Brain Myths Busted

Some of you might remember my post about Brain Facts about a month ago, and are familiar about some aspects of the brain.

However, the majority of people out there harbor many misconceptions about the mass of grey matter up in our heads, some of which have been reinforced by popular culture to the point where it has become accepted as fact. So it’s my mission to get some of those myths busted.

We Only Use 10% of Our Brains

Even though I’ve already said this in my Brain Facts post, I’ll reiterate it, since it is probably the one biggest misconception that’s infamous for showing up in movies, TV, and many others (including a few blogs!). In fact, in the 2014 movie Lucy, Professor Norman, a renowned neurologist, states that “It’s estimated that most human beings only use 10 percent of their brains’ capacity.” The truth is, we humans use all parts of our brains at some point in life, and at any given waking moment, your brain is always more active than 10%. Mythbusters made an episode about this, and they revealed that even in rest, the brain is using up to 15% of capacity.

The Mozart Effect

Some of you have heard of the Mozart Effect, or at least what it entails: that playing classical music to infants makes them smarter later in life. However, this idea is dubious, and while one 1993 study showed that people who listened to classical music performed better at an IQ test, no one has been able to replicate these results. In fact, a Harvard University review of 16 similar studies concluded that the Mozart Effect is not real.

Adults Can’t Grow New Brain Cells

You may have heard that the brain cells you have now are the ones you will have forever, and that damage to the brain is irreparable. While head trauma usually won’t heal fast (if at all), your brain does create new neurons. A couple of studies have proved that new brain cells form in the hippocampus (associated with memory) and the striatum (associated with motor control and cognition) all the time. While they aren’t like other cells that replicate in a frenzy (the inside of the cheek, for example), they do regenerate constantly.

Doing Crossword Puzzles Improves Your Memory

Believe it or not, crossword puzzles, while they have been shown to slow down memory decline, are not very consistent with their benefits. For instance, a 2011 study found that crosswords delayed mental decline in people ages 75-85, but sped the decline (for reasons unknown) once a person showed signs of dementia. While most neuroscientists agree that there is no harm in the activity, but don’t count on the Sunday crossword to help find your keys come Monday morning.

Drinking Alcohol Kills Brain Cells

Alcohol drinkers, rejoice!

That woozy, drunk feeling you get after a few drinks isn’t from brain cells dying. After a comparison of alcoholic brains and nonalcoholic brains, you’ll find that the total number of neurons to be the same. While large amounts of alcohol will kill, moderate use should cause no damage at all. It does interfere with the way said neurons communitcate, but if you drink, you should have figured this out by now.

Learned something new?

(Courtesy of Popular Science Magazine, November 2015 edition)

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