14 Things You didn’t Know About Your Brain, Two About the Stars And One About London.
Your brain weights 1198 grams if you are a woman, 1336 grams if you are a man. This difference is due to difference in body size, and doesn’t translate into more intelligence. By the way, you are losing 2.7grams of brain weigh per year. Women just 2.2 grams (1)
Your brain makes up 2% of your total weight, but consumes 20% of the energy your body needs (2). When you were a baby, your brain consumed 50% of that energy (3). It‘s completely normal you couldn’t move your body freely with such a head and so little power for your muscles left.
Your brain has 86.1 billions of neurons (4). It was thought that each of us had the same neurons as our galaxy‘s number of stars, but not quite. The Milky Way has between 100 and 400 billion stars (5). There are Two Trillion galaxies in the Universe (6), so you can make the math. This sure brings a little sense of scale and humility to you, but don’t feel depressed by your insignificance. Those 86.1x109 neurons can do extraordinary things, but it‘s not how many neurons you have, but how many connections between them there are: 10’000’000’000’000’000. (7) That brings us an extraordinary calculation power.
German researchers did a test comparing 1% of our brain computing capacity with the most capable supercomputer in Japan, the K Computer. What one per cent of our Brain can do in one second, this supercomputer do in 40 minutes (8). Your Brain do this with one hundredth of the energy needed to light a light bulb, that is, 0.2W. The K Computer needs 12.9 Megawatts. You are sixty five million times more efficient. (9)
Anyway, your brain doesn’t work quite like a computer. In linear operations like Math problems a computer can be faster. We, on the other hand, work probabilistically and in parallel. That‘s why we are so good in pattern recognition, language, relationships between concepts and creativity. Not just that: Our brains are designed to work with other brains. We are always looking for clues to establish relationships with other people. We form teams, families and groups to achieve goals impossible to get alone. That’s why facial recognition is so important for us. In fact, there is a part of the brain focused on this vital task: the fusiform gyrus.
Another special feature of your brain is its incredible capacity to change. It’s a process called neuroplasticity. It was first investigated in adults mammals by Joseph Altman in 1962, (10) but his work faced resistance by the scientific community. At that time, it was thought that our brain could not change once we reached adulthood. Different investigations and breakthroughs made possible almost forty years later to finally accept that fact.
Old practicioners of yoga have a thicker prefrontal cortex, compensating the atophry that the brain suffers with age (11). After just two semester learning Spanish, students had structural changes in regions of their brain related to cognitive control and semantic processing (12). I’m sure you have heard about the London taxi drivers and their oversized Hippocampi due to the learning of the 60’000 streets and 100’000 places of note of London (14).
The brain reinforces the circuits you use more consistently, and eliminate those you don’t use. That’s what habits are. It’s incredible that our brain is able to adapt itself during all our life, but more incredible is how fast it happens. After just eight weeks of meditation, there are visible changes in brain structures related with memory, sense of self, memory and stress (15).
You have an incredible organ between your ears, an organ that you can control and change, not just by learning. If you exercise, your memory increases (16). If you have positive thoughts the reward circuit of your brain becomes more active, producing endorphins and dopamine making you persevere and strive toward your goals (17).
You can train your thoughts, and doing so, you can change your brain. Under this evidence, you cannot say “I can’t change” anymore. You are the master of the most incredible tool evolution has made. What are you going to do with it?