When we grow up we hear many stories about the complex brain. About the ‘fact’ that genes completely decide how our brain would be like in our life, Or the famous story that tells us that our brain only gets worse as we grow older. These stories, or myths as we prefer to describe them, are nothing but false. Here are some remarkable brain myths
Myth 1. Alcohol kills brain cells.
Good news! Drinking alcohol is okay! Well, not entirely. Drinking too much is still problematic for your body, including your brain. Not to mention the loss of awareness, motion control and logic sense when getting drunk. But alcohol does not kill brain cells, this is a well-spread myth. Then what is it that alcohol does to the brain?
Too much alcohol can cause damage to the ends of neurons (the brain cells), where neurons communicate with other neurons. But the cells itself will still be alive. It’s just the transmission between multiple neurons that is out of control once you fill up the booze rapidly. This is the reason you can’t see straight anymore or that you get headaches and hallucinations. Your speech will let you down and you can get nauseated. For the most part, the damage of the ends of neurons is reversible after you sober up.
But of course, if you just don’t know when to stop drinking you’re asking for trouble…
Myth 2. Listening to classical music makes you smarter.
Get your daily Mozart and Bach and start the musical workout! Is this the easy way to become smarter? Defined as the ‘Mozart effect’, it was believed for a long time that listening to classical music indeed made listeners smarter. Old IQ studies were implementing Mozart pieces before presenting the test to its testgroup, and they saw significant results: the testgroup scored higher when Mozart was on before the test was given. End of story, or not?
More recent studies have shown that listening to Mozart can temporarily improve cognitive functions such as concentration and performances on spatial-temporal tasks. But despite these bonuses, there is no evidence that a person actually becomes smarter in the long run. It is imaginable though that one gets calm and therefore better focussed when one is listening to Mozart but it does not increase the grades on high school automatically! Getting smarter is a product of a long process of commitment and hard work.
Myth 3. Brains are comparable with computers.
We love to use metaphors to describe complex things. That also goes for understanding the human brain, we tend to compare it with computers. But there is actually not one element of the brain that can be understood as a metaphor of a high speed, data storing computer. What kinds of metaphors do we frequently use to describe the brain?
The human brain is often seen as a huge data storage system, just like a computer. But in fact, the brain does not have ‘empty spaces’ that are waiting to be filled up with information, just like computers which have specific spaces to put new information in. We also like to think that our brain gets visual images like they really are, just as a computer which can only present fixed images like pictures and movies. But we are actively interpreting and anticipating on visuals we see with our eyes, plus because we pay attention to different elements in the world we automatically see and distinquish these different parts. So our brain is way more complex than a mechanic computer. These metaphorical comparisons are not new, in fact they already existed way back in history. Philosophers like Descartes and Freud for instance already compared the complex human brain with machines in their days.
Myth 4. Brain damage means permanent damage.
Our brain is fragile, which means we have to take good care of it. Avoid things like head banging and do not use drugs and alcohol. Other ways of brain damage are the result of accidents like concussions or when your head meets a heavy static object like a street or a wall. But not every damage to the brain is permanent. In fact, our brain has a great deal of plasticity, the ability of the brain to change and adapt according to circumstances, which can often lead to a recovery (partly or fully) of the brain.
Many scientific studies have shown that brain training on a daily basis increases brain plasticity, which leads to a healthier brain. So go do your daily workout with BrainGymmer games.
Myth 5. Women use more parts of the brain than men.
This is a popular myth in magazines and books, The very ‘fact’ that men mainly rely on one hemisphere (roughly half of the brain) for a particular function. Women however, tend to use more parts of the brain to perform a certain action. But, fitting in the theme here, this is also considered a myth.
The myth was, among others, created by Norman Geschwind who thought that male babies had a smaller left hemisphere because they had more testosterone levels than female babies. Many recent brain studies however did not find any supporting evidence of this smaller hemisphere inside male brains. And with that, there is no such thing as the fact that men only use one part of the brain and that females use two parts. For instance, one study analysed the brain of 74 new-born babies, both male and female babies. The scientists did not find any signs of a smaller left hemisphere in the brain of male babies. So, for the men among us, the next time a female (read: your wife, girlfriend or mother) says you have to use more than one brain half, you know what to say back!
You know what is not a myth? Braintraining really helps! Start your workout now here.