The Strange Brain of the World’s Greatest Solo Climber

There is a guy named Alex Honnold, he free solo climbs mountains and his brain is not wired like ours. J.B. MacKinnon for Nautilus:

Honnold is history’s greatest ever climber in the free solo style, meaning he ascends without a rope or protective equipment of any kind. Above about 50 feet, any fall would likely be lethal, which means that, on epic days of soloing, he might spend 12 or more hours in the Death Zone. On the hardest parts of some climbing routes, his fingers will have no more contact with the rock than most people have with the touchscreens of their phones, while his toes press down on edges as thin as sticks of gum. Just watching a video of Honnold climbing will trigger some degree of vertigo, heart palpitations, or nausea in most people, and that’s if they can watch them at all. Even Honnold has said that his palms sweat when he watches himself on film.

So obviously, they put his brain through an fMRI and: 

‘Maybe his amygdala is not firing—he’s having no internal reactions to these stimuli,’ says Joseph. ‘But it could be the case that he has such a well-honed regulatory system that he can say, ‘OK, I’m feeling all this stuff, my amygdala is going off,’ but his frontal cortex is just so powerful that it can calm him down.’

The article is interesting throughout.