity even though totally off-ground. Also, the uniqueness of unicycling may reside in the fact that it is perhaps the simplest of vehicles.

You need to keep pushing the boundaries when you’re unicycling because once you learn a trick really well you can do it without even thinking about it and this sort of stops the brain activity that you’re talking about.

Luderart,

I have a bachelors degree in psychology and I am a skydiver. I wouldn’t say skydivers are “totally at the mercy of gravity.” Even though skydivers are falling when in freefall, they very much use flying skills. A skydiver learns how to move forward, backward, sideways, barrel roll, front flip, back flip, increase fall rate, decrease fall rate etc… while in freefall. You can spend the rest of your (long) life working on skydiving skills.

Here’s my take on your experience. Exercise itself is stimulating and results in a feeling of well being. Unicycling requires a lot of effort to learn and is therefore very gratifying when you aquire the skills. Now put in a good “workout” on a unicycle and you just combined those two positive experiences. Some people are fortunate enough to experience “runner’s high” from running and its clearly possible from unicycling as well. If a person is still in the “honeymoon stage” so-to-speak with their unicycle hobby and they achieve a runner’s high from a unicycling workout, then presto - he or she will have achieved the trifecta that I think you are experiencing.

As for the brain having a “special place dedicated for unicycling”, I would disagree. That’s like the concept of a person “only using __% of their brain.” We use our entire brains, but many of us don’t fully apply ourselves to be “all that we can be.”

same for me: my boss should sponsor my unicycling activities!
(my daughter -she is a psychologist- says that unicycling keeps my last remaining neuron fit!)

The question is (and was), if this is only possible with unicycling. I say (and said) no.

Nice to hear you have a bachelors degree in psychology. Incidentally I have one too, as well as a masters degree in clinical psychology. I realize that skydivers are not “totally at the mercy of gravity.” but I think that they get as near to being so as you can get. But the techniques you are talking about are possible only because of the presence of air and the resistance it creates. By the way, when comparing skydiving and unicycling which do you like more, and which stimulates your brain more?

Well, maybe it would have been more correct to put it this way: “unicycling stimulates a place in the brain that no other activity succeeds to stimulate in the same way or to the same degree.” At least it seems to do so in my case. But since new research says that new neurons grow in the brain, I think it would not be so far-fetched to hypothesize that unicycling may stimulate the growth of new neurons in certain brain area(s).

As regards your "We use our entire brains, but many of us don’t fully apply ourselves to be “all that we can be.”, I think that we need activities in order to use our brains. We cannot use our entire brains at a baseline level, i.e. when doing nothing or inactive. And naturally, from this premise we will have to deduce that certain activities cause us to use our brains more than others do, and also that different activities stimulate certain (different) areas of the brain more than other areas.

For me, I think it stimulates every fiber of my being, including my brain! We’ve heard about the “runner’s high”, and “getting into the zone”. Having been a runner I definitely have experienced all of that, but endorphin rush and is at an even more intense level when I’m riding MUni, or doing any extreme uni-riding. :smiley:

I’ve been unicycling long enough that I can go on long rides that don’t feel any more mentally stimulating than a bicycle ride. So, I don’t think unicycling is as special as you seem to say. Challenging yourself to learn anything new will stimulate your mind.

Well, since you didn’t quote my post, I’m not sure if you were responding to me. In any case, I would only say that, for me, I think there is an added sense of well being doing something you truly love and enjoy, that can enhance the already good sensory feelings one has while doing a particular activity. I just love MUni much more than bicycling, so I derive much more pleasure from it. :slight_smile:

although I don’t agree there’s a unicycle specific brain activity,

it has to, at the very least, stimulate your brain, as anything that would require concentration would.

when I uni, i don’t really think about anything else besides unicycling…it gets my mind off other things and just makes me very happy.

if I find my mind wandering… then in no time i’ll be hitting a rather large bump at top dead center and fly forward. so concentration is a requirement for unicycling.

it’s definitely a minor mental workout. maybe not like chess or reading, but i’ve always said to myself unicycling is great exercise for the mind & body. which i’m sure applies to all other sports, if you really enjoy the sport you are doing

i suffer from crohns - i used too have ALOT of suicidal thoughts, then get this, i got my white widow after not riding for like a year, about a week later i got very depressed after somthing very silly and the usual thoughts came back, then almost immediately after im thinking “well why would i do that - i gotta get better at my unicycling” - its hard to explain but in simpless, that was how it was.

Which do I like more? Skydiving. Obviously I love both but they are completely different and satisfy me in different ways.

Which stimulates my brain more? Skydiving. This is where they are completely different from a “brain stimulation” point of view. When learning skydiving skills, people have a challenge unique to skydiving. They have to overcome the natural tendancy for the brain to be over stimulated. This of course is typically due to the large adrenalin dump that new skydivers experience. Therefore a new skydiver has to do the most un-natural thing to improve. They have to relax. The sensory overload is so common, that jumpers often forget things that happened during recently completed jumps. Instructors are taught to first ask the student to describe the last jump, then the instructor explains his or her perspective. Often the student can’t remember simple events until the instructor reviews them. Then the student says, “oh yeah, I remember.” I’ve never experienced sensory overload when unicycling.

Here is a list of similarities for your amusement:

Both require strong commitments to achieve any level of competence.
Both demand strong focus moment by moment.
Both are completely ruled by gravity.
Both become more fun as you aquire more skill.
Both offer nearly endless challenges for anyone looking for them.
Both have a risk of crashing and burning into the ground. :smiley:
Both require mental and physical discipline.
Both involve skills that are hard to learn, but easy once you’ve learned them.

And here are some differences:

Unicycling is mostly a solo activity. Skydiving is inherently social.
Unicycling is great exercise. Skydiving is not.
Unicycling is pretty cheap. Skydiving consumes large amounts of money.

Those of you with psychology degrees must be aware of the (relatively recent) research evidence that suggests that even adults constantly generate new neurons, but the persistent survival of those neurons is associated with effortful learning.

I get a buzz from unicycling, and can almost feel those new neurons popping into being and hanging on in there. I guess that when I am so competent in all uni-spheres that it all becomes effortless, I will de-buzz, and lose interest.

Interesting thread. I am actually quite surprised by the divergent views expressed so far. My subjective experience of both mental and physical exhilaration in unicycling is so intense that I had assumed it was universal.

That’s why I say that unicycling is not necessarily very mentally stimulating. Learning anything new is mentally stimulating but not so much once you’ve learned it. Whatever activity is most unfamiliar to you will be the most mentally stimulating. Except for the gravity and crashing similarities, those statements could be made about learning to play a musical instrument.

I don’t think this thread is really about getting a “buzz”. It’s obvious that we find pleasure in unicycling if we bother to post here, but I don’t think “pleasurable” is the same as “mentally stimulating”.

Unicycling is quite social around here.

I think I have an explanation for why unicycling is so mentally stimulating. It’s because it’s something that never becomes routine. Therefore it takes you out of your routine. And the brain thrives on novelty and abhors routine. Routine is the enemy of the brain. Hence the never-routine experience of unicycling can only be healthy and stimulating for the brain.