Updated: Aug 11
It’s no surprise that doctors and scientists have been fascinated by the brain for centuries. In fact, there’s even some evidence that successful brain surgeries were happening up to 7,000 years ago during the Stone Age. But thanks to advances in science and technology, we now know more about the human brain than ever before – and it’s no less fascinating.
Here are a few interesting brain facts:
The Brain is Self Cleaning Research has shown that while we sleep, glial cells clean the brain by flushing out toxins. But studies have also found that this “flushing out” process can actually happen in some cases of sleep deprivation as well. In fact, some studies have found that chronic sleep deprivation can cause the brain to flush out matter that isn’t waste, like neurons and synaptic connections. What’s worse? Research has also suggested that these effects may be irreversible, which is just one more reason why sleep is so important.
Your Brain Can Shrink Many people might not know that even non-sleep deprived brains can shrink – and losing brain volume isn’t a good thing. After age 40, the memory parts of our brains (the hippocampus and cortex) may shrink by an estimated 0.5% every year. This type of “normal” brain aging may cause you to have some slight difficulties recalling a word now and then, but it shouldn’t cause disruptive or worsening memory problems. Conversely, people who experience disabling cognitive decline likely were exposed to negative risk factors during middle age, causing accelerated shrinkage of their hippocampus and cortex by old age. The good news is, we now know that we can grow our brains at any age.
The Brain Produces Enough Electricity to Power a Light Bulb We know that the brain naturally produces electricity, from slow-moving theta waves to fast-moving beta waves. But many people are unaware of just how much electricity our brains produce. It’s estimated that when awake, the average adult brain generates roughly 20 watts of electricity, which is enough to power a small light bulb. Furthermore, we now know that those frequencies can impact our daily lives by affecting our mood, focus, sleep, and more. Too much fast-moving waves could play a role in excessive anxiety, while too many slow-moving waves could be a factor in a lack of focus.
Exercise Can Stimulate Neuron Production Research shows exercise is one of the best generators of new hippocampal neurons. Increasing your level of physical fitness has been shown to help boost your memory and grow your brain. Simply walking can do wonders for growing your brain and decreasing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, according to a large body of research. It’s been demonstrated that the more physically active you are, the bigger your hippocampus can get. One study showed that participants who increased physical activity like walking, dancing, or gardening reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50%.
As we continue to learn more about the brain, science is finding that we have more control over our brain health than we previously thought. The choices we make today can have an impact on our brain health of tomorrow.
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Hsu, Jeremy. (2009, November 6). “How Much Power Does The Human Brain Require To Operate?” Retrieved from https://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2009-11/neuron-computer-chips-could-overcome-power-limitations-digital
Discover. (1997, September 1). “Stone Age Surgery.” Retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/1997/sep/stoneagesurgery1229
Melnick, Meredith. (2011, August 3). “4 Factors That May Shrink Your Brain.” Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2011/08/03/study-4-factors-that-may-shrink-your-brain/
Science Alert. (2018, May 29). “The Brain Literally Starts Eating Itself When It Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep.” Retrieved from https://www.sciencealert.com/your-brain-starts-eating-itself-due-to-lack-of-sleep