FASCINATING FACTS: 23 Facts About The Brain

The brain is an astounding organ of human body and always baffled scientists with its complexity. It has been evolving from millions of years, so it’s no wonder that there are so many awesome facts about the brain that we know, and so much about it we don’t. If you have a keen interest in neurobiology and psychology (and everyone should), these facts are a must-read.

1. While we sleep, cerebral spinal fluid flows through the brain on the outside of blood vessels, and removes brain cell waste in the process. This includes removing amyloid beta protein, which is associated with Alzheimer’s.

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Sleep deprivation also has a number of negative effects and can impair judgment and slow reaction times. (source)

2. Our brain’s continue developing into our late 40’s.

Brain scans have demonstrated that the prefrontal cortex continues to change shape into our 30’s and 40’s and plays a role in decision making, social interaction, and a variety of other personality traits. As a side note, we have more brain cells as a newborn baby than we will ever have again.(source)

3. Music is one of very few activities that makes use of the entire brain.

A study led by Dr. Vinoo Alluri from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland reveals how wide networks in the brain are activated while we listen to music. This includes the areas responsible for motor actions, emotions and creativity.(source)

4. Our brains actually have a negativity bias and will remember bad memories more often than good ones.

Research has shown that (even of equal intensity) experiences of a negative nature will have a greater effect on our psychological state and processes than neutral or positive experiences. There are many possible explanations and reasons for this, although perhaps by remembering more negative experiences we can learn from them and adapt.(source)

5. The brain uses 20% of the total oxygen and blood in our bodies.

Despite the brain’s relatively small size compared to the rest of our body (usually 2% of our total body weight), it accounts for 20% of the oxygen and calories consumed by the body. Perhaps this gives a more literal meaning to the phrase “food for thought”.(source)

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Known as the “creative peak” by researchers at the University of Illinois, research has demonstrated that the average man produces the most creative thinking with an alcohol level of 0.075%. To capitalize on this new found information, creative advertising agency CP+B Copenhagen have developed a beer called The Problem Solver which will help people reach the magical alcohol level precisely.(source)

7. Studies have proven that months of exposure to stress can destroy neurons in the brain permanently, which affects learning, memory, reasoning and impulse control.

Stress literally kills your brain, in addition to having severely negative effects on the rest of your body. When you’re stressed, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol which can kill, shrink and stop the generation of new neurons in the part of the brain called the hippocampus. Next time you feel stressed out, reading can reduce stress by 68% – more than listening to music or taking a walk.(source)

8. After just 8 weeks of meditation, the amygdala, which is associated with emotion and fear, shrinks. Additionally, the pre-frontal cortex associated with concentration, awareness and decision making becomes thicker.

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It has long been accepted that there are a variety of health benefits (both biological and psychological) associated with meditation. However, recent MRI scans after an 8 week course of meditation has shown tangible evidence. The scale of the changes in the areas of the brain correlate directly with the number of hours of meditation practice.(source)

9. 60% of your Brain is Fat.

As the fact says, 60% of your brain is fat and as such, it needs a certain amount of fatty fuel to keep it functioning optimally. Try adding natural sources of omega-3’s to your diet, such as fish, seeds and nuts.(source)

10. Scientists say that dieting could force your brain to eat itself!

As with other parts of the body, people who are in a caloric deficit will find that the body will start to consume brain cells as a final source of energy to prevent starvation.(source)

11. The amygdala is a part of the brain that controls fear, and without it you’d be fearless.

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As early back as the 1930’s, scientists discovered that when the amygdala was removed from the brains of monkeys, they became fearless and would approach snakes and play with them. This has led to many experiments, with recent studies confirming the same happens in humans. There is one case which involves a lady with a rare condition called “lipoid proteinosis” with holes where her amygdala normally is. She has no fear at all which has put her in danger at least once when she walked through a park late at night and got attacked. She walked through the same park the next day as well.(source)

12. Video games are more effective at overcoming depression than counseling for teenagers.

Much to the detriment of the older generation and “naysayers”, a study back in 2012 demonstrated that video games are as effective (in this case a specially designed fantasy game), if not better, than normal counselling.(source)

13. The largest artificial neural network currently only has 11 billion connections, whereas the human neural network has close to 100 trillion connections.

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An initiative announced by President Obama back in 2012 is currently attempting to map the entire human brain. It’s called BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). Sadly it still has a long way to go. The human brain is composed of about 100 billion neurons in addition to a trillion glial cells. New brain connections are also created every time you form a Memory.(source)

14. A blackout while drinking isn’t because you forgot what happened, but rather your brain temporarily lost the ability to create memories.

Alcohol is known to interfere with receptors in the hippocampus that transmit glutamate (a compound that carries signals between neurons). It’s during this interference that some receptors stop working, while others are activated. This causes neurons to create steroids that prevent neurons from communicating properly – which in turn disrupts long-term potentiation which is a process believed necessary for memory.(source)

15. Studies have shown that long term use of mobile phones significantly increases the risk of brain tumors developing.

Back in 2009, a study of 12,800 people in 13 countries by the World Health Organization found that people who used mobile phones for more than a decade had a much higher risk of developing certain kinds of brain tumours.(source)

16. Half our brains can be removed during surgery with no apparent effect on memory or personality.

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The operation is called a “Hemispherectomy” and involves removing half the brain with little effect to a person’s memory or personality. It’s usually a last resort for people who suffer from serious brain disorders. The main down side is that the person loses sight and function on the opposite side of the body to the hemisphere that is removed.(source)

17. After the discovery of a variety of brain parasites, scientists actually believe a Zombie Apocalypse is possible.

Known as the “Zombie Project”, scientists have been looking at ways that parasites and neurotoxins could lead the human race toward insanity. It was even published in multiple medical journals.(source)

18. Taking a nap after you learn something new will help you retain it better.

A study performed by researchers in New York demonstrated that taking a nap either immediately after, or after a certain period of learning something new, actually helps retain information better compared to those who didn’t take a nap.(source)

19. Learning complex tasks such as mastering Kung-Fu or the piano with little to no conscious effort  just like in “The Matrix” is actually feasible.

Scientists from Boston University and Japan’s ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have demonstrated through experiments that via a person’s visual cortex, decoded fMRI (functional MRI neurofeedback) can be used to impart brain activity patterns that match a previously known target state. The study interestingly showed, that behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed improved performance of the relevant visual tasks especially when the test subjects were unaware of the nature of what they were learning.(source)

20. Depending on how deep a thinker a person is, the human brain produces as many as 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day.

The National Science Foundation estimate that our brains have the ability to produce 12,000 to 50,000 (some reports suggest higher) thoughts on any given day. Unfortunately, the majority of these thoughts aren’t overly productive – usually involving dwelling on the past or the future, and obsessing over mistakes etc.(source)

21. Chewing gum has been proven to help a person’s brain run more efficiently and effectively.

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Studies have shown that chewing gum has a number of benefits and can increase blood flow to the brain and help people to concentrate better, wake up quicker, and pay more attention.(source)

22. Falling in love affects your body on a biological level – by raising levels of nerve growth factor, a protein vital to the maintenance of the central nervous system.

A study in 2005 by the University of Pavia found that nerve growth factor (NGF) levels are high in people who first fall in love, which may also contribute to longevity and mental capacity. However, levels usually return to normal after a year.(source)

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23. In the hope of understanding more about consciousness (and just because they want to), scientists are attempting to create a synthetic brain by reverse-engineering the mammalian brain down to the molecular level. A cellular brain is predicted to be possible by 2023.

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