Body processes

Curiosity – Function, Task & Diseases


Curiosity is characterized by a desire for something new and is considered a fundamental trait of the human species. Motivation and drive are highly dependent on curiosity, as humans receive feedback from the body’s reward system in satisfying their curiosity. In the case of dementia , for example, reduced curiosity can occur with a symptomatic loss of motivation.

What is the curiosity?

Curiosity is an alluring desire to discover new things. Curiosity is often equated with the desire to know what was previously hidden. The Greek philosopher Plato described curiosity as the beginning of everything. People like Galileo judged it to be the most powerful problem-solving engine, and Einstein attributed his talent for discovery to curiosity.

Curiosity has played one of the most crucial roles in the evolution of the human species. Accordingly, curiosity is a basic human quality and is considered to be one of the most character-defining features of human personality.

Neurologists have known for a long time that the frontal lobe of the brain plays a major role in character traits . As a character trait, curiosity should also be found in the frontal lobe. However, according to recent studies, scientists no longer assume that curiosity has a fixed place in the brain. Instead, the medical-neurological definition of curiosity now refers to an entire network, such as the human brain itself.

function & task

As the University of Bonn found out, curious people have a better networked brain. Individual circuits in the brains of the study participants correlated significantly with the degree of their curiosity and their curiosity-related behavior. 

Curiosity was particularly important in the study of the connection between the hippocampus and the striatum . The striatum houses the body’s reward system and thus corresponds to the part of the brain that drives people to action, provides motivation and arouses interest in action. The hippocampus, on the other hand, mainly accommodates memory functions and also releases messenger substances that affect the reward system. The stronger the connection between the striatum and the hippocampus, the more likely people are to try new things.

The basic connection between the two areas is probably innate, but only fully matures in the first months or years of life. In this context, the impulses that the small child receives from its environment are probably the most important. Such impulses attract attention and could be responsible for the fact that the connection between the striatum and the hippocampus strengthens far-reaching. This would explain the different levels of curiosity that people generally have.

Curiosity has a positive effect on people in many ways. The more curious people are, the more open they are to new things. He learns more easily, is often happier and finds it easy to solve problems.

Since when satisfying curiosity , messenger substances such as dopamine evoke a strong feeling of happiness via the striatal reward system, curiosity is considered one of the most important drives and motivations. Curiosity actually gets you high in a way, according to the University of California. Thus, a person whose curiosity has been satisfied can even become somewhat addicted to the feeling of satisfied curiosity. The satisfaction of curiosity thus ultimately makes more and more curious.

Diseases & Ailments

People with pathologically reduced curiosity mainly suffer from listlessness . They feel less motivated to perform actions or live their lives. Various medical conditions can minimize curiosity. Physical causes are present, for example, in the case of dementia. As soon as the connections between the striatum and the hippocampus break down in the context of dementia, the patient’s curiosity decreases rapidly and there is a loss of motivation.

Damage to this brain network can also occur as part of other diseases. In this context, strokes should be mentioned, as well as cerebral hemorrhages caused by trauma , bacterial infections , tumors , autoimmune infections, congenital brain malformations or cerebral hypoxia .

In addition to these causes, reduced curiosity with symptomatic loss of motivation can occur in the context of depression , schizophrenia or stupor . Stupor is probably the most radical example: it is a state of rigidity that patients experience while fully conscious . The phenomenon often follows severe depression or schizophrenia.

Since some medicines and drugs affect the reward system in the striatum, a person’s curiosity and motivation can also decrease in the context of medication or addiction. Hormones also have an influence on different processes within the brain. Hormonal disorders caused by diseases of the thyroid gland or other glandular organs can also affect a person’s curiosity.

Pathological changes in curiosity and motivation must always be distinguished from physiologically low curiosity. As noted above, curiosity is likely to be formed through impulses during early childhood. The measure differs from person to person without pathological value depending on the attention impulses experienced.

Those who are exposed to deprivation in the sense of social impoverishment in early childhood, on the other hand, experience a pathological reduction in curiosity. In situations of deprivation, adolescents do not receive sufficient attention and therefore not enough impulses that would allow for physiological brain development.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.