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Prepare for a brain explosion

Prepare for a brain explosion
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The brain is one of the most astonishing and intricate parts of the human body, yet it only takes up a fraction of space. But, oddly enough, there’s so much the average person doesn’t know about his or her noggin. Here are some strangely interesting facts about your grey matter.

The brain itself can’t feel pain

The brain itself can’t feel pain
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Ever wonder how brain surgeons are able to perform surgeries on patients while they’re awake? Beth McQuiston, MD, neurologist and medical director at Abbott, explains that even though the brain contains layers of coverings and blood vessels that contain pain receptors, the brain itself has zero. When a person has a headache, for example, it’s often thought of as pain stemming from the brain, but this is actually not the case. The muscles and skin surrounding the brain, however, can feel pain.

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Your brain is greedy

Your brain is greedy
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Your brain might account for only about 3 percent of your body weight, but it receives about 30 percent of the blood being pumped by your heart. This shows how much attention and support it requires in comparison to the other seemingly important areas of your body. “The brain is like a spoiled and demanding child, but yet it is extremely smart and efficient,” explains Bennet Omalu, MD, a forensic pathologist, neuropathologist, epidemiologist, clinical professor at University of California, Davis and author of Truth Doesn’t Have a Side. “It takes the brain about 1/10,000th of a second to respond to something and generate an action.”

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You actually do use most of your brain, most of the time

You actually do use most of your brain, most of the time
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Though the film Limitless with Bradley Cooper leads people to think that they use only a tiny portion of their brain, this is actually not true. “This misconception came about because the brain is so adaptable that sometimes minor damage causes only subtle problems,” explains Brett Wingeier, PhD, engineer, neuroscientist and co-founder of Halo Neuroscience. “The fact is, most of your brain is constantly working – to sense, process, think, move and even dream.” Even when you head to sleep at night, your brain is still hard at work!

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Brain waves are even more active while you’re dreaming

Brain waves are even more active while you’re dreaming
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When you’re fast asleep, you might think that your brain is “shut off”, but it’s actually doing a whole lot more than when you’re walking, talking, eating and thinking. “When awake, people utilise alpha and beta waves, which gives us day wakefulness,” explains Brandon Brock, MSN, BSN, staff clinician at Cerebrum Health Centers. “Sleep, however, especially in the initial stages, uses Theta activity, which is greater in amplitude than Beta.”

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Adult brains still make new neurons

Adult brains still make new neurons
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While most of our neurons have been with us since birth, and age does take a toll, your brain still makes new neurons. “This process, known as neurogenesis, occurs in a special region called the dentate gyrus,” explains Dr. Wingeier. These brain facts have been highly debated, but research shows that the adult brain can generate new nerve cells and incorporate them into neural circuits. “These neurons are thought to be important for learning, memory and responding to stress.” How can you boost this process in your own brain? Dr. Wingeier says through healthy living – things like sleep, exercise and a balanced diet.

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Almost half of a child’s energy goes to fuel their brain

Almost half of a child’s energy goes to fuel their brain
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In order for the brain to stay running at top-notch, it requires significant amounts of energy. And this is even more true for young children who are still learning, processing and developing at a fast rate. “Scientists at Northwestern University discovered recently that in the preschool years, when a child’s brain development is faster, physical growth is slower, possibly to save more energy for the developing brain,” explains Dr. Wingeier. “Conversely, during puberty, when physical growth is faster, brain development is slower – which may come as no surprise to parents of teenagers.”

The majority of brain cells aren’t neurons

The majority of brain cells aren’t neurons
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Did you know that for all the neurons in the brain, there are at least as many glial cells that support and protect these neurons? “These microscopic unsung heroes make sure neurons have a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen, insulate neurons from each other, and even help clean up after neural damage,” says Dr. Wingeier. “They even help optimise communication between neurons.”

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Exercise is as good for your brain as it is for your body

Exercise is as good for your brain as it is for your body
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Professional athletes know how important fuelling their brain is to ensure they’re able to put maximum effort and energy into their workouts. “This is because of the mental stimulation that comes with exercise, but also because a healthy cardiovascular system means better plumbing for the brain,” says Dr. Wingeier. Especially when you try a new fitness class or regimen for the first time, your brain is working hard at learning the motions and controlling your muscles.

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You can “see” through your ears

You can “see” through your ears
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Neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to reorganise and change itself throughout a person’s lifetime, is a truly remarkable thing. One study by the University of Montreal compared the brain activity of individuals who were born blind and those who had normal vision. They found that the part of the brain that’s normally wired to work with our eyes can instead rewire itself to process sound information instead of visual perception. Pretty cool, right?

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