14 Mind-Blowing Facts About Brains

This is your brain on... awesome!

As Hippocrates put it, "Men ought to know that from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations.” Basically, that mass in your skull is directly responsible for all of your amazing ideas, dumb decisions, embarrassing crushes, and weird dreams. For lack of a better term, brains are mind-blowing. 

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Pain is in Your Brain

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The reason why it hurts so bad when you stub your toe is because the nerves in your toe send a signal throughout your body’s nervous system and into your brain. Instantly screaming for mercy, wincing your face, and limping off is all of your brain's doing.  

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Video Games Put Your Brain on Overdrive

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When your in the middle of a game of Halo, your brain is working REALLY hard to shoot the battle rifle, aim at aliens, and move through the virtual landscape. All of that stimulus and concentration is putting your brain in high gear, which makes it difficult to unwind and fall asleep afterward. The same intensity also happens with tougher (less fun) subjects, like calculus homework. 

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Your Brain Lies to You

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Ever felt absolutely positive that you put your cell phone in your pocket, only to later realize you left it on your desk? This is a false memory.

Elizabeth Loftus, a groundbreaking memory researcher, proved that memories can easily become distorted overtime, which has profoundly affected how eyewitnesses are treated in court.  

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Your Brain is Wide Awake While You’re Asleep

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A person’s body becomes most relaxed as they slip into the deepest stage of sleep. However, this stage, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is also when the brain becomes most active and experiences dreams. Pretty crazy paradox, huh? 

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A Sleep-Deprived Brain is Dumb

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When you sleep, you’re giving your brain a chance to recover. Research has discovered that the brain performs housekeeping duties while asleep.

Even one night with not enough sleep can affect how efficiently your brain works. Problem-solving skills become slower, concentration weakens, memory declines, and your brain physically shrinks! 

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Young Brains Can’t Hold Their Liquor

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Research at Duke University has shown that younger rats exposed to alcohol levels similar to binge drinking exhibited more memory loss compared to adult rats. The doctors working on the study believe   is more vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol than the adult brain.” Young brains are considered still under development and excessive alcohol can stilt the progress.  

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Brains Need Food

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Nutrients in certain foods can help your brain perform better. Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants found in acai berries and salmon help your brain function more effectively. Choline found in eggs help you remember more clearly and there’s just enough caffeine in dark chocolate to improve your focus. 

However, be careful not to overdo it on the coffee. "While people who use a lot of caffeine every day , it may be that they are simply counteracting the effects of caffeine addiction -- so by taking more caffeine, they are getting closer to what their performance would be if they weren't addicted to caffeine in the first place.”

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Exercise and the Brain

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Regular exercise can help grow neurological pathways. Researchers at the Salk Institute noticed that mice who ran several miles each night had more brain cell growth in the hippocampus than those that did not. They also performed better on memory tests. The discovery was groundbreaking since it was previously believed adults rarely, if ever, generated new brain cells. These findings and more have since been proven in multiple studies with humans.

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Your Brain Remembers For Your Muscles

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Motor skills, like riding a bike, are learned through repetition, which builds strong neurological connections in the brain. As you repeat the skill more, less focused attention is required. It may seem that your muscles take over and you begin to just “go through the motions,” but this is an example of how high functioning your brain is.

However, this could also work as a disadvantage if you ever need to unlearn something. For example, if you learned to play guitar with poor technique, it becomes increasingly difficult to unlearn and change your technique later on.  

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Your Brain Needs Training

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Elderly subjects regularly participating in brain training (challenges that tested their reasoning, processing-speed, and memory) were able to perform other daily activities more effectively, like recalling a grocery list. In fact, 5 years after the brain training challenge was completed, they were still displaying more cognitive ability than the test subjects who did not receive training. It seems the old adage "use it or lose it" is true after all. 

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Brain in Love

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The shape of a brain really doesn’t work well on Valentine’s Day cards, so somehow the heart became the symbol of love. Make no mistake, though, you don’t love anything from the bottom of your heart. You actually love with all of your mind, which is pretty similar to being high on cocaine.

A series of different chemicals flush the brain that are associated with perceived rewards. Also, serotonin levels drop very low, which is seen in people with obsessive compulsive disorder. When you're in love you're actually obsessed, addicted, and unreasonably happy.  

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Your Brain Tries Really Hard to Pay Attention

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Ever feel like someone just isn’t paying attention to you? Their brain might be actively tuning you out using selective attention. When people choose to focus on one particular task, the different regions of the brain are synced on a common purpose.

Additionally, the brain is actively tuning out all the extra stimuli in a person’s environment that doesn’t serve that purpose. The classic example is a husband very focused on the football game on television, who barely notices his wife talking about her day.  

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Your Brain is Also Lazy

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If your brain knows a shortcut, it’s going to take it. This is known as availability heuristics and it’s mostly a good thing. Brain shortcuts allow you to make quick decisions based on past experiences (without actually actively remembering).

However, sometimes those shortcuts leave you in the wrong place. For example, after being exposed to frequent news reports about bank robberies, you might incorrectly assume that your bank is next to get held up.  

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You Use Your Whole Brain

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Let’s put a few myths to rest. There’s no such thing as right-brain or left-brain dominance. Both sides of the brain work together to perform all tasks, whether those are creative (mistakenly consider right-brain territory) or analytical (incorrectly regarded as left-brain territory).

Furthermore, for your brain to do all of the amazing things listed previously, it uses 100% of its power, not just 10%.  So even though , the sci-fi movie about a woman who gains superpowers because she uses 100% of her brain, was very entertaining... it wasn’t at all accurate. 

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Sanchez, Lindsay. "14 Mind-Blowing Facts About Brains." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2016, thoughtco.com/mind-blowing-facts-about-brains-3023199. Sanchez, Lindsay. (2016, September 8). 14 Mind-Blowing Facts About Brains. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/mind-blowing-facts-about-brains-3023199 Sanchez, Lindsay. "14 Mind-Blowing Facts About Brains." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/mind-blowing-facts-about-brains-3023199 (accessed December 12, 2017).