Even when one considers everything that has been learned about the human brain, there is still an amazing number of facts that have yet to be discovered. Often referred to as the last frontier in science, the study of the human brain is a fascinating activity.
Although there are volumes left to learn about how this organ operates, below are 51 impressive facts about the brain that have been uncovered by modern research:
- Intriguing Statistical Facts About the Human Brain
- Brain Size and What it Really Means
- The Modern Lifestyle and How it Affects the Human Brain
- Chronic Stress and its Surprising Impact on the Brain
- Debunking Popular Myths About the Brain
- How the Brain’s Memory Banks Actually Work
- Weird Brain Facts That Many People Just Do Not Believe
Intriguing Statistical Facts About the Human Brain
1. The average brain uses approximately 20 percent of the body’s total supply of oxygen and energy on a regular basis, even though the organ itself only makes up about two percent of the body’s entire weight.
2. Seventy-three percent of the human brain is water; however, it takes a mere two percent dehydration level to negatively affect cognitive skills, memory and attention span.
3. Dehydration can affect the brain on a temporary basis: if a person perspires for an hour and a half or more at one time, the temporary brain shrinking it causes is equivalent to one year of aging.
4. The brain contains more fat than any other organ in the body. It weighs approximately 36 ounces, but 60 percent of its dry weight is fat.
5. The brain stores 25 percent of the body’s entire cholesterol content and the latter is a vital part of every brain cell. In fact, brain cells would die if no cholesterol was present.
6. Although no one knows the exact number, scientists estimate that the brain houses approximately 86,000,000,000 cells.
7. Each neuron in the brain connects with and attaches to approximately 40,000 synapses on a regular basis. This is standard daily activity for the brain and occurs from the moment a person is born until he or she dies.
8. One hundred thousand neurons are contained in a portion of brain tissue the size of one grain of sand, and in that same tiny region, approximately one billion synapses are communicating in a nonstop fashion.
9. It is a myth that all brain cells are similar. Rather, the average human brain features more than 10,000 different kinds of neurons.
10. Brain damage can occur if the brain is deprived of oxygen for only five minutes.
11. Because they must hold a rapidly growing brain, healthy babies have large heads. Interestingly, the brain of a two-year-old measures approximately 80 percent of a normally formed adult-sized brain.
12. Although it may at first seem like merely the complaint of frustrated parents, teenage brains are not completely formed, nor have they reached their full maturity. It is not until approximately 25 years of age that a normal brain achieves full maturity.
13. Facts and information to move through the human brain at a rate of anywhere from one to 268 miles per hour. The higher number on the spectrum is faster than Formula 1 Race Cars, which peak at 240 miles per hour.
14. The average brain generates approximately 12-25 watts of electricity at any given time. This is enough energy to power a low–watt LED light.
15. Researchers believe that human brains generate approximately 50,000 thoughts throughout the course of one day. Unfortunately, researchers can also estimate that nearly 70 percent of those thoughts are not positive.
16. In just one second, over 100,000 chemical reactions take place within the human brain.
Brain Size and What it Really Means
17. The male brain is approximately 10 percent larger than the female brain. This is true even after taking into account the man’s typically larger body size. However, a larger brain does not always indicate greater intelligence.
18. The brain of Albert Einstein weighed approximately 2.71 pounds. Interestingly, this is approximately 10 percent smaller than the three pounds that make up the average size brain. Nevertheless, his brains neuron density was much higher than average.
19. Neanderthal brains were approximately 10 percent bigger than the brains of the homosapiens we are now.
20. Humans cannot lay claim to the largest brains. This is an honor exclusive to sperm whales, whose brains weigh in at an impressive 17 pounds.
The Modern Lifestyle and How it Affects the Human Brain
There is evidence that not only is the modern lifestyle changing peoples’ brains, but those changes are not all positive:
21. The average human brain is shrinking. Scientists believe that over the course of the past 20,000 years, the average size of both male and female brains has shrunk by the size of a tennis ball.
22. Human beings are not getting any more intelligent as the decades pass. Rather, the average IQ has gone down more than 1.5 points per decade from the Victorian age on, meaning that since that particular era, humans have lost a total of 13.35 IQ points.
Chronic Stress and its Surprising Impact on the Brain
23. Contrary to what many people believe, a person is actually less productive when he or she is multitasking. When a person attempts to do this, his or her brain is simply toggling back and forth between tasks, ultimately resulting in a decreased attention span, poorer short-term memory, and a less effective performance overall.
24. It may come as a surprise to many individuals, but millennial’s between the ages of 18 and 34 have poorer memories than baby boomers. They are far more likely to misplace their keys or forget the day of the week than their parents are, although the reason for this is not yet known. However, most researchers fault high stress levels in today’s modern world.
25. The human brain is frequently compared with today’s most advanced technology. Over the years, it has been compared to a computer, a clock, a switchboard, and most recently, the Internet.
26. The attention span of the average brain is getting shorter. It is now eight seconds, which is significantly shorter then it was in 2011, when the average attention span was 12 seconds. Interestingly, the average goldfish has a nine second attention span.
27. In an effort to ward off starvation when energy is not available from any other source, brain cells will cannibalize themselves. Therefore, starvation diets can actually force the human brain to eat itself.
28. Unlike a RAM in a computer, the brain has a virtually unlimited storage capacity that cannot be “used up.”
Debunking Popular Myths About the Brain
In the field of neuroscience, rapid advancements have been made, which means certain facts become outdated in a short length of time. For this reason, there is a lot of information floating around about the human brain that is not accurate or has been proven untrue. Below are some examples of inaccurate statements:
29. The long-term popular myth that the average person uses only approximately 10 percent of his or her brain cannot be backed up with any scientific facts. Interestingly, brain scans clearly indicate that humans, even when sleeping, are using a significant portion of their brains.
30. Although it is a popular old wives tale, there is no such thing as being right brained or left brained. Personalities do not come from only one hemisphere of the brain, but rather the entire organ.
31. Although it has been said that alcohol kills brain cells, the negative effects of alcoholism are actually the result of connective tissue damage that takes place at the end of each brain neuron.
32. The Mozart Effect is nothing more than a myth. Even though listening to specific types of music can improve concentration and memory, there are no unique benefits directly linked to listening to Mozart.
33. Many people have heard that the average brain contains more cells than the number of stars in the Milky Way. However, scientists estimate that the human brain has approximately 86 billion neurons, yet the Milky Way boasts approximately 200-400 billion stars.
34. It is frequently said the brain contains 10,000 miles of blood vessels. Although the true number is a substantial amount, it is closer to 400 miles than 10,000.
35. Contrary to what the medical community has believed for decades, high cholesterol levels have now been proven to have no negative impact on the human brain. In fact, high levels of cholesterol actually reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia.
How the Brain’s Memory Banks Actually Work
At one time it was believed that brains worked somewhat like cameras, and recorded memories as mental photographs. Now it has been proven that the human mind does a lot of improvising to create and store memories.
36. In reality, human memories are extraordinarily unreliable. Context, cues, motivation, emotions and frequency of use can all affect the accuracy of a person’s memory.
37. Memories are not stored all in one place. Rather, all memories are deconstructed and distributed to various parts of the brain for storage. They are then reconstructed from individual fragments when the person chooses to recall that particular memory.
38. The brain begins to slow down at the wise old age of 24. However, certain cognitive skills peak at specific ages: at any particular age, a person is likely to get worse at some things and better at others.
39. If a person was out drinking and the next morning he or she does not remember what happened, it is not due to forgetfulness. When the human brain is intoxicated, it is not capable of forming memories.
Weird Brain Facts That Many People Just Do Not Believe
Even though certain information about the brain has been around for a long time and other facts are brand-new, some proven facts are just plain weird:
40. The human brain is very fragile, and despite everything it is capable of doing, it does not have a firm consistency. Rather, it is about as soft as firm gelatin or soft tofu.
41. In some cases, people function just as well on 50 percent of their brain as they do on a whole organ. For example, when a hemispherectomy is performed, the surgeon disables or removes half of the brain. This operation is sometimes performed for the purpose of stopping seizures or for another reason. As shocking as it may sound, the majority of patients who have such an operation experience no negative side effects regarding memory or personality.
42. Anyone who thinks he or she is in control of life should double check that fact. In reality, 95 percent of decisions are made in the subconscious mind.
43. The brain inside the human skull is not the only brain in the person’s body. There is something referred to as a “second brain” that is located in the intestines. This “brain” contains approximately 100,000 neurons and the gut bacteria it contains is responsible for manufacturing 30 different neurotransmitters such as serotonin, the “happy molecule.”
44. Certain researchers believe that it is possible for parasites or mutated viruses to attack the brain and create living zombies.
45. There is something referred to as a blood-brain barrier that is in place to protect the brain against foreign substances. However, it is not a perfect barrier. For instance, it takes only approximately seven seconds for the nicotine in cigarettes to rush into the brain. For alcohol, this timeframe is about six minutes.
46. Prescription sleeping medication bypasses any restorative value connected to normal sleep. This is because they technically do not put the brain to sleep, but rather into a state similar to that of being in a coma.
47. The human brain continuously craves mental stimulation. Men in particular would rather be on the receiving end of an electrical shock than sit silently in a room with nothing to do.
48. More than 140 brain proteins are negatively affected by exposure to electromagnetic frequencies. The latter is the exact type of frequency emitted by electronic devices such as cell phones.
49. The human brain has no pain receptors and does not feel pain, even though pain is processed by the brain. This is why most brain surgeries can be performed with no discomfort to the patient even if he or she is awake.
50. The left hemisphere of the brain has 186 million more neurons than the right hemisphere.
51. Not many facts about the human brain are as strange as this story about the brain of Albert Einstein. After performing Einstein’s autopsy, the pathologist stored Einstein’s brain for 40 years in his basement in a jar. Finally, he delivered the brain to Einstein’s granddaughter in a Tupperware container after making a cross-country trip with it in his car. Considered one of the weirdest road trips ever in driving history, this can be read about in a book entitled “A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain.”