The whole truth about the brain

What do we know about our brain and intelligence? Exercises for the brain, increasing IQ, the birth of brilliant ideas, the power of imagination and other useful information.

Whether IQ can change, why being half asleep is good, why we get nostalgic - the authors of the book "The Brain: A Quick Guide" talk about this and much more. Learn 11 amazing facts about your brain right now:

An amazing mechanism. The brain is a densely intertwined network of 86 billion "wires" neurons with another 86 billion supporting cells. There are more neural connections in our brain than there are stars in our galaxy.

If all neural pathways were stretched into a single line, it would have a length of approximately 160,000 kilometers, and hundreds of thousands of trillions of trains would travel back and forth along it right on schedule at speeds up to 400 kilometers per hour. Like an incredible supercomputer, our brain is light-years ahead of everything that man has managed to create at this moment.

Why we are nostalgic. The hippocampus is a particularly dense area of ​​neurons that are connected to almost every other part of your brain. This zone helps you keep track of where you are in space, allows you to fantasize, remember the events of the past, and it is vital for the ability to imagine the future.

These functions are closely related, since many of our memories of the events of life are closely intertwined with the places in which they occurred: when you return to a particular place, the corresponding images will be resurrected. Therefore, visiting the school where you studied can bring back long-forgotten memories.

Reliable guard. The amygdala is a constantly active area of ​​the brain that is responsible for generating various emotions and constantly processing incoming sensory information for danger.

Like your brain's military outpost, it constantly scans incoming data for potential threats and is always ready to hit the "panic" button - "fear reaction" the second it is detected. This part of the brain, in the instant after hearing a loud sound or an object rapidly approaching you, will cause you to recoil or freeze in place even before you are aware of everything.

Neuroplasticity is the most amazing property of the brain. Learning provokes physical changes in our brain. Drivers of London's famous black cabs spend years absorbing "knowledge" - an almost unbelievable amount of information for any human to process, including the location of 25,000 streets and 20,000 places of interest that a passenger would want to visit.

While learning all this information, the London taxi driver's hippocampus physically expands in size due to all the extra connections that form to store new knowledge, and returns to normal size after retirement.

Saving glass of water. Your brain is 73% water. The efficiency with which it sends electrical impulses across more than 150,000 kilometers of neural networks decreases when the brain is dehydrated. Every time you wake up, he's a little dehydrated.

At night there is no way to fill the need for water, so in the morning there is an imbalance that needs to be corrected. Drink a small glass of water when you wake up in the morning and make sure you're hydrated throughout the day - for the sake of your brain.

The brain needs exercise. It is well known that exercise is good for the body, yet many overlook its enormous contribution to brain health. The moment you start doing any moderately hard exercise, your body automatically responds by releasing hormones and chemicals that make you feel good.

People who exercise regularly enjoy smoother brain function for longer. In fact, exercise increases the rate at which new cells form in the hippocampus. It is more important than all other factors to stay sane until the very end. Get yourself at least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day.

The power of imagination. Many experiments have been conducted over the years on people learning new skills, from playing basketball to playing the piano. An interesting fact was discovered that, regardless of whether a person actually practiced or instead vividly imagined how he was doing it, changes in the brain were noted after a few days.

Incredibly, the progress of those who only imagined how to practice was almost as significant as that of those who actually practiced.

More information means higher IQ. Until the end of the 20th century, IQ was assumed to remain at a stable level throughout adult life. Until New Zealand psychologist James Flynn noticed something curious. When he compared the results of two IQ tests of the same people from test to test, he noticed that the later ones were higher.

It is now known that IQ levels worldwide increase by an average of three points every ten years! But what is driving this growth? As far as we can tell, the reason is our use of new technologies. The amount of information we have access to has grown dramatically, primarily through television, then the Internet. The more information our brain learns every day, the smarter, apparently, we become.

Myths about multitasking. The brain cannot work on several tasks at once. Women are known for their ability to multitask, but the fact that they are working on parallel tasks is an illusion.

The reason why women are better at multi-tasking is because they have lower costs of switching between them than men. However, both sexes face the negative consequences of endlessly switching from task to task instead of fixing on one thing from start to finish.

When brilliant ideas are born. Your brain doesn't go to sleep all at once, different parts of it go into sleep mode and turn off at different times. Areas of the brain shut down one after the other for about 20 minutes, some areas becoming unable to receive and send messages through the neural networks with which they are usually in close communication. This means that parts of the brain that have not yet fallen into sleep work autonomously, performing their tasks without the usual communication with other areas.

The intermediate state between when the whole brain is still awake and when the whole brain is already asleep is incredibly effective as a catalyst for creative ideas. Even Thomas Edison discovered that if he took a nap for only a few minutes, he always woke up with a new idea.

What you expect is what you get. Smell, food, and even music trigger responses in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). However, research shows that OFC does not respond to pleasurable experiences per se, but rather reflects how much pleasure you expect from it.

OFC activation in response to certain savory odors was significantly increased when people were told they were being asked to appreciate the aroma of high quality cheese. In another situation, subjects were told that the same smell was the smell of a pair of dirty socks. The conclusion is that your expectations can fundamentally influence the perception of specific images, smells, tastes - positively or negatively.

Adapted from The Brain: A Quick Guide by Jack Lewis and Adrian Webster.