The Human Brain : Facts and Falsities

A masterpiece of creation, the human brain has evolved to the status of an unsurpassable supercomputer. Having always been the subject of fascination, a lot has been said about the brain. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting facts and falsities surrounding this wondrous organ.

  1. The brain is about 73% water. This means that dehydration has a significant effect on brain function. Research shows that even a 2% decrease in water content of the brain is sufficient to cause altered cognition, memory and attention. Additionally it has been shown that 90 minutes of sweating can temporarily shrink the size of your brain as much as one year of aging. So remember to drink water regularly and stay hydrated at all times.
  2. The brain contains approximately 90 billion neurons, each neuron communicating through 40,000 synapses. Basically a piece of brain tissue the size of a small grain of sand would contain 100,000 neurons and a billion synapses all communicating with each other. Though this entails a massive number of neurons, it is not true as popularly thought that there are more neurons in each brain than the number of stars in the Milky Way. The Milky Way boasts around 200-400 billion stars compared to about 86 million neurons in the brain.
  3. The brain has an unlimited capacity for storage. Though being replaced by computers for previously manual tasks, it is impossible that machines could ever compete with the capacity for storage and thought that the brain has. It is however not true that at any given time we only use about 10% of our brains. In fact we use most of our brain, even while we are asleep.
  4. As time goes by our brains are shrinking and IQs decreasing. This is evident in the fact that our brains are 25% smaller than those of our ancestors from 20,000 years ago. Additionally when compared to those who lived during the Victorian era, our IQ has fallen almost 14 points on average. This has been proposed to be an effect of modern lifestyle and technology on our evolution.
  5. It isn’t the size of the brain that matters. Neanderthals had larger brains than homo-sapiens, the sperm whale has a brain that weighs 17 pounds, Albert Einstein’s brain was only 2.71 pounds compared to the average 3 pounds of the general population. It is the density of neurons that is more important in determining the mental capabilities of an individual. So bigger brains doesn’t necessarily mean smarter or better.

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