The brain is not only one of the most interesting organs in our bodies, but it’s also one of THE most fascinating objects in the world. There’s still so much we don’t know about this mysterious organ. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the brain by quite simply making stuff up!
The following list contains some of the most commonly perpetuated myths about the human brain. I think you’re going to be quite surprised, and you may need to change your party small talk if the subject ever turns to neurology!
Myth #1: You only use 10 percent of your brain
Yes, that’s right. That classic adage is a myth. Of course, it’s going to be hard not to believe if you haven’t already come across the truth, as this myth is referenced almost everywhere. Entire films have been constructed around this idea, and people even fantasize about telekinesis and telepathy if they could only start using more of their brain.
However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that we use only 10% of our brains.
You are using more than 10% of your brain. How much more, you ask?
All of it!
The brain is separated into different segments and lobes, all of which perform specific functions. We have the frontal lobes in the cerebral cortex used for thinking and reasoning, parietal lobes for taste, texture and smell of food, and occipital and temporal lobes for processing information like sight and sound etc.
Think about what you’re doing right now – sitting and reading this article. So, firstly, your occipital lobes are processing the words of this article, while the motor area of the cerebellum is responsible for you blinking and maintaining your balance and coordination as you’re sitting.
You see, a large portion of your brain is being engaged for even the simplest tasks. Brain power!
Myth #2: Drinking alcohol kills brain cells
This is simply not true.Drinking alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells. (Source)
This myth is probably very deep-seated in our heads, however, as it seems to be a classic warning against over-indulging in alcohol. Most people probably picture thousands of brain cells being killed off as we drink each pint of beer.
Actually, there is no truth to this myth AT ALL.
First of all, it is important to note that moderate consumption of alcohol doesn’t even damage brain cells, let alone kill them. Alcoholics, on the other hand, are indeed damaging their gray matter (but NOT killing any of it). This is because alcohol damages dendrites (the branch-like ends of brain cells), so brain function is impaired.
More specifically, the neurons (brain cells) can’t effectively pass on messages to each other, resulting in decreased cognitive ability.
I’m sure that our liver is quite jealous of our brain in terms of processing alcohol. We’re not arguing that you should go out and start drinking every night, as there are plenty of other consequences, but you’re not eradicating your intelligence with every glass of wine!
Myth #3: Humans have the biggest brains
Human beings are the most intelligent life form on Earth – possibly even in the entire universe (of course, aliens that are smarter are likely planning an invasion of Earth even as you’re reading this). Given that assumed fact, it follows that we should have the biggest brains.
The average human brain weighs about 1.36 kg (3 pounds) and measures upto 15 cm in length, whereas the brain of an elephant weighs almost 5 kg (11 pounds)! That’s not as big as it gets though, as the largest brain actually belongs to the sperm whale, which weighs about 8.16 kg (18 pounds)!
As you can see, intelligence and brain size aren’t related by the weight of your brain. A better relation can be established by the ratio of brain weight to a creature’s entire body weight. For humans, this ratio is about 1:50, meaning that the brain takes up about 2% of our total body weight. The ratio is far lower for most other animals. For most mammals, this ratio is 1:180, and for birds, it is 1:220. So surely, at least this aspect of the human brain is the biggest, right?
Turns out, surprisingly, that the animal with the largest body-size to brain ratio is the shrew. Its brain takes up 10% of its body weight!
Next time someone busts out one of these popular brain myths, you’ll realize how such misconceptions persist among us. Do everyone a favor and let them know the truth. Use your own brain for the benefit of all!