Common Misconceptions About the Brain
- BRAIN HEALTH
- Content Team
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Your brain is arguably the most important organ of your entire body. A healthy brain helps make sure that everything is functioning the way it should. That’s why it’s important that we know as much about the brain as we possibly can. Here are some common misconceptions about the brain and some mind-blowing facts that will help you better understand how it works.
Popular Misconceptions About The Brain?
There are many widely accepted ‘brain facts’ out there that are either greatly exaggerated or are simply far from the truth. The reality is that the brain is very complicated, delicate, and full of many different moving parts, each part working in unison to keep the whole machine running smoothly. There are still many things researchers need to learn about the brain and its complicities. Here are some popular misconceptions about the brain whether they be not true, or not proven by research.
1. Left Brain People vs Right Brain People
One of, if not the biggest misconception regarding the brain is that there are people who are left-brained and people who are right-brained. Many people believe that left-brain people are more analytical while right-brain people are more artistic and creative. However, there have been no scientific studies that point to this being true.
In fact, scientific studies show that there is no significant difference among people in terms of their brain dominance. Essentially, by looking at MRI scans of brain activity, both sides of the brain were more or less equal in their neural networks and connectivity. In short, there is nothing that points towards people favoring one side of the brain over the other.
2. We Only Use a Small Portion of Our Brain
There is a common belief that humans only use less than 10% of our brains on a daily basis. There’s also a common misbelief that if we were to tap into the remaining parts of our brain that we don’t use, that we would have access to some type of superpower. In fact, there have been many movies centered around this misconception.
The reality is, we use pretty much all of our brain even when we’re doing small, cursory tasks. Research does suggest that we have sufficient reserves located in our brains in case anything goes wrong. For example, people can lose a significant portion of their brains and still function normally.
3. There are Different Learning Styles
This is one of those misconceptions that may be true, but there’s not enough evidence that points towards it being true. Since a young age, we have all been taught that we each have individual learning styles. Some of us may retain information easier orally while others may retain information easier visually.
In fact, recent studies may even point in the complete opposite direction. Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine found that those who revised their learning style to match their ‘preferred style’ didn’t do any better on end of the year exams. Researchers believe the learning environment plays a much bigger role than anything else.
4. Your Cognitive Function Will Decrease as You Get Older
It used to be widely accepted by the research community that memory loss and sharp cognitive decline were just a part of the aging process. While some cognitive skills do decline while you get older, disorders such as dementia are no longer accepted as regular aging. You may experience moments when you don’t remember names or dates, but sharp memory decline isn’t common.
In fact, getting older is believed to actually have some brain benefits. Researchers believe that older people tend to have a better vocabulary and are better at differentiating between the nuances of language. Since older people have been around the block more, they are also better judges of character and know-how to deal with conflict better.
5. Men and Women Learn Differently
Another stereotype is that men and women learn differently and retain information differently. Any assumptions made about how men and women learn differently are based on lazy observation. While men do have larger brains, it is only larger because men’s bodies are larger.
As of right now, we do not have enough research to make any definitive judgment when it comes to how men and women learn. No research has found any significant gender-specific differences in how our neurons connect to each other, or in how male and female brains function.
6. There are Five Senses
Our whole lives we have been taught that we only have five different senses - our sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. The reality is much more complicated for that. Some researchers and experts believe that there are 21 different ways that we sense things.
For example, we think that touching is a single sense, however, touching includes several different senses such as our perception of pressure, heat, and pain. Another example is proprioception, which is the sense of where our bodies are and the position that we are in. There are also some interoceptive senses which are balance, hunger, and thirst.
7. Alcohol is Bad for Your Brain Cells
While it’s not necessarily untrue that alcohol consumption could potentially kill brain cells, what we have been told about how much alcohol is required is where the misconceptions lie. Too much alcohol may make us slur our words or even blackout, sure. But the amount of alcohol required to kill brain cells would actually poison the person drinking it.
Too much alcohol can impact the brain in other ways, however. It can damage the ends of neurons, called dendrites, which makes it harder for them to send messages between one another.
8. Brain Damage is Permanent
This misconception requires an asterisk next to it. Yes, severe head trauma can lead to brain injuries that have a lasting impact on our cognitive function, behavior, brain capacity, and overall well being. However, it is no longer accepted that the brain can not repair itself after suffering severe damage.
In the past, researchers believed that we only had a finite number of brain cells and you could never grow any more. Now, we know that the brain is relatively ‘plastic’ and can generate new cells. It can also repair itself or recruit other parts of the brain to help out with different functions if the damage is irreparable.
9. We Know What Makes us Happy or Sad
The reality of our brain is, we often simply have no idea what’s going on up there. We like to think that we know what will make us happy or what will make us sad. In reality, we have no control over what scenarios and experiences make us happy or sad at the moment.
Recent studies have found that we overestimate how happy social and leisure activities will make us. We also overestimate how sad and miserable things like going to work on Monday morning will make us. It turns out that our brains are more resilient than we think. While you will never be able to predict the grief and despair you feel when you lose someone close to you, those feelings may not last as long as people expect.
10. Listening to Certain Music Will Make You Smart
We have all at some point heard our parents or teachers tell us that listening to Mozart or Bach will make us smarter. There was a study published in the 1990s that found that if students at the University of California at Irvine listened to 10 minutes of Mozart before taking an IQ test, they improved their scores by eight points. This was known as the ‘Mozart effect’.
Since then, however, this study has become widely controversial. Researchers say the students didn't get any smarter, they just got better at certain tasks. Also, no other scientists have been able to replicate the results.
What Are The Most Mind-Blowing Facts About The Brain?
Now that we have established some of the common misconceptions regarding our brains, what are some of the interesting facts about the brain and learning? Learning more about our brains can help us properly take care of it. Here are some researched backed facts about our brains:
1. The Human Brain isn’t Fully Mature Until the Age 25
In the United States, you become a legal adult the moment that you turn 18-years old. This means you can join the military, you can legally gamble, you can purchase cigarettes, and you can enjoy mature content without parental supervision. However, researchers believe that your brain isn’t fully matured until you reach 25 years old.
Recent studies suggest that people younger than 25 often process information with a part of their brain called the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in managing emotions. Conversely, people over 25 tend to use their prefrontal cortex, which is the seat of rational decision-making and judgment. Researchers believe that the important connections between these two areas of the brain aren’t fully formed until our mid-twenties.
2. Our Brains Have Shrunk Over Time
Researchers believe that our brains shrink moderately as we get older. However, studies have also shown that the human brain has shrunk over time due to evolution. It is believed that human brains have actually lost about 150 cubic centimeters, about the size of a tennis ball, over the past 20,000 years.
Researchers are unsure as to why our brains are getting smaller. Some believe that as our bodies and nervous systems became smaller, our brains sized down to match. Others believe that the shift has more to do with lifestyle and habitat changes. This reduction in size has not impacted cognitive function or intelligence.
3. The Brain Can’t Feel Pain
It is believed that there are no pain receptors located in the brain itself, meaning the brain can’t actually feel pain. At least not in the way that your skin or muscles can. This can be confusing because the brain is the organ we use to detect and interpret pain.
In fact, neurosurgeons don’t apply anesthesia to the brain during surgery, and patients are often allowed to be awake. However, there are pain receptors on your scalp, as well as on the coverings around your skull and brain. This is why being hit on the head may cause pain.
4. Extreme Dieting Can Cause Your Brain to Eat Itself
Diet fads come and go, each new fad promising to help you lose weight faster than the previous fad. However, extreme dieting can actually cause your brain to eat itself. That’s because not eating enough can trigger something called starvation-induced autophagy in the brain.
Essentially, brain cells that aren't getting enough energy from food begin to eat themselves in order to release fatty acids. When that happens, the report suggested that the brain cranks up hunger signals that boost appetite and the desire to eat. While autophagy is generally an important process to keep the brain running smoothly, long-term malnutrition could have a negative impact on the brain.
5. Brain Activity is Unique
Your brain activity is as unique to you as a fingerprint is. In fact, scientists have been able to identify individual people by looking at their brains. Understanding this can help in numerous different ways.
By examining the brain activity of more than 100 people, researchers discovered that a person's brain activity is as unique as a fingerprint. In the future, this information could be used to tailor neurological care to each patient.
How To Improve Memory Retention
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about your brain that we failed to mention earlier is that it’s impossible to improve your memory. In reality, there are a number of strategies you can utilize to get more out of your memory. Here are some of the things you can do to improve your memory retention:
- Focus your attention - In order for information to move from your short-term memory into your long-term memory, you need to actively attend to this information
- Avoid Cramming - Research has continuously shown that students who study regularly remember the material far better than those who do all of their studying in one marathon session
- Organize - Researchers have found that information is organized in memory in related clusters. You can take advantage of this by structuring and organizing the materials you're studying
- Relate New Information to Things You Already Know - By establishing relationships between new ideas and previously existing memories, you can dramatically increase the likelihood of recalling the recently learned information
- Pay extra attention to difficult information - While recalling middle information can be difficult, you can overcome this problem by spending extra time rehearsing this information. Another strategy is to try restructuring what you have learned so it will be easier to remember
Whether it be trying to improve your study habits or simply trying to improve your memory, implementing these strategies can help.
Supplements Can Help
Taking care of your body with a proper diet, exercise routine, and supplement regimen can help you increase your longevity. Supplements, such as a spermidine supplement, can help you live a longer life by inducing autophagy throughout your body. Autophagy is the body’s process of replacing older, potentially damaged cell parts, with newer healthier ones.
This process becomes increasingly important as you get older and your cells become more and more worn down. Supplements can be beneficial because it can be difficult to get your recommended daily intake of spermidine through your diet alone. By taking a spermidine capsule with your dinner, you ensure that you always get your daily dose of spermidine.