9 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know The Brain Could Do
No other brain in the animal kingdom is capable of generating the kind of higher consciousness associated with human ingenuity, with our ability to make plans and write poetry. Yet the most complex structure in the known universe – as it is often described – is more mysterious than the least-explored regions of the deepest ocean.
– The Independent (UK)
In terms of brain research, we’ve discovered more in the last twenty years than all previous years combined. Much of this can be attributed to the frantic pace of brain imaging technology and other medical advances. As there are currently no signs that this pace is slowing, it is fair to state that we’ll continue to discover amazing tidbits about the brain.
For such a complex structure, the brain is not very large…at all. Roughly the size of our two fists pressed together, our brain weighs no more than 3 pounds (or 1.4 kilograms). For such a small entity, the amount of complexity involved in the brain’s circuitry has earned it the title “the most complex structure in the universe.”
The intricacy of the brain is surpassed only by its ingenuity. Truly, all of the greatest feats the world-over have been a direct result of the brain’s marvelous abilities.
We’ll discuss nine things that you may not know the brain can do. The human brain can…
- Function after death
Near-death experiences (NDE) are a relatively common occurrence. One study undertaken at a hospital in the Netherlands reported that 18 percent of the 344 cardiac patients considered clinically dead recalled having life experiences after the fact.
Pam Reynolds is perhaps one of the best known cases. In Reynold’s case, her brain had been brought to a nonfunctioning state by brain doctors in order to perform surgery. Despite this, she was still able to recall relevant information pertaining to doctor’s conversations, surgical tools, etc.
- Process information faster than any personal computer
Notice that we included the word personal. Amazingly, engineers at Fujitsu designed a super computer that processes information faster. This computer also happens to be huge and inefficient. Our neat, compact brain will work just fine, thank you. Joking aside, the processing power of the human brain steamrolls nearly every man-made tech device.
- Power a light bulb
The sheer number of electrical connections firing at any given time is quite staggering. These electric impulses are so numerous that it could hypothetically power a light bulb. In terms of units of power, the brain can produce the equivalent of about 25 watts.
- Clear out toxins
Wait, doesn’t the immune system help clear toxins from the body? Yes, but the brain does as well. Scientists at the University of Rochester discovered activity in the brain of sleeping mice that showed the “clearing out” of damaging molecules often associated with neurodegeneration. This experiment serves as additional evidence that sleep is important to our brain health.
- Perform better when tired
Contemporary thought is that our brain works better when we’re fresh and alert. While this is the case for work that involves logic and analysis, we’re actually more creative when we’re tired. It is simple logic, really: we’re not as good at filtering out distractions when tuckered out. Additionally, we’re less able to remember connections between ideas and concepts. These are two benefits to creative thought. It’s common for creative breakthroughs to occur when one is sleeping, for example.
- Shrink in size
While this is not a desirable attribute, it is true nonetheless. Stress is the most common cause of changes to brain function, and it has been discovered that stress can also decrease brain size. Animal studies show that chronic stress can cause the brain area known as the hippocampus to shrink. Currently, studies are underway to discover whether or not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can shrink the hippocampus in patients.
- Grow in size
Conversely, the brain is capable of growing denser in certain areas. Known as neuroplasticity, the brain has the remarkable ability of forming new neural connections throughout life. While our brain will never develop at the rate that it does in early childhood, newly-formed neural networks can indeed slightly increase the mass in certain areas of the brain.
- Can be rewired
The brain is remarkable in its ability to adapt. It has been proven that meditation brings a host of benefits to practitioners by lowering anxiety, increasing focus and improving self-control. It is even possible for the brain to become wired for enhanced creative ability and improved memory.
- Can make itself smarter
It was once thought that intelligence was a direct result of genetics, and that it was fixed in life. It turns out that neither of these are true. While genetics undoubtedly plays a role in one’s innate intelligence, it is not the sole determinant. In fact, in an article published in Scientific American, scientists came up with four truths about the brain:
(1) Fluid intelligence is trainable
(2) Intellectual challenges increase intellectual capabilities