To say that the brain is a fascinating organ in the human body would be an understatement of the century. Everyone from philosophers to medical experts have spent centuries trying to figure out the secret behind the human brain and how it works, and while our knowledge has expanded immeasurably in the meantime, there are still many mysteries surrounding the main organ of the human nervous system.
As you probably already know, the brain is responsible not only for managing most of the activities our bodies perform but also processing both internal and external information it receives. It is also in charge of our cognitive abilities and emotions, including short- and long-term memory, and decision-making. Some have even argued that the brain may hold that which ultimately makes us human: the soul.
So, if you stop to think about it, how much do you actually know about your brain? Today, we’ll go over five things you might not have been familiar with when it comes to this key organ in our body, and by the time we’re done, you’ll have a bit more information on the very core of your being.
- Inside the Human Brain
While the brain and the spinal cord make up our central nervous system, the brain itself consists out of three main parts:
- The brainstem, which connects the rest of your brain with your spinal cord.
- The cerebellum, which can be found at the back of our brain and regulates our motor learning, movement, and maintains equilibrium.
- The cerebrum, which takes up the most of our skull and holds the cerebral cortex (with its left and right hemisphere). The cerebrum is also the home to a number of smaller structures which are in charge of conscious thought, memory and learning processes, communication, etc.
Brains of modern-day people are globular and made of soft tissue, which includes grey and white matter. Inside the gray and white matter are the nerve cells, small blood vessels, and non-neuronal cells (which are there to maintain neurons and brain health). The human brain also has nearly 60% of fat and high water content.
- The Mystery Behind Our Brain Power
According to a myth that’s been around for quite a while, humans use only 10% of their brains, leaving the 90% completely unexplored and potentially meant for great things. This myth suggests that if we could tap into this other 90%, we might be able to unlock some amazing brain power. Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it?
Sadly, this is just a myth and nothing more, since it’s been proven time and again that we use almost all of our brains all the time—even when we’re asleep. Naturally, the level and intensity of brain activity will differ based on what we’re doing and whether we’re asleep or not.
- The Weight of Our Brains
The size of a brain will vary depending on our body mass, age, and gender, but studies have shown that the male brain weighs 1,336 grams on average, while the female brain weighs around 1,198 grams.
Still, our brain isn’t the largest among the mammals of this world—the sperm whale, which weighs 35-45 tons, actually has the largest recorded brain. However, the human brain has the largest number of neurons (cells which are responsible for storing and transmitting information via electrical and chemical signals)—according to Brazilian neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel, this number is close to 86billion neurons.
- Left or Right Hemisphere?
No matter what a random quiz online might be telling you, there is no such thing as being left- or right-brained. Yes, our hemispheres do have different roles to play in our brains (the left is concerned more with verbal communication, while the right hemisphere is related to non-verbal communication), but they are not what determines our personalities and abilities.
In fact, research has proven that we use both the left and right hemisphere almost equally.
- The Brain and Getting Older
As we grow older, parts of our brain begin to shrink and we start (gradually) losing neurons, i.e. we experience cognitive decline. That’s why it becomes harder for us to remember things and perform more challenging tasks once we turn 60 or 70, and why we have to rely on others to help us out sometimes. Some people even experience different forms of dementia as they begin to age, including Alzheimer’s.
However, losing neurons don’t have to be the end of the world. According to Sandrine Thuret, a researcher from King’s College London in the UK, the hippocampus plays a crucial role in generating new cells in the adult brain. This process of generating neurons is called neurogenesis and as Thuret explains, an average human brain will produce about 700 new cells in the hippocampus on a daily basis.
This means that by the time we reach middle age, we will have replaced all the neurons we had at the beginning of our lives with the ones produced in our adult years.
If you know someone who’s struggling with cognitive decline or any other brain-related issue, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Best and the Neuroscience Center.
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