72 Amazing Brain Facts that are Sure to Surprise You

Our brain is incredibly complex and amazing, and while there are some unknowns about the brain, there are so many interesting aspects that are known! Here are 72 of them! Here are some stats, facts, and myths to debunk about the powerful machine between our two ears!

Brain in Numbers

The brain is truly incredible, and as if you aren’t already amazed by it, here are some stats that are sure to blow you away.

  1. On average, the brain accounts for about 2% of the body weight, yet it uses 20% of the body’s total oxygen and energy intake.
  2. The brain is 73% water and as little as 2% dehydration can impact attention, memory, and cognitive skills.
  3. Ninety minutes of sweating can temporarily shrink the brain as much as one year of aging.
  4. The brain weighs around 1.3kgs and 60% of the dry weight is fat, making the brain the fattiest organ in the body.
  5. 25% of the cholesterol in the body lives in the brain. Cholesterol is essential to brain cells and without enough of it, brain cells die.
  6. Without anyone knowing for certain, the latest estimate is that the brain contains 86 billion brain cells.
  7. Each neuron can transmit 1,000 nerve impulses every second and makes as many as tens of thousands of synaptic contacts with other neurons.
  8. A speck of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurons and 1 billion synapses, which are all in communication with each other.
  9. Every brain cell is not like the next one. There are around 10,000 variations of neurons in the brain.

  1. The brain survives on a constant supply of oxygen. Even 5 minutes without oxygen causes brain cells to die which leads to severe damage to the brain.
  2. Babies have unusually large heads to hold a brain that is growing extremely rapidly. A 2-year-old’s brain is about 80% of an adult-size brain.
  3. Any parent will agree with this, teenage brains are not fully formed yet, and it isn’t until 25 that the brain finishes maturing.
  4. Brain information is travelling up to speeds of 431km/h which is faster than any formula one car which top out at around 390km/h.
  5. The brain creates about 20 watts of electricity, so essentially your brain could power a few low-watt light bulbs!
  6. The brain has around 70,000 thoughts per day! No wonder it is called the random thought generator. The brain generates around 48.6 thoughts per minute.
  7. Every single minute, between 750-1,000mls of blood flow through the brain, which is enough to fill a bottle of wine.
  8. Your brain is such a powerful processing machine that it can process an image that your eyes saw for as little as 13 milliseconds, which is less time than it takes for you to blink.

Facts about Brain Size

As you’ll see here, bigger isn’t always better. Size, Schmize, what matters is its power.

  1. On average, the male brain is 10% bigger than the female brain, however, the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory) is larger in the female brain.
  2. Albert Einstein’s brain weighed 1.2kgs, which is about 130 grams lighter than the average brain. However, the neuron density of his brain was greater than the average brain.
  3. Neanderthal (an extinct archaic human species) brains were around 10% larger than our Homo Sapiens brains.

How the Modern Lifestyle is Changing our Brains

While technology is getting better and modern life is fairly comfortable, it is having some serious effects on the brain.

  1. Humans have the largest brains in proportion to the body weight of the animal species, yet we don’t have the largest brains. The largest brain belongs to the sperm whale, which has a 7.7kg brain.
  2. Human brains have gotten significantly smaller over the period of around 20,000 years. The lost volume is equivalent to a tennis ball.
  3. The hippocampus, which is responsible for memory in the brain, is much larger in London taxi drivers, which is due to the mental workout they endure while they navigate the 25,000 streets of London.

  1. Chronic stress and depression are becoming increasingly more common, yet both can cause significant brain shrinkage.
  2. The average modern-day diet is low in omega-3 essential fatty acids. These low levels of essential fatty acids cause brain shrinkage which is equivalent to two years of brain aging.
  3. The average IQ has been going down around 1.6 points per decade since the late 1800s, which totals out at 13.35 points.
  4. There is no such thing as multitasking, there is only the brain switching from one task to another. When task switching, attention span, learning capacity, and overall mental performance are decreased significantly. Not only that, but task switching can temporarily decrease IQ by 15 points.
  5. Interestingly, millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are more forgetful than baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).
  6. Brain cells resort to eating themselves in extreme cases of starvation. Extreme dieting and low-fat diets can make your brain begin to eat itself.
  7. More than 140 proteins in the brain are negatively impacted by the kind of electromagnetic frequencies that cell phones produce.
  8. Sole reliance on GPS navigation actually destroys the innate sense of direction that has taken thousands of years to develop. The parts of the brain that help us navigate are no longer used when we rely solely on GPS and so the neural pathways fade during synaptic pruning.

Brain Myths Debunked

There are some weird myths around that most of us fall for when it comes to the brain. We’re here to debunk some of the most popular ones!

  1. People say that our attention spans are getting shorter or that we have attention spans shorter than the goldfish. But this is false, there is no evidence that the human attention span is shrinking or that goldfish actually have short attention spans either.
  2. We are told that we only use 10% of our brains, but scans have shown we use most of our brains most of the time, and there is still significant activity during sleep.
  3. People like to think of themselves as left-brained or right-brained, creative or logical, but we are neither one nor the other, we are whole-brained.
  4. Excessive alcohol consumption does not kill brain cells, but it does damage the connective tissue at the end of neurons.

  1. Some people believe in the Mozart Effect, which suggests that listening to Mozart can increase memory and help concentration. While certain kinds of music can help memory and concentration, there is nothing specifically special or unique about listening to Mozart.
  2. It is often said that we have more brain cells than there are stars in the Milky Way, however, the estimate is that we have around 86 billion neurons, yet that are around 200-400 billion stars in the Milky Way.
  3. It is believed by many that there are around 16,000kms of blood vessels in the brain, yet it is only around 640kms – which is still no small feat!
  4. Having high total cholesterol is not totally bad for your brain, as the brain requires cholesterol to function and can actually reduce the risk of dementia.
  5. It has been believed, until recently, that each person is born with a certain level of intelligence and that cannot be changed, but thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain change and can continue to form new brain cells. 

Brain FACTS ABOUT MEMORY

Our brain has enough storage to hold the entire internet, but that’s not all!

  1. Memory can be more accurately considered a process of the brain rather than confined to a specific area of the brain. Memories are deconstructed and distributed to different parts of the brain. For the memory to be recalled, all the pieces have to come together from different areas. Although the hippocampus is essential for memory.

  1. The brain peaks at the age of around 25, but some skills peak at different cognitive skills at different ages. At any age, you will be better at some things and worse at others. In some cases, vocabulary has been known to peak at 70!

  1. If you were drinking last weekend and you don’t remember what happened it isn’t because you forgot, it is actually because the brain under the influence of alcohol can’t form new memories.

  1. It is widely believed that people with a great memory are born that way, but masters of memory will tell you that memory is a skill that needs to be practised and develop like any other skill.

Facts about Brain Form and Function

  1. Human brain tissue actually isn’t dense, and it can be likened to the consistency of tofu or gelatin it is actually quite fragile.  
  2. The brain produces around ½ a cup of fluid every day. The brain floats in a bath of cerebrospinal fluid which acts like a shock absorber to ensure the brain doesn’t get crushed by its own weight.
  3. Surgery to stop seizures, called a hemispherectomy, requires surgeons to remove or disable half of the brain, and half a brain can be as good as the whole one!
  4. Just as there is no fingerprint like your own, each brain pattern of connectivity is just as unique.

  1. Pain is processed in the brain; however, the brain does not have any pain receptors and actually doesn’t feel pain. While headaches can feel as if they are in the brain, they are actually the pain from surrounding skin, joints, sinuses, or muscles. This explains why brain surgery can be done while the patient is awake with no pain or discomfort.
  2. While a brain freeze feels as if the brain is in immense pain, it is actually referred to pain emanating from the roof of the mouth. 
  3. MRIs have revealed that introverts and extroverts are measurably different. They have shown that extroverts have a more active dopamine reward network, while introverts have more grey matter.
  4. Cambridge University has proven that the order of letters in a written word doesn’t actually matter much to the brain, so long as the first and last letters are in the right place, the brain can unjumble the letters to read the word perfectly. For example, have a go at reading this: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. 

The Brain: World’s Most Powerful Computer

Although technology is advancing in ways we never saw coming, the brain is still the most powerful computer on earth!

  1. The brain’s capacity to store information is pretty much unlimited. Lucky for us we don’t get that annoying notification ‘storage full’ in our brain as we do on our phones!
  2. The latest research shows that the brain’s capacity is in the ‘petabyte’ range. A petabyte is a quadrillion byte, which is about the amount of storage needed to store the entire internet!
  3. The human brain is capable of 1016 processes per second, which makes it the most powerful computer on earth.
  4. The human brain is about 30 times more powerful than the IBM Sequoia, one of the most powerful and fastest supercomputers.
  5. Japan has what is called the K computer, and it is one of the most powerful computers in the world. However, when programmed to simulate human brain activity, it took 40 minutes to do the work that the brain can do in just one second of brain activity.

Proof That Our Brain Could Be Better

Although the brain is so incredibly powerful, watch out because it isn’t perfect all the time.

  1. There are approximately 200 known cognitive biases that cause us to think and act in irrational ways.
  2. Memories are incredibly unreliable and can be influenced by emotions, cues, context and new information we encounter.
  3. About 70% of the mental chat that goes on within our brains is actually self-critical and negative.
  4. 95% of our decisions occur in our subconscious brain.
  5. The blood-brain barrier protects the brain by preventing foreign substances from entering the brain, however, it isn’t perfect. Nicotine reaches the brain in 7 seconds and alcohol takes 6 minutes.
  6. Our brains crave mental stimulation, and humorously it is proven that men would rather give themselves an electric shock than sit in a room with only their thoughts!

  1. The human brain is incredibly complex, and with this great complexity, it can go askew in some fascinating ways. Some strange disorders include exploding head syndrome disorder, where people hear phantom explosions in their heads. Or Capgras Syndrome, where people think their loved ones have been replaced by aliens or robots. Or Cotard’s Syndrome, which is when someone believes that they are dead.
  2. The Savant syndrome is where those with a mental condition resulting in a disability are genius in one area or another. Some areas of common genius are music, art, maths, mechanic, or spatial skills.
  3. Most savants are born that way but brain trauma or disease can cause sudden savant syndrome, which causes ordinary people to suddenly be genius in an area that they weren’t before.
  4. Brain cells require a constant supply of fuel to stay alive, yet they don’t have the capacity to store energy. Thankfully we have the liver which breaks down stored fat to create ketone bodies that can be used as a substitute fuel when blood glucose is not available.

Just Plain weird facts

Seeing as our brain can store so much information, why not add some useless yet interesting facts into the mix?

  1. Synaesthesia is a condition where stimulation of one sense can bring forth another sense. People with this condition can taste words, smell sounds or see numbers are colours.
  2. While you only have one brain, there is what is known as the second brain in the gut which contains 100 million neurons. The gut is responsible for making 30 neurotransmitters, including 95% of the body’s serotonin.
  3. While zombies don’t actually exist, some scientists believe that they could if a mutated virus could attack the brain and then spread through a population, causing something like a ‘zombie apocalypse.
  4. The brains of Apple users actually different to those who use android products. MRIs show that Apple products stimulate the ‘God Spot’ in Apple users’ brains, which is the same spot that is activated when people see religious imagery.
  5. The man who performed the autopsy of Albert Einstein kept his brain in a jar for 40 years. He then made a trip with the brain to deliver it to Einstein’s granddaughter.

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