7 Myths About the Human Brain

Human Brain

7.  Humans have bigger brains than all other animals: Although we are the smartest mammals, we don’t have the largest brains on this planet. Whales and elephants have bigger brains than humans, but their brains are obvious less developed comparatively.

What does make us unique is our ratio of brain weight to body weight, which for humans is around 1:50. For other mammals it’s around 1:180, while for most birds its 1:220.

6.  Your brain wrinkles increase as you learn: Everyone’s brain has wrinkles. Our brain’s surface is made up of deep fissures on the outside of the brain. The smaller grooves are called sulci, and deeper ridges are called gyri. The entire surface of the brain is called the cerebral cortex, which is made up of approximately 100 billion neurons.

Our brain wrinkles allow the brain to cover more surface area in a small amount of space. Scientists believe that the large surface area afforded to us by these brain wrinkles is one of the reasons we are better thinkers than other mammals in the animal kingdom. Over the years, our brains change in various areas, but the wrinkles we gain as our brain develops remain the same until the day we die.

5.  You can learn through osmosis: Wouldn’t you like to be able to learn new things just by absorbing messages rather than having to study (such as listening to subliminal messages)? Recent studies have shown that seeing or hearing subliminal messages for a fraction of a second doesn’t actually help you learn. Other studies have challenged the assertion that you can learn a language as you sleep simply by listening to language tapes. Unfortunately, almost all learning takes conscious effort.

4.  A damaged brain never heals: A mild brain injury, such as a concussion, often leads to a complete recovery. But even those who suffer severe damage from strokes, bleeds and physical injuries can recover, at least partially, and people in comas for years have been known to wake up. Our brain possesses amazing abilities to heal itself. It is also important to build your brain reserve and exercise your cognitive functions.

3.  Drugs and alcohol create holes in the brain: While heavy narcotics use can certainly damage your brain, drugs do not cause holes in brain tissue. Another fallacy is that brain cells die because of alcohol consumption. What’s really happening is that alcohol and drug abuse retard activity in certain brain centers and, as a result, brain scans will appear to show holes in the brain. However, what those pictures represent is simply that those areas of the brain have decreased activity levels… still not a good thing. Dr. Amen’s clinic is famous for this type of imaging and various brain scans can be found here.

2.  We only use a small portion of our brain: Although you never use all of your brain capacity at the same time, the 10% figure is simply a myth. In the Scientific American article aptly titled Do People Only Use 10 Percent of Their Brains? neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore states, « it turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time. Let’s put it this way: the brain represents three percent of the body’s weight and uses 20 percent of the body’s energy. »

1.  Our brain is gray: While it’s true that a portion of our brain is light gray – we all know the term ‘gray matter’, which refers to nerve cells – other parts of our brain are white, red, pink and even black. White matter consists of nerve fibers that link our cells together, while the red and pink areas are so colored because of blood and blood vessels. The black areas are found in the basal ganglia, and get their color from neuromelanin, which is similar to the pigment in our hair and skin.

By Michael Rucker, posted on juillet 23, 2010 at 9:39 , Posted in Cognitive Science


  1. Barbara Bout

    Great summary of some interesting brain facts. Thank you!

  2. Karen

    Brain cells do die as a result of the dehydration that comes from getting drunk: at least 10,000 neurons die from the lack of water. Those don’t grow back (rarely, if ever), unless in the hippocampus, which is for short term memory. Source: TWU Neuroanatomy and Physiology, Dr. Dianna Hynds.

    You said this was a myth:

    « Your brain wrinkles increase as you learn », but then stated « the wrinkles we gain as our brain develops »…you seem to be implying that it’s simply a biological development that everyone, regardless of thought processes, form. Not true. Uniform brain wrinkling (or the same number of wrinkles) is not just a biological growth process. If you’ve ever seen scans of a boxer’s brain, or an alcoholic’s brain, or someone with a lower iq, you will see it’s smoother and with less fissures.

    A damaged brain may « heal » by creating new neural connections to other neurons around the scar tissue, but the neurons don’t grow back, and 99% of the time, we don’t ever create new neurons (again, except for in the hippocampus.). There has been such a small report of new neurons in any place other than the hippocampus that scientists generally don’t report it.

    Nice other points, though!

  3. Joseph Comparetti

    I believe that aside from physical appearance, the biggest difference between human and ape is the ability to reason. While I guess apes do have a beginnings of this ability it can’t of course compare with that of humans. I also believe that evolution must be a very gradual process and therefor not all humans have fully achieved this power. It seems that this would account for the great difference in intelligence among humans. Many humans while they can speak and accomplish every day tasks and have families etc. still are working with the remnants of the ape brain. Mostly very nice people but no power to reason. I don’t mean any of this in a vindictive way. It’s just what I believe and of course I may be wrong.

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