Your brain. It’s your best friend, your biggest enemy, and everything in between. (Or maybe it’s not and we’re just overthinking again?).
At The Deep, we love studying the brain and human psychology. From rational thinking to learning, group dynamics, identity and more ... the brain is a truly fascinating (and often misunderstood) part of the human body.
So in honor of your big, beautiful brain, here are some cool facts about it that you might not know:
#1: Your decision-making skills might be questionable until you’re 25-ish.
We all know the brain starts developing in utero, and then continues to mature during childhood. But did you know that the part of your brain capable of using logic and reason (the prefrontal cortex) doesn’t fully mature until our mid-20’s?
No, this doesn’t mean that you are totally blameless for all the bad decisions you made in your teens and early-20’s (like drinking 10 shots of vodka the night before a big test). It also doesn’t mean that, once your prefrontal cortex is fully developed, you stop making bad decisions (like when you drank 10 shots of vodka this past Saturday). What it does mean is that you're much better at making good decisions (and more apt to make good decisions) once you hit your mid-20s ... when your brain is fully mature.
#2: The Brain Has Unlimited Storage
Unlike your latest phone data plan, which officially caps out at "just below whatever amount you need," the brain has virtually no upper limit for storage. That might seem puzzling, considering you cannot remember your neighbor's first name for the life of you. And yet… science.
Let's talk anatomy first. The brain has around 86 billion neurons. Each neuron has about 1000 connections to other neurons, so that means there are trillions of connections possible. One study hypothesized that each brain synapse (where neurons connect) could store 4.7 bits of information. So that means the brain can hold roughly 2.5 million gigabytes.
To put that in perspective, Yahoo recently built a supercomputer to analyze data from 500 million web users a month. The computer holds 1 million gigabytes of data. And yet that is still 20% smaller, in terms of potential capacity, than the average human brain.
So you might be wondering why on earth we forget things if our brains are essentially supercomputers. Neuroscientists think it’s because forgetting is actually beneficial: it makes us more efficient. The brain’s purpose isn’t to warehouse as much information as possible; it's to help us make smart, efficient decisions. And being bogged down with too much information definitely hinders that process.
So keep that in mind that whenever you forget your neighbor’s name (it’s Steve, btw). Your brain isn't malfunctioning; it's simply prioritizing more important stuff! That, or you just had 10 shots of vodka.
#3: The Brain Benefits From Exercise
Consistent exercise is certainly great for your body. But did you know that exercise is also really great for your brain?
First: exercise promotes neurogenesis, which is the production of neurons. It happens because movement causes your heart rate to increase, which means more blood is pumping to your brain. You’re also breathing heavier, so more oxygen is going into your blood.
And when more highly oxygenated blood heads on over to brain-town in greater quantities, that helps create neurons. And new neurons growing translates to improvements in memory and cognition. Boom.
Second: exercise helps your brain fight anxiety and stress. One study showed that exercise helps release certain "feel good" neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. And the particular blend of neurotransmitters that gets released by exercise is known to help battle anxiety and stress feelings. So even though you might be feeling exhausted from a workout, your brain is likely a little less stressed.
Lastly: it helps you avoid certain brain diseases! Studies have shown exercise can make your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex grow — areas that are hugely affected by degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. So, the bigger you can make those areas of the brain, the better your brain can help reduce the effects of those diseases or at least fight them off longer.
And Now… The Rapid Fire Round
Here are a few more random facts about your brain that you might not know…
The info moving around your brain travels at about 268 mph.
You can feel pleasure in your brain, but you can’t feel pain there. The organ itself has no pain receptors. “But what about my migraine headaches!?” you say. Well, the pain of headaches actually comes from the brain’s covering, called the meninges.
Your brain could power a light bulb. (And definitely those new LED ones.) While you’re awake, your brain creates around 20 watts of energy.
Your brain generates somewhere in the range of 49 thoughts every minute. That’s around 70K thoughts a day.
And now our brains need a rest from talking about brains. But if you are looking for a great way to expand your brain, there's a game for that: