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Brain Discoveries

Important Brain Discoveries and Why We Need Brain Science

Author:NeuroGym Team

Why We Need to Keep Making Discoveries About the Brain

New brain discoveries are being made every year in the field of neuroscience. The brain is the organ that keeps us working the way we should be, and the study of the brain is incredibly important. Here’s why we need to know our brains and some cool new discoveries.

The Importance of Brain Science

There is an irony to the fact that while we engage our brains to try and find answers to the great questions in life, we actually haven’t fully figured out an awful lot about our own brains! Even so, we’ve come a very long way in getting to know our brains (or rather, our brains getting to know themselves), and when you look back in history, scientists and philosophers have long been trying to uncover the secrets of our bodies’ supercomputers. Way back in the time of Greek philosophers and Roman physicians, there were several interesting theories posited about the brain, and from the time of our ancient forebears up until now, we’ve made many milestones in neuroscience, the study of the brain.

You may be saying to yourself, “Neuroscience sounds tricky. Why do I need to learn about my brain anyway?” and you may wish to remain blissfully unaware of the inner workings of your brain. It may seem like as long as your brain keeps working, you don’t have to worry about how it’s working, but that’s the issue; the brain doesn’t always work as it should!

There are many conditions that impact the brain. For example, autoimmune diseases, in which the body’s defense mechanism attacks the brain; mental illnesses, which can negatively impact daily functioning and quality of life; and neurodevelopmental conditions. Sometimes, people are born with these conditions, but they can also develop over time. Many people develop dementia in their old age, which leads to drastically impaired memory and decision making skills. Another brain disease that can develop as we age is Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disease that reduces mobility. Individuals can develop mental disorders brought on by brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder. As we can see, even if we have a fairly healthy brain when we start out in life, sometimes, things can change.

The more we learn about the brain, the more we can do to help treat the various illnesses that can take hold of us and impair our physical mobility, mental health, intellectual capability, and overall bodily well-being. The brain is the hub of our bodies and it controls everything! So, the more we learn about it, the more we can learn about ourselves. 

Being part of the central nervous system, the brain has a say in every other part of our bodies. The brain controls what hormones we produce, as well as controlling how we interpret sensory information which allows us to respond to the world around us. If the brain doesn’t work right, we don’t work right, so we really need it to work right!

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Brilliant Brain Facts

  • There are roughly one hundred billion neurons in the brain!
  • Brain surgery is remarkably complex, but there are actually signs that it was being carried out as far back as the stone age! Hopefully some kind of anesthetic had been invented by then!
  • While the brain interprets pain signals (such as where in our body  the pain is coming from and how we should move ourselves away), the brain itself doesn’t feel any pain, it does, however, feel pleasure.
  • Your brain uses a lot of energy and so requires 20% of the blood and oxygen in your body.
  • At least half of the brain is made of fats.
  • An adult human brain weighs in at about 3 pounds, which is much less than the brain of a sperm whale which weighs roughly 20 pounds!
  • The electricity produced by the brain could power a 25-watt light bulb.
  • The blood vessels in your brain could stretch for about 100,000 miles, and could circle the Earth roughly four times.

Don’t Buy The Myths!

For as much as we know about the brain, there are some common misconceptions that many people believe to be true but that are just plain wrong! For example:

  • It’s often said that we only use 10% of our brains; however, this long-held belief is false. With the use of imaging technology, we now know that we use every bit of our brain, although not all parts are relevant at all times.
  • Many assume we lose plasticity in our brains as we age, but if we continue to exercise our brain—just like any muscle—it will continue to be strong and agile! So, it’s not true that an old (human) dog can’t learn new tricks.
  • It’s commonly held that we’re all either left-brained or right-brained, but in reality, we all use both sides of our brains.

Now that we’ve debunked those myths, let’s learn about the parts of the brain.

The Parts of the Brain

As part of the central nervous system, the brain contains an outer region of gray matter that surrounds an inner region of white matter. This white and gray matter make up the three main parts of the brain: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brainstem. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. The cerebral cortex is the outer part of the cerebrum and is divided into two hemispheres. In between the two hemispheres is the corpus callosum, a nerve bundle that allows the two hemispheres to exchange information. The cerebrum has different areas which handle functions such as initiating movement, forming emotions, problem-solving, and speech. The cerebellum is at the back of the head, and also has two hemispheres. It’s involved in balance and coordinating voluntary muscle movement. The brainstem connects the cerebrum to the spinal cord and is made up of the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla.

Five Cool Recent Brain Discoveries

Brain Discoveries

As we said earlier, we’re still trying to find out a lot about how our brains work. We are, however, making progress and learning new things every year. Here are five recent brain discoveries scientists have found.

    • No matter who’s doing it, a smile shows that someone is happy and a frown shows that someone is sad, right? Charles Darwin claimed that facial expressions are entirely universal, however, neuroscientists aren’t so sure! Research suggests that the meaning behind facial expressions usually depends on context and can differ depending on one’s culture.
    • Students have a lot to learn, which means teachers have a lot of responsibility! A study into teaching methods and how students learn has shown that being able to see an object and having spatial awareness of it helps us learn about it. The research also showed that students who were given lessons involving spatial learning improved their verbal skills too.
  • Mind blanking might sound like something that someone in a science fiction movie would use to forget their bad memories or perhaps as a way to wipe their mind clean of bad experiences. But it’s not fiction at all! It’s a very useful reality. Our brains are always on the go whether we’re awake or asleep. While we’re awake, our brains are constantly interpreting stimuli around us, such as the things we see and hear. But not everything around us is important enough to require our attention. Research has shown that our brains use mind blanking multiple times a day to give itself a break. You may find yourself forgetting part of your commute home from work because you’re so familiar with the journey. This is because our brains, while unconsciously interpreting the stimuli around us, have decided we don’t need to waste time interpreting those stimuli consciously. So, if you find yourself forgetting about something mundane, it’s okay; your brain was just taking a rest.

  • In the past, when it came to understanding how children deal with experiences, research suggested some kids were more sensitive and some were more resilient. However, new studies have contradicted this and shown that children will react differently to different experiences, sometimes emotionally and sometimes rationally, and it’s not wise to label a child as one or the other.
  • The brain likes what it likes! In the field of behavioral neuroscience, which looks at why we behave the way we do, research has shown that we have a molecular switch in our brains that tells us if an experience is good or bad. If this finding is studied further, it could help us learn more about mental health and depression.

We learn more and more about the brain with every bit of research conducted, so who knows what other brain discoveries we’ll make by the end of the year!

In Summary

Neuroscience is an exciting field with progress being made constantly. The more we learn about the brain, the better we can understand how we, as humans, work. It’s important we continue to make new brain discoveries and use our brains to learn more about themselves!

About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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