Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Monday, April 1, 2013

5 Myths and Facts about the Brain

The human brain is our most complex organ but we understand so little about it!

Our lack of knowledge doesn't stop us from suspecting that we know things that might not have basis in fact. In addition, it doesn't stop us from repeating things that we think of as "common knowledge" without investigating whether or not they are accurate.  This is why I like to take a step back now and then and examine some of these commonly held beliefs and see what I can find out.

Below are five statements about the brain.  Can you tell which ones can be proven and which ones can't?

1. We only use 10% of our brain.  People who want us to believe in supernatural abilities often say something along these lines and then suggest that the rest of the brain is there to be used for psychic powers or other such rubbish. This statement is a myth and no one is exactly sure where it came from but there is no scientific evidence to back it up. What we do know is that damage to even a small portion of the brain -such as occurs during a stroke - can be devastating to an individual so this cannot be accurate.

2. Getting hit on the head can cause amnesia.  This is part of a standard soap opera plot.  A character gets hit on the head and suddenly doesn't remember who anyone is!  The truth is that amnesia can be caused by disease, psychological trauma and even physical trauma.  Surprise! There might be a bit of truth in this one. Most of the time amnesia is temporary, however, and you don't "cure" anyone by hitting them on the head again.

3. Our brains are gray. Yes, I know we refer to "gray matter" and if you've seen a brain preserved in formaldehyde it looks grayish but the brain isn't all gray.  The brain is actually white, black, red and gray.

4. The average human brain weighs just under 3 pounds.  This is actually true!  I don't know about you, but that surprised me a little. I didn't realize it was that heavy. Humans don't have the largest brain in the world, however.  We do have the largest in relation to our body mass, though, and that seems to be the key when you are trying to determine the intelligence of a particular animal.

5. Listening to classical music can make you smarter. Nope.  I'm afraid not. There is no scientific proof that listening to Mozart - or any other composer's music - increases your intelligence. Yes, there was a study that seemed to suggest that this is true but it has been debunked.

Image obtained here

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