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10 Myths About the Human Brain

10 Myths About the Human Brain

Recently, an infographic from journl.com was published illustrating the inaccuracy of the 10 most common myths about the human brain. It’s interesting to know that in an age where it’s important to understand the mechanics of success, we still embrace these myths. After all, learning how to utilize our brain power effectively is essential to attaining goals. The following myths are addressed in the infographic briefly. This articles goes a little more in depth.

It is time to stop believing false myths about our brains. Some can make a big difference in the way we perceive things and our overall success.

Myth #1: We Only Use 10% of Our Brains

This myth is the most commonly believed one so we will begin with it.

The myth most likely came from William James, an American psychologist in the early 1900s. When James was quoted while saying, “the average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her overall potential,” the quote was altered. First altered to,”10 percent of our capacity”, then further modified to “10 percent of our brains”. Even though we can scientifically prove that humans use more than 10 percent of their brains, this myth is believed true by many.

Myth #2: The Brain Declines as We Get Older

Some mental skills improve with age. Vocabulary, language comprehension, critical thinking, and emotional control are a few of the areas that continue to develop.

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Recent studies suggest that mindfulness is another way to increase brain function. Studies suggest that brain function improved in certain areas for study participants after an eight-week mindful based stress reduction program. Participants showed an increase in gray matter clusters controlling functions of emotion and social cognition. Studies suggest mindfulness may be useful in treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Myth #3: Brain Damage is Always Permanent

Although it is true that severe brain damages may never heal completely, functions enabled by the damaged portions can improve, and connections lost between neurons can reconnect.

The bottom line is that damaged neurons cannot grow back. However, damaged connections between the neurons eventually reconnect, reversing damage. When neurons are damaged, the brain can rewire to use other portions in performing the lost function. Functions such as speech may be handled by another part of the brain once that part can learn the function through therapeutic repetition.

Myth #4: The Brain is Hard-Wired

The truth is that brains can be re-wired. Therapy encourages new parts of the brain, not associated with a skill, to take over the performance when the associated part is unable. For example, the hearing of a blind person is enhanced when sight is not available. A stroke victim can speak by teaching an area not usually associated with performing the task to control speech.

Re-wiring your brain is also possible to change habits. Brains learn through repetitive actions. If you want to stop smoking, you can train your brain to stop sending the signals that make cravings unbearable. It just takes time and repetition to retrain your brain.

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Myth #5: Left-Brained People are Organized Right-Brained People are Creative

Division of brain hemispheres is another great example of a myth that was altered by others and then gained popularity until it was believed to be true.

The reality is that both sides of your brain control most activities. For example, when performing math, both the right and left hemispheres of your brain are utilized. If we were to believe that the left hemisphere controls logic and the right hemisphere controls creativity, it wouldn’t make sense to use the right side. After all, math is all logic, right?

Myth #6: Your Memory is an Exact Account of What You See and Experience

We recall memories from the brain. They are not an actual account of what took place. When we recall a memory it takes on the form of the last time we recalled that memory. That means we enhance certain portions of the memory and allow other parts to fade into the background.

If we remember a traumatic experience, our brains may block certain parts as a protection. It is also important to know that psychologists have successfully been able to implant false memories. All of this better explains why several people can witness the same event, but everyone recalls it differently.

Myth #7: Listening to Classical Music Will Make a Baby Smarter

In the 1950’s, physician Albert Tomatis claimed success in treating auditory disorders with classical music. He based his findings on a theory formed after 36 college students were asked to listen to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata before taking an IQ test. The students were found by an overseeing psychologist, Dr. Gordon Shaw, to have improved their IQ points by eight. With the findings, the “Mozart effect” came to life.

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No physician has been able to duplicate the results of the study since the original findings. Dr. Frances Rauscher, involved in the initial study, advises the results never claimed listening to Mozart made the group smarter. Instead, they found it increased performance on certain spatial-temporal tasks. However, the myth was born and still lives today.

Myth #8: Brain Games Improve Your Memory and Reasoning Skills

In theory, it seems to make sense that brain games would improve your memory and reasoning by exercising the portions of the brain that control those functions. However, research has proven this not to be true.

The BBC took initiative to look into this theory. In a study of over 8,600 people, ages 18-60, brain function in memory and reasoning skills did not improve after participating three times per week, ten minutes per day, in games designed to improve these skills. Myth busted.

Myth #9: Your IQ Stays the Same Throughout Life

Do you believe some people are born smarter than others and IQs will not change? If so, you’re not alone. Although it is true that the standardized IQ test will show little increase in intelligence over a lifetime, it is not publicized that a learning curve is built into the test.

The test factors in the amount of learning expected to take place over time, and then discounts it, making scores appear to stay the same when we are actually getting smarter.

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Myth #10: Your Brain Works Better Under Pressure

The theory is a widely popular one, but in reality your mind is not working better under pressure, you are just more focused on the task.

Because added focus makes people think they work better under pressure, they will wait until the last minute to perform a task. The stress caused to a brain while under pressure increases the release of cortisol. Too much cortisol can hamper learning and memory formation causing long-term adverse effects.

Now that you know the 10 most common myths about the brain are debunked, it’s time to educate the world. Next time someone tells you they are right-brained and cannot do something, you will have an educated answer as to why they can.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Becraft via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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