The brain is one of the most interesting and complex human organs and the centre of the nervous system. Physiologically, the function of the brain is to exert centralised control over the other organs of the body. The brain acts on the rest of the body both by generating patterns of muscle activity and by driving the secretion of hormones. This centralised control allows rapid and coordinated responses to changes in the environment.
Few of us question the crucial importance of the brain. Our brains enable us to think, as René Descartes so skilfully pointed out nearly 400 years ago. Yet the human brain is responsible for so much more. It directs almost everything we do and is vital to our existence. It controls our voluntary movements, and it regulates involuntary activities such as breathing and the heartbeat. The brain serves as the seat of human consciousness: it stores our memories, allows us to feel emotions, and gives us our personalities.
This week we have some interesting brain facts to share with you. We have split these into their relation to the individual, how we interact with others and in the workplace.
The brain and the individual:
- An average human is believed to experience 70, 000 thoughts each day.
- A recent New York study showed that those who ate lunches that didn’t include artificial flavours, preservatives and dyes did 14% better at work & in studies/exams than those who ate lunches with these additives.
- Insulin works to regulate blood sugar in the body. Recently however, scientists have discovered that its presence in the brain also helps promote memory.
- Those who are left-handed or ambidextrous have a corpus callosum (connects and allows communication between the left to right side of one’s brain) that is approximately 11% larger than those who are right-handed.
- It is believed that human beings only use 10% of their brains. This is in fact a misconception because each and every part of the brain has a known function.
- A study shows that when people are learning new things, their brains change very quickly. Those learning to juggle showed change in the brain in as little as seven days.
- There are a hundred billion neurons that comprise the brain – as many as in the entire galaxy – all in a squishy mass about the size of a small melon. Using about 17% of your body’s energy and 20% of its oxygen, while only containing 2% of its mass, the brain produces between 10-23 watts of power when awake — enough to light a bulb.
- Made of 75% water, your mind has over 100 trillion synapses that connect those neurons and enough “space” to hold the entire Encyclopedia Britannica five fold, or 1,000 terabytes of information.
- 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…whatever your age.
- The brain is split up into two symmetrical hemispheres. While they do work together, the left brain favours more rational, analytical thinking, while the right brain is more visually and conceptually oriented. They also work in opposites – you stub your left toe and the pain is processed on the right side. And they put right-side-up whatever is upside-down – the image in your eyes is actually received inverted and the brain corrects it. But here’s the odd thing – even if you were to lose one-half of your brain, you would be able to survive without it.
The brain and our interaction with others:
- Without any words, you may be able to determine if someone is in a good mood, feeling sad, or is angry just by reading their face. A small area of the brain called the amygdala is responsible for our abilities to read someone else’s face for clues to how they are feeling. Useful tip to use in social interaction, sales and work related relationships.
- Men’s brains are 10% bigger than womens. Don’t get too excited though gents, although women’s brains are smaller they have more nerve cells and connectors which work more efficiently than men’s. And, true to the stereotype, they tend to process on the more “emotional” right side of the brain, while men process on the “logical” left.
- Our brains are constantly lying to us. It fools us so often, making us perceive things differently from reality. Because it cannot deal with every single detail we look at, read, see, think, the occipital lobe is joining the dots with what it presumes is there based on prior experience, knowledge or habitual thought. That’s why we shouldn’t always trust the brain!
The brain and the workplace:
- Excessive stress has shown to alter brain cells, brain structure and brain function.
- According to a study by Bristol-Myers Squibb, accountants have the highest incidence of on-the-job headaches, followed by librarians, then bus and truck drivers.
- 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.
- Multi-tasking is sadly an urban myth. You simply cannot do it effectively no matter what we are told to believe. There are approximately 2.5% of the population who can do two things consciously without seeing any degradation in performance and these people are called Super Taskers. For most people however, the brain is merely going back and forth rapidly and giving the illusion of multitasking. The reality is, performance is hindered with this method, not improved. Multiple unconscious activities can however be undertaken.
- 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.
We’d love to hear your take on how the brain works. Does anything in particular surprise you? Or do you have any other interesting facts of your own? If so let us know in the comments.
Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find. – Neil DeGrasse Tyson
The take home message for us is that our brain is an incredible organ. It is constantly mouldable to think, develop and train our body, senses and emotions to be what we want them to be. Use it wisely!