4 Myths about your Brain Dispelled

There are many myths about our brain and how it works. Here we talk about the four most common myths and find out whether there is any truth to them.

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Myth 1: We only use 10% of our brains

Despite this common assumption, we actually use all of our brain.
10% of our brains are used

Part of the reason why this is so widely believed stems from MRIs, as their imaging shows that at any one time, only a small part of our brain is active. However, this does not mean that we only use a small part of our brain. Different parts are active at different times. If we used all of our brain at once, it would consume more energy than we have available in our body, as our brain - even though it only makes up 2% of our body mass - already uses 20% of our energy. This way, our brain saves energy by only using the part it needs. For example, when you are reading a book, different parts of your brain are activated compared to when you are eating. Our brains just use the energy they are provided efficiently, conserving energy for the next task  [1].

Myth 2: Every brain is either dominated by the left or right side

Touch your nose with your right hand. Now touch your nose with your left hand. Could you not do one? I bet you could do both. A number of popular internet tests claim that they can determine if the left or right side of your brain is dominant. But beware - these tests often have no scientific basis whatsoever. Although some studies say that certain parts of the brain dominate certain activities, an overall general assumption about hemisphere dominance is extremely difficult to make and should not be trusted.

Myth 3: There are typical male and female brains

Gender differences of male and female brains are a myth

We often hear that men are better are maths and women have stronger social skills, because of the way that our brains are hardwired. These are simply gender stereotypes, and a number of studies show that when you take away cultural priming - ie. telling your daughter that boys are better at maths - no gender difference can be observed in standardized testing. The key take-home message here? Tell your daughters that they can be a world class engineer, that their algebra is just as good as their brothers, and they will not believe that they are inferior to men in maths or analytical thinking. This myth only exists because we have internalized the stereotypes of supposedly male and female differences [2].

 

Myth 4: The brain cannot change with training 

This is not true, and let me give you an example of just how plastic our brains are. Some children are born with severe epilepsy; a condition which makes it virtually impossible for them to live a normal life. A common procedure, in this case, is to remove one side of the brain, and remarkably most functions can be compensated with this one remaining hemisphere. Yes, half the brain is taken away and these children are still normal. It is true!

Furthermore, the Hippocampus - the brain structure responsible for spatial orientation - is much larger in taxi drivers than in the average person, especially in very experienced taxi drivers who have been on the road for many years. Our brain can change, depending on how we use it, and although these changes are easier to make when we are young, an increasing amount of research is being published indicating that neuroplasticity - our brain’s capacity to develop - at any age does indeed exist.

Research has shown that our intelligence consists of two components - the crystallized and fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence is knowledge we accumulate over the years, thus it increases over a lifetime as we continuously learn new things. Fluid intelligence is what we need to solve problems and think logically. Until recently, the assumption that fluid intelligence starts to decrease in our mid-20s was widespread. Recent studies however, indicate that we can also increase our fluid intelligence through certain training methods for our brain [3].

Based on these findings, NeuroNation has developed a personalized brain training to improve your brain’s performance. Give it a try today to see just what difference it makes. Your brain will thank you.


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Sources:

1: Rolfe DFS & Brown GC. (1997) Cellular energy utilization and molecular origin of standard metabolic rate in mammals. Physiological Review, 77: 731−758.
2: Steele, C. M. (1997). A threat in the air: How stereotypes shape intellectual identity and performance. American Psychologist, Vol 52(6), 613-629.
3: Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Perrig, W. J. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801268105

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