12 curious facts about the brain

Everything we do today will affect our thoughts and feelings tomorrow. This amazing property of the brain is called neuroplasticity . The brain adapts well to the surrounding reality, therefore, by changing habits, habitat, you will change your brain. Here are a dozen more interesting facts about how the brain works.

Caffeinated sleep – a recipe for cheerfulness

It’s important to take regular breaks while driving, and a caffeinated nap is the best option. Professor Jim Home and Dr. Louise Rayner of Loughborough University conducted an experiment on a simulated car to find out which of eight options was better for waking up: cold air, radio, break, sleep, caffeine pill, placebo, caffeine pill and sleep, placebo pill and dream. Caffeine and naps top the list. If you drink a cup of coffee and fall asleep for 20 minutes, caffeine will not interfere with sleep: the awakening effect will occur in about half an hour.

Television increases suggestibility

Elton John has publicly called television “brain deforming”. Do not believe him – listen to scientists: according to many scientific studies, television has a bad effect on the brain, especially children. It encourages intellectual passivity and deprives the brain of stimulating experiences. When we watch TV, the electrical waves in the brain take on an alpha pattern, which increases our suggestibility (handy for advertising and propaganda).

Excess weight leads to brain atrophy

Recent studies have shown that obese people are more likely to develop dementia. There are a number of possible explanations: obesity exacerbates sleep apnea (short pauses in breathing), which deprives the brain of oxygen and causes disturbances; increases blood pressure, increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. All this leads to brain atrophy. Obesity destroys the production of the hormone leptin, which is secreted by fat cells and plays a central role in fat metabolism; an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It leads to chronic inflammation of the brain – another cause of disturbances in its work.


You can see something important, but not notice it. The brain filters most of the incoming information from the senses. This is inevitable, otherwise we would not be able to focus on anything. The dangers of selective attention are discussed by researchers Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris . But first, take a short selective attention test (task: count how many passes the players in white footballs gave each other):

Simons warns: “We instinctively believe that attention will focus on what is important to us. But this is a dangerous mistake.” This is the most common cause of car-motorcycle collisions: the car enters an intersection in the motorcycle’s path because the driver does not expect the motorcycle, even if it was obviously in his field of vision.

The brain develops throughout life

“Ten years ago, most neuroscientists considered the brain to be a kind of computer in which fixed functions are formed at an early stage,” says Michael Merzenich of the University of California at San Francisco, one of the first researchers of brain plasticity. “We now know that the brain develops throughout life.”

Weakening of intelligence with age can be avoided

If you offer your brain stimulating, entertaining, new and challenging activities every day, get moderate exercise, eat healthy, and socialize regularly, there is no reason for the mental decline that is commonly associated with old age. Sometimes the process can even be reversed. Studies show that healthy people with increased intellectual stimulation are half the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. “The evidence suggests that intelligence decline is not part of aging, but a symptom of disease,” says John Morris, MD, co-director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

My own doctor

Have you heard of placebo? This is not a trick for the gullible, but quite measurable brain activity. For example, in patients with depression, yellow placebo pills have a stronger effect than blue ones. Large tablets are more effective than small ones. And fictitious injections work better than fictitious pills.

There are a number of conditions that are easily affected by placebos: pain, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, addiction, nausea. The proportion of patients on whom a placebo works can reach 80%. And that negates the need for real drugs. Suggestibility can relieve pain or cure a cold. Just think how important this is.

The dark side of suggestibility

But brain suggestibility also has a dark side. It’s called nocebo.

“Placebo” is Latin for “please”. “Nocebo” means “I will hurt.” If the placebo, interfering with brain processes, soothes the pain, then the nocebo provokes it. Nocebo can be called in the laboratory. It is also associated with dopamine and opiates. Pain, nausea, depression and anxiety also depend on it. Of course, the nocebo enhances them, not helps to cure them. Nocebo can provoke almost any disease.

Here is an example. Medical students find textbook signs of disease (this is the so-called sophomore syndrome). Have you ever heard of it working the other way around? Is it possible for a student to feel great while studying, for example, the functions of healthy organs? Of course not. We are much more attached to fear than to relief. Describing the nocebo, scientists often mention its faithful companions – anxiety and suspiciousness. For example, knowing that your medication causes nausea, you will almost certainly focus on that side effect and expect it.

In short, by all means avoid negative assumptions, scary stories and evil predictors.

False memories

It’s good to know that you can’t rely 100% on your memories. Memory is not a video recording, but an extended personal narrative. By understanding this, we can better understand people and events.

No one is immune from false memories.

In February 2015, TV presenter Brian Williams was accused of distorting the truth, and he lost his prestigious job. Williams has repeatedly told how, in front of his eyes, a helicopter was blown up by a grenade launcher. According to him, he was very close, he saw the barrel of the installation. In fact, the downed helicopter was very far from where Williams worked.

A similar incident happened with Hillary Clinton. She stated that she was nearly shot by a sniper at the Bosnian airport. It was an invention. The guests (Mrs. Clinton and comedian Sinbad ) were greeted very warmly, there were no incidents.

Clearly, from the public’s point of view, these are all cases of unacceptable lies. However, memory experts often sympathize with such people, as well as witnesses who identify criminals and only realize years later that they pointed to the wrong person.

How brands are changing taste

Research has long shown that branded packaging changes the taste of food. Experiments have shown that, from the point of view of the consumer, the taste of the product is not always its most important quality. For example, “Sweet Soda A” consistently outperforms “Sweet Soda B” in blind tasting, but also consistently loses out when subjects see their names. Here is another example. If the description of an expensive wine mentions a raspberry flavor with a hint of almond, it will taste better than the exact same drink in a plain bottle. Notice not “feels better” or “we think it’s better”. Psychologists say that in all essential respects it is really better. This does not mean that suggestible people eat cat food thinking it is pâté. This means that they eat cat food and it becomes pâté.

Of course, the colors are thickening here. Neuroscientists are sure that no one will confuse frankly bad wine with fine vintage. Expectations are a very serious force, but not limitless. A placebo will not relieve you of pain if you put your hand in boiling water. No amount of suggestion will make you believe that you were the President of the United States. Under hypnosis, you will not act contrary to your values and beliefs.

Glucose is not the only source of fuel

Almost every cell in the body contains at least a few hundred small descendants of an ancient bacterium called mitochondria. The energy that powers us is produced in these mitochondria, and you will be surprised how important they are to quality of life. If your mitochondria stop producing energy for even a few seconds, you will die. The number, efficiency, and strength of mitochondria determine not only whether you develop cancer or a degenerative disease, but also how much energy your brain receives at any given moment.

Mitochondria need oxygen to produce energy, and they also need glucose or fat (and sometimes amino acids). This does not mean that the more carbohydrates you consume, the more energy your mitochondria will produce. In fact, everything is exactly the opposite. Mitochondria work better if they can alternate fuel sources, like a hybrid car. If you eat too much sugar, it becomes harder for your mitochondria to get energy from fat. They begin to produce all the energy from glucose. As a result, the brain does not use fats as fuel, and they begin to be deposited in fat cells, and you gain weight. In the meantime, the brain is rapidly burning up glucose stores, your blood sugar levels are dropping, the inner Labrador perceives this as a threatening situation and turns on the alarm: “SUGAR! WE URGENTLY NEED SUGAR! This is how addiction occurs.

Mood depends on how the brain works

Many people are unaware that mood swings and “uncontrollable” outbursts of anger are a direct result of weaknesses in their brain. The prefrontal cortex requires the most energy to function. Due to its significant energy needs and because it is the last to receive it, this part of the brain is usually the first to suffer when we lack energy. It is the prefrontal cortex that helps control mood. This part of the brain is responsible for personal qualities, decision making and regulation of social relationships. Obviously, you will not perform well if you make bad decisions and act poorly in various situations. Therefore, it is critical that this part of the brain receives enough energy.

The brain is the most mysterious organ in the human body. Scientists continually discover new facts related to his work. How else can they surprise us?

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