21 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Brain
The human brain is a fascinating, complex mystery. For centuries, scientists and philosophers have been intrigued by the brain and, until recently, considered the brain nearly incomprehensible.
Now, the brain is revealing many of its deep, dark secrets. Scientists have learned more about the brain in the last 10 years than in all previous centuries, mostly because of warp-speed research.
The brain is the center of intelligence. It’s the interpreter of the senses, the trigger of body movements, and the control center of behavior. The human brain with all its complexity acts like a storage device which safety holds a person’s most cherished memories. A person’s personality is unarguably influenced by the brain, as well as generations of human consciousness. It’s what gives gives a person passion, motion and emotion. The brain is a command center for the central nervous system, and it imbues us with our physical and cognitive abilities.
Here are 21 things you didn’t know about your brain:
1. It Can’t Feel Pain
The human brain is the only organ in the human body that lacks nerves, despite that it acts as the central command for the central nervous system. The human brain feels no pain, which is why patients are often kept fully awake during brain surgeries.
2. It’s an Energy Hog
The human brain consumes the largest portion of the total energy that is generated by the human body. The brain consumes 20 percent of our energy despite the fact that it only represents 2 percent of the body’s total weight. The energy is vital for maintaining healthy brain cells and fueling nerve impulses.
3. It’s Surprisingly Squishy
The human brain is not solid. It is soft and squishy, similar to the consistency of soft tofu or soft gelatin. And it’s very fragile.
It makes sense that it’s so squishy — the brain is 73 percent water. It takes only 2 percent dehydration to affect the brain’s attention, memory and other cognitive skills. The brain weighs about three pounds. Of that, the dry weight is 60 percent fat, making the brain the body’s undisputedly fattiest organ – and explaining some of the squishiness.
4. It Can Shrink
It’s a scary thought, but unfortunately it’s true: science-of-the-brain facts and figures show that just ninety minutes of sweating can temporarily shrink the brain as much as one year of aging. Stay hydrated!
5. It Craves Cholesterol
Cholesterol is vital for the brain. More than 25 percent of the body’s cholesterol is stored in the brain. Contrary to our negative perception of cholesterol, this substance is an integral part of every brain cell.
High total cholesterol is not bad for the brain. In fact, it actually reduces your risk of dementia. Bottom line: without adequate cholesterol, brain cells die. Just make sure you’re consuming the good kind of cholesterol and you’ll keep your body in tip-top shape.
6. Your Brain Creates Emotions
The brain is in charge of emotions! From the heartache you feel after a breakup to the anxiety that plagues you before a job interview, a lot is going on inside your head, whether you know it or not.
Your brain and its complex processes are even manipulating your emotions. Your brain is affecting how you feel and how you respond to situations in ways you’re probably not even aware of. For example, have you ever felt inexplicably angry and then realized you were actually just hungry? You can thank your brain for that – and thank someone else’s brain for coming up with the term “hangry” to describe this common phenomenon.
7. It Needs Oxygen. Like, Real Bad.
For the brain, oxygen is a vital matter of life or death. Anoxic brain damage is brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen supply. Without oxygen, brain cells will start to die after four to six minutes.
8. It’s Really Busy While You’re Asleep
Sleeping is considered the most ideal time for the brain. Sleep has been shown to boost the connections between nerve cells in the brain. This process is believed to support the basis of memory and learning.
In recent scientific studies, it has been shown that the brain consolidates all the learned memories from the whole day while you’re asleep. That’s why it’s more than a myth or an ‘old wives tale’ that a good night’s sleep is important. It helps the brain process all those memories and integrate them into your overall sense of self.
9. Your Brain Sucks at Multitasking
Multi-tasking is a popular but much-exaggerated myth. It can’t be done! It is NOT efficient!
No matter what manufacturers of smartphones want you to believe, it’s been proven over and over again that multitasking makes you less productive. When you multitask, your brain simply rapidly toggles back and forth between tasks. This results in decreases in attention span, learning, performance, and short-term memory.
According to a study done by the University of Utah, there are very few people (less than three percent of the population) who can do two things at once without experiencing a noticeable drop in their quality of performance. Bonus Fact: brain researchers refer to them as “super-taskers,” not multi-taskers.
10. It Loves Seafood
Lots of people make exciting claims about so-called “brain food.” Unfortunately, most of these claims are wildly exaggerated.
However, research has shown that seafood really is the most effective food for upping your brain’s performance. Experts have found that the fatty acids in seafood and fish can improve memory function by about 15 percent. Many scientists are stressing the significance of a seafood-rich diet for keeping optimal brain health and preventing the occurrence of dementia.
11. Laughing and Yawning Are Good for the Brain
Laughing at a joke is no laughing matter when it comes to the brain. Would you believe that such a seemingly natural response requires activity in five different areas of the brain?
What you’ve heard is true: Yawns are contagious. Scientists believe it may be a response to an ancient social behavior for communication that humans still have. Yawning is also the body’s way of cooling down an overheated brain. When your brain doesn’t receive the appropriate amount of oxygen, the yawn is the brain’s way of getting more.
12. Your Brain Is Constantly Changing
Babies have big heads to hold their rapidly growing brains. Surprising for many, a 2-year-old’s brain is already 80 percent of an adult-size brain.
That said, teen brains are not fully formed. (Despite what they’ll tell you.) It isn’t until about age 25 that the human brain reaches full maturity.
And the research is clear: the brain starts slowing down at the ripe old age of 24, but peaks for different cognitive skills at different ages. In fact, at any given age, you’re likely getting better at some things and worse at others.
13. It’s a Speed Demon
Brain information moves anywhere between 1 mph and an impressive 268 miles per hour. This is faster than Formula 1 race cars, which top out at 240 mph.
14. You Really Are Bright After All!
Electrical circuits and electrical current are vital for the brain. The brain actually generates about 12-25 watts of electricity. This is enough to power a low wattage LED light.
15. Your Brain Makes a Lot of Thoughts. Most of Them Are Bad.
Scientists have shown that the average brain generates around 50,000 thoughts per day.
Impressive as that may sound, we have to temper it with a bit of bad news – which, as it turns out, is in our nature. Brain research shows that, in most people, 70 percent of our thoughts are negative. Bummer.
16. It’s Not the Size That Counts – It’s the Density of the Neurons
According to social legend, size matters! Not so with brains. When it comes to the brain, bigger doesn’t always mean better or smarter. Albert Einstein’s brain weighed 2.71 pounds— 10 percent smaller than the average 3-pound human brain. However, the neuron density of his brain was greater than average.
It makes sense, considering humans don’t have the biggest brains. Sperm whales have 17-pound brains and you don’t see them winning any Nobel prizes.
17. Men Have Bigger Brains
In general, men’s brains are 10 percent bigger than women’s, even after taking into account their larger average body size. But, as we just discussed, size doesn’t matter.
18. Your Brain Can’t Run Out of Space
Some people compare the brain to a computer. Nice thought but, not even close. The brain’s storage capacity is considered virtually unlimited. It does not get “used up” like disk space in your computer.
19. If You’re a Millennial, You May Be More Forgetful
Surprisingly, millennials (aged 18 to 34) are more forgetful than baby boomers. Blame brain functions! They are more likely to forget what day it is or where they put their keys than their parents are.
20. Your Attention Span Isn’t What It Used to Be
Our attention spans are getting shorter. In 2000, the average adult attention span was 12 seconds. Now it’s 8 seconds.
Wait, what are we talking about? Oh, right, the last brain fact…
21. Your Wires Are Crossed
For some as-yet-unknown reason, nearly all the signals from the brain to the body and vice-versa cross over on their way to and from the brain. This means that the right side primarily controls the left side of the body and the left side primarily controls the right side. When one side of the brain is damaged, the opposite side of the body is affected.