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“Neuroscience is by far the most exciting branch of science because the brain is the most fascinating object in the universe. Every human brain is different – the brain makes each human unique and defines who he or she is.” – Stanley B. Prusiner.

Here are our favorite 40 facts about the human brain!

40. Greedy little brains.

Your brain accounts for only 2% of your body weight, yet it uses 20% of the total oxygen and blood in your body.

39. Keep the fuel coming, or else.

Lack of oxygen in the brain for 5 to 10 minutes results in permanent brain damage.

38. Just wait until your brain develops…

Your brain keeps developing until your late 40s.

37. Gulp.

There’s a virus that attacks human DNA and makes people less intelligent by impairing brain activity, learning and memory. Prior to 2014, the virus, known as ATCV-1, was thought to only infect algae in lakes and rivers.

Chlorovirus AVTC-1.

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36. Brain-powered light bulbs.

When awake, the brain produces enough electricity to power a small light bulb. A typical adult human brain runs on around 12 watts per hour. Given it’s processing power, that’s actually not that much juice. IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer that defeated Jeopardy! champions, depends on ninety IBM Power 750 servers, each of which requires around one thousand watts.

35. Trauma.

Violent homes have the same effect on children’s brains as combat on soldiers. For both soldiers and children from violent homes, the anterior insula and amygdala have heightened sensitivity to perceived threats. Also, both groups are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety disorders.

34. Yummy.

You have taste receptors in the stomach, intestines, pancreas, lungs, anus, testicles, and brain. These non-oral taste receptors don’t come close to the tasting power of your tongue, so you probably won’t be tasting your toilet paper. Interestingly, scientists discovered that taking away male rat’s testicular taste receptors rendered them permanently sterile. So we’ve learned that somehow these ball sweat tasters have a reproductive role… we just don’t know why.

33. Brain hoarding.

The pathologist (Thomas Harvey) who made Einstein body’s autopsy stole his brain and kept it in jars for 20 years. Dr. Harvey performed an autopsy on Einstein and removed Einstein’s brain. He then cut the brain into 240 pieces. He was very protective of the brain, and although he did give several pieces to various researchers.

Analysis showed that regions of Einstein’s brain involved in speech and language were smaller, while regions involved with numerical and spatial processing were larger. He also had a n increased number of glial cells.

32. Human brain pad Thai, anyone?

The human brain has the same consistency as tofu. It has also been compared to custard and gelatin.

31. Zen chocolate.

The smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves that trigger relaxation. Theta brain waves are the brain state of REM sleep (dreams), hypnosis, lucid dreaming, and the barely conscious state just before sleeping and just after waking.

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30. Revenge makes you happy.

People plotting revenge experience heightened activity in the brain’s reward center.

29. The brain and smoking.

With every drag of a cigarette, even if you’re not really enjoying it, nicotine courses through your blood to the brain. Your brain thinks something great has happened and releases dopamine – an important neurotransmitter that basically tells your brain “that was EPIC, let’s do it again!”

This positively reinforces cigarette smoking and is one of the primary causes of nicotine dependence.

Smoker’s brain during first months of abstinence.

28. Don’t forget that forgetting is good.

Forgetting is good for the brain: deleting unnecessary information helps the nervous system retain its plasticity. Neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life, is pretty darn important. It allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in the environment.

 

27. I think I learned this while drunk, but I can’t recall.

Alcohol doesn’t make you forget things. When you get blackout drunk, it makes the brain temporarily lose the ability to create memories.

26. Cellphones.

A study found that long-term mobile phone use significantly increases the risk of brain tumours.

For those that want to dive into the details, The National Toxicology Program (NTP) just concluded a massive 2-year study investigating the potential health hazards of cellphone use on rats and mice. For rats and mice exposed to cellphone frequencies, The NTP found 3-4% increases the incidence of malignant gliomas of the brain. What make these studies even more significant are the findings of similar tumors in humans. And the fact that humans are exposing themselves to cellphone frequencies for much longer than two years.

At this juncture, we aren’t certain that the results generalize to humans. We also don’t know how significant the risk is.

25. Get a good sleep.

Sleep deprivation affects the brain in multiple ways that can impair judgment and slow reaction.

english bulldog wearing beauty rest eye mask sleeping

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24. Rejection hurts.

The brain treats rejection like physical pain, according to scientists. When you experience physical pain, your brain releases opioids into the empty space between neurons, which “dampen” pain signals. When you get rejected, your brain does the same thing.

23. Rapid-effect booze.

It only takes 6 minutes for brain cells to react to alcohol.

22. Bigger is… not any better at all.

Male brains, on average, have a total volume that is between 8% and 13% larger than female brains. Does this mean that men are smarter? Nope, not at all.

While IQ isn’t a perfect measure of intellect, it’s a much better indicator than brain size. We, to be blunt, have no clue how brain size affects behaviour. We know that IQ can, at least looked at from certain angles, provide useful insights into mental capability.

In every country where women have been allowed full entry into modernity in terms of educational opportunities, they are now matching men in terms of IQ scores.

21. And then robots will take over the world…

Ray Kurzweil has predicted that by 2023, the average US$1,000 laptop will be just as fast as the human brain.

20. More natural drugs.

Music triggers activity in the same brain structure that releases the dopamine during orgasm and eating.

19. Baby brains.

We have more brain cells as a newborn baby than we will ever have again.

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18. Building a brain is no easy task.

Half of your genes describe the complex design of your brain, with the other half describing the organization of the other 98% of your body.

18. That’s a lot of power, folks.

A baby’s brain can use 50% of the total glucose supply, which may help explain why babies need so much sleep.

17. Nice try, Mr. Robot. Try again in 2023.

In 2015, the 4th most powerful supercomputer on Earth took 40 minutes to simulate just one second of human brain activity.

16. A few moving parts…

The human brain is composed of about 100 billion neurons and a trillion glial cells.

15. No need to work out?

At rest, your brain uses one-fifth of a calorie per minute. To be exact, we’re talking about 10.8 calories every hour or 0.18 calories each minute. Does thinking harder mean burning more calories? Unfortunately, being a mathlete won’t earn you a six pack. Most of the energy used by the brain goes toward keeping you alive. Whether you’re thinking or not, your brain still controls breathing, digestion, and other essentials. Thinking hard may result in a very slight increase in caloric burn, but it’s nothing to freak out about.

14. A lot of thoughts.

You have about 70,000 thoughts a day.

13. A breezy procedure.

Half our brains can be removed by surgery with no apparent effect on personality or memory. The operation is known as hemispherectomy and is still used to treat patients who suffer from seizures that primarily affect one hemisphere.

12. Addicted to him/her.

Recovering from a break-up is like kicking an addiction to a drug. Researchers found that brain scans of the broken hearted closely resemble people experiencing substance withdrawal.

11. Take a cat nap.

Research on naps, meditation and nature walks reveals that mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.

10. Jazzed-up brains.

When jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and inhibition, and turn on those that let self-expression flow.

9. Such smart kitties…

Human beings have as many brain cells in their stomachs as cats have in their brains.

8. Keeping it young: stairs over learning.

Brain age decreases by 0.95 years per year of education, and by 0.58 years per daily flight of stairs climbed.

How the Mayans kept young.

7. Ouch.

Despite its billions of neurons, the brain can’t actually feel pain.

6. Too young to remember.

We can’t remember much of our first few years because the hippocampus wasn’t developed enough to build a rich memory of events.

5. It’s shrinking!

Human brains are 10% smaller than they were 20,000 years ago. Remember from earlier that we have no clue how human brain size affects human behaviour. I like to think we’re still getting smarter…

4. Making sense of images.

It takes about 0.2 seconds for your brain to understand the light that reaches your eye.

3. You use the whole darn thing.

“You only use 10% of your brain” was heralded as a popular-science as a truth with sexy implications. If only you could tap in to that other 90%, then surely you would be a savant who remembers π to the twenty-thousandth decimal place, or perhaps even have telekinetic powers?

Wrong. The truth is that humans use every part of their brain.

Home Simpson, on the other hand, would be lucky to hit the 10% mark.

2. Motherly love.

Breastfeeding actually changes the way a mother’s brain works, making her more attuned to the child’s crying.

1. Natural drug.

During orgasm, the brain releases so much dopamine that a brain scan resembles that of someone on heroin.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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