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What Makes Your Adrenaline Flow?

44 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 30 June 2013

What makes people push themselves to the limit in sport and dice with death? We sometimes call such people ‘adrenaline junkies’ but, as Harvard Professor of Medicine Brian Hoffman explains, adrenaline itself has little to do with it. Presenter Matthew Taylor is also joined by: former Olympic athlete and now Professor of Sports Medicine, Greg Whyte, who now helps celebrities achieve feats of endurance, such as running 43 marathons in 51 days; and by writer and broadcaster Jennifer Jordan, who focuses on Himalayan women mountaineers and the reasons some of them eagerly climb to the ‘death zone’ above 8,000 meters.

(Image: Competitors at the 20th Marathon des Sables, Morocco. Credit: Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Jennifer Jordan

    Jennifer Jordan ( photo c/o Jennifer Jordan)

    Jennifer Jordan has lived at the base of the K2 mountain for extended periods of time: the resulting award-winning books and films, such as The Women of K2, Savage Summit and The Last Man on the Mountain shed new light on high-altitude climbing, and especially on the motivation that drives top women mountaineers. As well as authoring books and films, Jennifer has many years of experience as a journalist, broadcast producer, radio and television news anchor.

  • Brian Hoffman

    Brian Hoffman. Photo c/o Brian Hoffman
    We often talk of ‘adrenaline junkies’ but as Harvard Professor of Medicine Brian Hoffman explains, the hormone itself has little to do with either highly dangerous pursuits, such as BASE jumping, or extreme endurance sports, for instance the 135-mile Badwater run in California’s Death Valley. But medical discoveries linked to adrenaline have illuminated important aspects of how numerous medicines and hormones work in the body and won Nobel prizes for the scientists involved in this research.

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  • Greg Whyte

    Greg Whyte by BBC

    A former modern pentathlete, Olympian, and now sports scientist, Greg Whyte is a Professor in Applied Sport & Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University. He has extensive experience in improving the performance of both Gold-medal-seeking professional athletes and sporting enthusiasts attempting, for instance, their first swim across the English Channel. His main area of research interest is focussed around cardiac structure and function in health and disease, however he has also published papers on altitude, immune function and exercise-induced asthma.



  • 60 Second Idea to Change the World

    Jennifer Jordan wants to create ‘Open Water Lap Swim’ areas at all of the beaches of the world, allowing patrons to get away from the sand, kids, and cell phone users, which clutter their otherwise fabulous day at the beach. This would involve building a shark-resistant, jellyfish-repelling lap lane of anywhere from 1/4 to one mile in length - depending of course on the logistics of the beach - and approximately 20 feet wide. Swimming here would relieve untold tons of stress and anxiety, allowing adults to return to said sand, kids, and cell phones with an entirely new lease on life.


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