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30 Amazing Facts About Your Brain

Scientist working with Life CoachGet The New Ebook ’70 Amazing Facts About Your Brain’ now

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Useful Self Development Brain Stuff

1. You have a finite amount of will power each day because to exercise will power you need energy in the form of oxygen and glucose That’s why it’s harder to say ‘no’ when you are tired or not feeling yourself.

2. A thought is a physical pathway in the brain. The more you have that thought the more you groove that path and the easier it is to have it again. That’s why having the thought “Why do I suck?” is never a great idea.

3. Speaking of which, you have approximately 70,000 thoughts per day, although many will be the same ones looping round and round on your grooved cranial highway.

So make sure you don’t think, “Why do I suck?” 50,000 times a day, or suck ye shall.

4. Even if you consider yourself a left-brained person, your brain will still switch over to the right side every 90 to 120 minutes and then back again.

That’s why even left-brained people can have times of the day when they are more creative and right-brained people can sometimes get their taxes in order.

Note: If you want to know how you can tell which side is dominant at any one time, check out Creativity – Guaranteed and  you can then plan your time accordingly.

5. Reading out loud to kids accelerates their brain development.

6. Reframing negative events in a positive light literally rewires your brain and can make you a happier person, as can regular meditation.

Some Numbers To Wrap Your Brain Around

7. The brain is approximately 75% water, but you should never drink it.

8. Your brain only weighs about 3lbs yet the greedy bastard uses between 20% and 25% of your energy supplies each day.

9. There are approximately 10 to the power of 60 atoms in the universe. Your brain laughs in the face of that figure however, as it has 10 to the power of 1,000,000 different ways it can wire itself up.

That’s the number 10 followed up with 1 million zeroes, which is to all intents and purposes (for anybody not called Stephen Hawking or Rob Collins), an infinite amount of ways.

10. Speaking of large numbers, there are approximately 1.1 trillion cells and 100 billion neurons in the average human brain.

11. The slowest speed information passes around your brain is approximately 260 mph

Brain Trivia

12. Your brain was disproportionately large compared to other organs when you were born.

That’s why babies look a bit like aliens. Not yours of course, yours are cute, just other peoples babies.

13. If you lose blood flow to your brain you will last about 10 second before you pass out.

14. Your brain has no pain receptors which is why if I managed to remove the top of your skull without you noticing I could poke around all day without you feeling a thing. The skull removal may hurt a bit though.

15. Even though we say the amygdala regulates danger, the cerebellum motor control, and the limbic system emotions etc, this is somewhat misleading as no part operates independently and all need other parts of the brain to get their job done.

16. Your peripheral vision improves at night which is why pilots are taught to use their peripheral vision when looking for traffic.

Your Brain Is Amazing

17. Leaving aside degenerative brain disease, your brain never loses the ability to learn and change because it’s effectively plastic and constantly rewiring itself.

Leopards may indeed not change their spots, but you’re not a Leopard and you can change yourself and your brain is up for the challenge.

18. It ‘s a self development urban myth that we only use 10% of our brain. We use it all and if you don’t believe me cut a bit out and see what happens.

Note: Unfortunately the new movie, Limitless due out soon is going to re-embed this myth as it’s based on the story line that we use 20% of our brain and you can take a pill to access the other 80%. Ho-hum.

19. If you were to measure your brainwave activity you wouldn’t see any drop off when you’re asleep.

You may be napping, but your brain is still working hard pumping your heart, digesting your food, maintaining your blood pressure and much more to make sure you don’t wake up dead.

20. Research has shown that the hippocampus which which deals with visual-spatial awareness, is larger in London Taxi drivers than normal people. London ‘cabbies’ have to spend months, sometimes years, learning literally every street in the Capital before they are allowed a license.

This process is known as ‘The Knowledge’ and it literally enlarges that part of their brain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help them with anger management issues when cyclists get in their way.

21. Until relatively recently scientists thought that the brain was the only area of the human body that didn’t generate new cells. We now know that’s not true and the brain does reproduce shiny new cells for you to use

22. You have something in your brain called mirror neurons. If you see somebody stub their toe for example, the same pain area will light up in your own brain causing you to flinch.

Mirror neurons weren’t even known to exist prior to the early 1990’s, but now there is a growing belief in the scientific community they are responsible for us feeling empathy toward others.

23. When somebody takes cocaine their pleasure center (nucleus accumbens) lights up and dopamine and serotonin are released. Fortunately, you don’t have to blow your life savings, act like a dick and lose your nasal lining to get similar results.

Giving to charity or helping people in need also activates the nucleus accumbens. What a win/win that is, eh?

Your Brain Is a Dumbass

24. Multi-tasking is a self development urban myth. You simply cannot do it efficiently no matter what manufacturers of smart phones want you to believe.

According to the University of Utah, there are a few people (about 2.5% of the population) who can do two things consciously* at once without seeing any degradation in performance.

They are called super-taskers.

However, for most people all the brain is doing is going backwards and forwards very quickly and giving the illusion of multi-tasking. The reality is performance is inhibited by this approach not improved.

* I do appreciate that you can do multiple things unconsciously at once such as driving and talking. (Not texting though!)

25. Your brain is constantly lying to you when you have your eyes open. Because it cannot deal with every single detail that you’re looking at, the occipital lobe is joining the dots with what it presumes is there.

26. Similarly, your brain doesn’t record memories like video as it would be easy to assume. It takes snapshots of the more important bits and then when you recall the event it guesses what happened in between based on prior experience.

27. Your brain finds it very easy to create false memories largely because of the above and the fact that it spends so much time guessing what’s happening.

When scientists exposed people to Photoshopped images of themselves at various event years prior they were soon able to explain what they were doing and recall the event with clarity even though they were never there.

There will be events you swear blind happened the way you remember, but never actually did. A sobering thought.

28. The reason why some Chinese born people struggle to pronounce words like ‘fried’ is not because they can’t be arsed to learn them, as I ignorantly and embarrassingly believed when I was younger.

It’s because no similar pronunciation is needed in the Chinese language.

Therefore, if they are not exposed to the English language before around the age of 3, that part of the brain is allocated to other purposes.

29. Your brain is fairly crap at distinguishing between what’s really happening and what you are merely imagining. Which is why horror films scare people and porn films, er…ahem, well you know.

30. The brain is very poor at concentrating for long periods of time and needs to clear it’s head so to speak about every 90 minutes or so.

Which is why if you’re delivering training and you want to maximize results, you should allow people to take lots of mini breaks rather than one long break for lunch.

I’d love your take. Anything surprising to you? Or do you have any amazing facts of your own? If so let me know in the comments.

More information on brain performance from the Amen Clinics

 

48 comments to 30 Amazing Facts About Your Brain

  • Re: 9 – not sure if I should feel insulted or not?! LOL.

    Re: 18 – I watched Limitless at the weekend coincidentally! I wonder if the 20% thing could merely refer to the “fact” that we only have *access* to 20% of our memories, not that we only use 20% of our brains. Dunno if there’s any truth to this whatsoever. BTW, I *LOVED* this film!

    Re: 27 – the name of this process is one of my favourite words in the English language – confubulation. No, I’m not making it up!

    Buddha’s Brain – I’m a few chapters in now and totally loving this book. It’s great for science geeks! Thanks for the recommendation, Tim!

    Your Brain At Work – I’m a few chapters into this too and really love this one as well.

    • It’s still not true Rob. We don’t have anything close to 20% recall. My guess would be it’s more like 0.2% or smaller. To recall a memory in full would take as long as the event itself, so we recall tiny parts of it and concoct the rest.

      It’s a compliment of course ;-)

  • Good article overall, a lthough lots of things I could comment on here…

    1) While our will-power is limited, it’s also true that by believing we have more will-power we can exercise more of it. (see here.

    4) Can I see a source for this? I always thought we used both left + right sides of the brain at the same time, and the dichotomy was a myth.

    23) Anything that we see as a “reward” takes up the reward centers of the brain – from chocolate to gambling to sex to getting an A on an exam. That doesn’t mean doing charity or gives you nearly the same pleasurable experience as cocaine.

    24) Multi-tasking isn’t an urban myth. It just depends on the cognitive resources needed to do the task. One simple example: you can run on a treadmill and plan for a social event at the same time. Mostly because one takes up less cognitive resources than the other.

    Another interesting fact that comes to mind.

    - The majority of your thinking is actually unconscious. (see here).

    Besides that, really good facts overall. Nice one Tim.

    • 1. And different people have different amounts and a sports drink can improve it. I was just generalizing and didn’t want to go into too much detail on each point because I’ve blogged about a lot of them in detail.

      4. You’re right it is a myth (see point 15) to suggest the other side isn’t being used, and I didn’t, but the blood flow and metabolic activity decrease. Get the audio program “I know what to do so why don’t I do it” by Dr Nick Hall it not only talks about this but it’s an awesome program – although a tad pricey.

      23. I didn’t say it was as intense, I was making a point Steven. In my original post on the subject I explained it’s not as intense.

      24. Nope. I was talking about conscious actions, and this is now proven beyond any doubt. Read Your Brain At Work, or go and read the Utah research it’s easy enough to find.

      And yeh I know that most of our thinking is unconscious which is why I’m banging on about mindfulness and also why I mentioned about the 70,000 thoughts. Nobody consciously has 70,000 thoughts in a day!

      I’ll take another look to see if I can clear some of the ambiguities up, thanks!

      • 4. Do you have a scientific link on left + right brain switch every 90 to 120 minutes? I’m doing a google search and only finding blogs. I’m really skeptical that this is true, as I’ve never heard such a thing before.

        23. It’s not just that they aren’t as intense, it’s that I find the point moot since ANYTHING we perceive as a reward activates those areas in the brain.

        24. The Utah research that I’m finding says multi-tasking is usually not very efficient, but it’s still possible depending on the tasks. Talking on the phone while driving DOES increase your chances of getting into an accident, but it’s also something that has been done successfully many times. (Now seeing you made appropriate edits to your post – nice!)

        I still attest, however, that multi-tasking has its benefits in certain situations – but it has to do with how good your working memory is.

        You can use Dual-N-Back training programs (like “Brain Workshop”) to increase your working memory, which in return lets you “juggle” more things in your mind at once.

        Again, I think a lot of it depends on what the activities are and the person trying to do them.

        • I don’t have a link, because I heard it in a lecture given by Dr Nick Hall. Hall is a leading research scientist and I trust that the guy knows what he’s talking about because all his lectures are based in hard science, he aint no woo-woo guy.

          It’s not a moot point when you are trying to help people see that some pleasure behaviors are destructive and some constructive. You missed the point I was trying to make entirely mate. Sometimes it’s a question of getting people to think differently. Also, many people that have never given back don’t realize that it will make them feel good. If this posts helps somebody try that out, then I’m ok with my generalization.

          Talking is an unconscious action as is driving for most people. Give me two CONSCIOUS actions you can do equally well at once. There’s loads on this in Your Brain At Work if you want the research.

        • One other thing Stephen, just in case you are in any doubt.

          I love you challenging me like this and if I come across as being pissed off, I’m not, not in the least. Anything that broadens the conversation is good for me, so thanks!

  • I don’t have any surprising facts on hand but I am curious about your take on nootropics. I came across an article around November and the subject has been whirling around my brain ever since. Note: My interest is solely in safe nootropics / smart drugs, not speed.

    • To be honest Catherine I don’t know enough about them to offer an opinion.

      Is Speed not safe? Shit, we better get all those kids that are taking Adderall and Ritalin off it then ;-)

  • Great post Tim.

    Did you ever watch the Christmas lectures on tv while in the UK Tim?

    This year’s was all about the brain. Fascinating stuff. And because it’s aimed at kids, it’s delivered in a way that’s really easy to understand.

  • Lefteris Kokkinhs

    An excellent article to broad our horizons about our inner horizons :D

    I have to say that you are absolutely right about the mini breaks..I remember studying for my exams and from point to point I caught myself having an inner talk about absolutely irrelevant topics and most of the time I ”followed” this talks,mostly when I was tired.I trully hope it is not a concentration problem!

    Have a great week Tim :D

  • “Is Speed not safe?”

    Goodness gracious, not for me… not unless you want me to talk your ear off. And as for those kids… hmmmm.

    I’m going for long-term, and imho, speed is not a healthy prospect. Nootropics, on the other hand, seem promising. So if you ever do get into researching them (especially nootropics and study) I’d be interested in what you have to say.

    • LMAO – I was joking! I used to own a dance music store at the height of the acid house scene. Been there done that so to speak!

      That’s why it worries me that so many kids are on speed dressed up as medication.

  • 24. Of course 100% of those who read this will assume, rightly, that they are in the 2.4 percent who are supertaskers.

    There’s no number for it really, but where do the words I used to know at age 25 and 30 go now that I’m 56? Are we only allowed to remember words for so long?

    Sometimes when going to the grocery store (in the parking lot usually), I can’t remember if I’m dressed or not and will catch myself looking down to see if I have my pants on. I can’t tell if this is being distracted, getting old, or that I’m simply focused on other things. It’s like that dream some people have of being naked at a party, only when they’re awake. To date I’ve always been dressed, but noticed noticing that I’m dressed helps me remember what I’ve gone to the store for.

    Fun read!

  • Lynn Hess

    “So make sure you don’t think, “Why do I suck?” 50,000 times a day, or suck ye shall.”

    Even though lots of psychologists and personal development people try to help us get this (entirely true and VERY important) principle through our thick heads, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it explained quite this entertainingly! I think I’m going to post it on my mirror or something.

  • To be honest, I found a lot of these pretty surprising.

    #27 – about creating false memories- is really amazing to me, but it makes sense when I give some deep thought to it.

    I like #23 because I’ve always realized that helping others feels good, but I never considered that there might be a scientific explanation.

    Thanks for a great post!

  • “I was joking!” As a first time visitor to your site I wasn’t sure…

    “Been there done that so to speak!” Ditto (I’m a California gal so do remember ‘back when’…)

    My favs today are #2 and #29.

    “A thought is a physical pathway in the brain. The more you have that thought the more you groove that path and the easier it is to have it again. That’s why having the thought “Why do I suck?” is never a great idea.”

    “Your brain is fairly crap at distinguishing between what’s really happening and what you are merely imagining.”

    Harks back to the good ‘ole days and Psycho-Cybernetics. The original, not the revamped version. When 16 or so I came across a dog eared copy and put it to the test. A simple concept, it works for me. When I remember anyway. So reminders are all good.

  • Raymond Salzwedel

    #12, #14 and #19 – Laugh out Loud! :-)

    This morning I did not wake up dead.

  • Different person has differing mental problem. But these 30 tips is really needed for all types of people.

  • Chickpea

    I enjoyed this tremendously espec the laughs… though I’m a bit if- on the section calling one’s brain a “dumbass”.

    I see your (funny) point, but, um, aren’t you an advocate for using language and thoughts to shape how we see things?! So, isn’t it maybe better to be a little less negative? I mean dumbass is funny n’all, but it doesn’t fit a self-help with positive words kinda picture. IMO anyway :)

    Your brain is Not At All Amazing, instead? (Ok, creativity lacking at the mo’…)

  • Lea

    I love #24. So many people think that they are actually doing two things effectively but don’t really look at the outcome. But I had no idea that a small few can actually pull it off.

  • Brain is an amazing and the dumbest thing , I have recently seen BBC 3 part documentary about brain and how it works . this article is very nice and loved it .

  • Tim really like the post, would like to know how you feel about the claims that our thoughts can be created into physical things with the help of the mind and how thoughts negative or positive can literally change a persons life.

  • Interesting article thanks for the info Elmira Ruffin

  • Tim,

    This is full of trivia and information, plus the laughter.

  • #25: not only is your brain lying to you, is basing its lies on your expectations in the stimulus context…what a remarkable ball of water sitting atop our shoulders.

  • Awesome article about our 3 pound amazing organ that is both a blessing and a curse at times. Thanks for your delightfully humorous description of some very important information.

  • shar

    More please Tim, a very enjoyable lesson.
    (BTW, I just weighed my head and I’ve got a 4 pound brain)

    26. Similarly, your brain doesn’t record memories like video as it would be easy to assume. It takes snapshots of the more important bits and then when you recall the event it guesses what happened in between based on prior experience.

    We are in trouble then if we have no prior experience !

    11. The slowest speed information passes around your brain is approximately 260 mph

    Do you know the fastest ?

    Do you think whole brain emulation is a future possibility ?

    • Wow that’s some brain you have!

      26. There’s nothing new. So even if you got to a new beach on holiday for example, your brain won’t bother recording the sand unless it was really bizarre sand and even then it would only hold snapshots. Sames goes for the sea. It may retain a memory that it was very blue, but it won’t be recording each wave.

      Simply put the minutiae of an experience, unless incredibly unusual never make it to your long-term memory.

      11. No idea

      The future is a long-time. So not any time soon, but yeh, probably at some stage.

  • shar

    So I have to meet an alien in order to believe my brain…..

  • shar

    Simply put the minutiae of an experience, unless incredibly unusual never make it to your long-term memory.

  • Nick

    The part about the 10% could be true. Maybe that 10% isn’t one part of the brain, but instead every part of the brain doing a small percent of what it could do.