“We only use 10% of our brain” is a lie. A terrible, no good, very bad lie that’s been repeated ad infinitum so that even valid sources seem to think it’s true! The human brain is a lot more fascinating than that. Here are some things you probably didn’t know the brain could do:
1. It Feels No Pain
Poke it, prod it, or stab it – your brain won’t feel a thing (probably don’t stab it). It has no pain receptors, which is why patients aren’t usually put under anesthesia for brain surgery. Your head, on the other hand, can still feel pain. Hence headaches, which are caused by blood vessels and nerves in the head and neck. So while your heart may feel pain from the many, many deaths onGame of Thrones, your brain won’t – it’s kind of a monster that way.
2. It’s Pretty Fatty
No wonder zombies are a huge fan of brains. That’s where all the fatty goodness lies. Most of the brain is made of axons and all of those axons are covered by myelin, which is a fatty, insulating sheet that increases the speed of neurological signals.
3. By the age of 7, It has Grown to (Nearly) Full Size
In a way, we’re all still children on the inside. At 7, our brains have reached 95% of the size it will be for the rest of our lives. So there’s truth about having an inner child after all – except that inner child is probably your cerebellum.
4. Our Brains Have Been Shrinking
Evolution! In the past 28,000 years, our brains have been shrinking. It’s not because we’re getting dumber. Think of it like the latest laptops and cell phones. They get smaller and smaller every year but they’re becoming more and more powerful. Imagine what our brains can do when they get down to the size of a walnut! Actually…that’s not a great example, but you get the idea.
5. It Consumes the Most Energy
For one of the smallest organs in the body, the brain consumes energy like a SUV. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- 20% of total oxygen consumption
- 15% of cardiac output
- 25% of total glucose
If Limitless or Lucy were remotely accurate movies, those characters would probably be completely motionless the entire time since they’re using their brains more than their other organs. The brain needs to get more credit for what it doesn’t do consciously. Gah, stupid Hollywood science.
6. Our Behavior Can Alter the Size of the Brain
For an organ built on complicated circuitry, it’s surprisingly flexible. If we do something more often, our brain will adjust to it. Even mental illness can change your brain – people suffering from depression have a larger amygdala than normal. Just don’t think it’s silly putty. Believe me, I’ve tried.
7. It Works on a Reward-Punishment System
We are all Pavlov’s dog – even if we don’t get an external reward for it. The brain has a reward-punishment system that pushes us to accomplish our goals (usually releasing endorphins) and hurts us if we don’t (releasing some good ole adrenaline). Yeah, it’s kind of cruel but that’s the brain!
8. We Still Don’t Know A Lot About It
The brain is a mystery wrapped in an enigma served in a conundrum. There’s so much more we don’t know about. So much, in fact, that there are countless lists on the subject. At some point, it becomes more philosophical than scientific. What is consciousness? What purpose do dreams serve? Why are we here? OH NO! This list is on the edge of an existential crisis! Better end here.
Know something about the brain not listed here? Share it in the comments!