There are a lot of myths and misinformation about the brain that pass as brain facts. The study of the human brain is one of the least explored areas in science and even experts agree that there is more we don’t know about the brain than we currently do know.
These brain facts dispel many brain myths based on outdated knowledge. Learn how the brain works, for better. All facts cite original references.
I’ll keep updating it in the future, but for now, here are 20 fascinating brain facts, all backed by the latest science.
- The typical brain comprises about 2% of the body’s total weight, but uses 20% of its total energy and oxygen intake.
- Your brain weighs about three pounds. Sixty percent of the dry weight is fat, making the brain the fattiest organ in the body.
- Your brain can process an image that your eyes have seen for as little as 13 milliseconds — less time than it takes for you to blink.
- In general, men’s brains are 10% bigger than women’s, even after taking into account larger body size. However, the hippocampus, the part of the brain most strongly linked with memory, is typically larger in women.
- Neanderthal brains were 10% larger than our Homo sapiens brains.
- While humans have the largest brains proportional to body weight of all animals, we don’t have the biggest brains. That distinction belongs to sperm whales with 17-pound brains.
- The modern diet is low in omega-3essential fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3s result in brain shrinkage equivalent to two years of structural brain aging.
- Technology has forced most of us to be prodigious multitaskers. But your brain can’t learn or concentrate on two things at once. What it cando is quickly toggle back and forth between tasks. But doing so decreases your attention span, ability to learn, short-term memory, and overall mental performance.
- Unexpectedly, millennial (aged 18 to 34) are more forgetful than baby boomers. They are more likely to forget what day it is or where they put their keys than their parents!
- Brain cells cannibalize themselves as a last ditch source of energy to ward off starvation. So, in very real ways, dieting, especially low-fat diets, can force your brain to eat itself.
- There is no such thing as a left-brain or right-brainpersonality/skill type. We are not left-brained or right-brained; we are “whole-brained.”
- The “Mozart effect” has been debunked. While listening to certain kinds of music can improve memory and concentration, there’s nothing unique about listening to Mozart.
- Until recently, it was a “fact” that you were born with a set level of intelligence and number of brain cells. But it has since been discovered that your brain has the capacity to change throughout your lifetime due to a property known as brain plasticity. The brain can continue to form new brain cells via a process known as neurogenesis.
- Contrary to the prevailing medical belief, having high total cholesterol is not bad for your brain. (See #5) In fact, high cholesterol actually reduces your risk of dementia.
- Memory is better thought of as an activity rather than being associated with a specific area of the brain. Any given memory is deconstructed and distributed in different parts of the brain. Then, for the memory to be recalled, it gets reconstructed from the individual fragments.
- Your 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. An extreme case is vocabulary skills which may peak as late as the early 70s!
- The human brain is extraordinarily complex and consequently can go awry in some spectacular ways. Some of the strangest disorders include exploding head syndrome disorder (hearing phantom explosions in your head), Capris syndrome (thinking loved ones have been substituted by impostors, robots or aliens), and Coward’s syndrome (believing you are dead).
- Brain cells need a constant supply of fuel to stay alive, yet they lack the ability to store energy. Fortunately, there’s a backup system. Your liver breaks down stored fat to produce ketone bodies that can be used as a substitute fuel when commonly-used blood glucose is not available.
- Some scientists believe zombies could actually be created. They think it’s possible that a mutated virus or parasites could attack the brain and rapidly spread throughout large populations, essentially causing a “zombie apocalypse.”
- Few facts about the brain are as strange as the posthumous story of Albert Einstein’s brain. The pathologist who performed Einstein’s autopsy kept the brain in a jar in his basement for 40 years.