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Health

93 STASHED IDEAS

Myth: Brain cells die permanently

We've been long told that adults have only so many brain cells and that we never form new ones and that once these cells are lost, they're gone for good.

However, in recent years, experts have discovered evidence that the statement above isn't true. The human adult brain does indeed still form new cells throughout life, even during old age.

This process of forming new brain cells is known as neurogenesis and it happens in the area of our brain called the hippocampus.

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Health

Myth: Brain Damage is Permanent

While the brain may be fragile and that damaging it results in a multitude of consequences that range from mild disruptions to our cognitive abilities to complete impairment, brain damage isn't permanent.

How one recovers from such damage depends upon its severity and the location of the injury. Remember that the brain has an impressive amount of plasticity so even after a serious brain event, the brain can often heal itself over time.

Myth: We only use 10% of our brains

We've heard this myth countless times from many different films or even in some of the fiction books we've read, but the reality is it continues to be a work of fiction. If this myth were true, we wouldn't be worried about brain damage that has profound consequences for our cognition and function.

The truth of the matter is that brain imaging techniques have demonstrated that the entire brain is being used even while we are asleep.

Myth: Humans have the largest brains

The concept of humans having the biggest brain in regards to proportion to body size is untrue - it's another misconception.

Although we have a brain that weighs 3 lbs and measures 15 cm in length, the largest animal brain belongs to the sperm whale and it weighs a whopping 18 lbs, following second by the elephant with an 11 lbs brain.

If we're comparing brain size in proportion to body size, the shrew holds the title, due to its brain making up 10% of its body mass.

Myth: We have 100 billion neurons in the human brain

No one can really trace back to where this notion of the human brain having a hundred billion neurons started but a researcher named Suzana Herculano-Houzel, decided to actually count it, the amount is not too far off.

The actual count is closer to 85 billion neurons.

Myth: Drinking alcohol kills brain cells

While excessive and chronic alcohol abuse can certainly have dire health consequences, researchers do not believe that drinking causes neurons to die.

Myth: Your brain has a preferred learning style

Learning styles suggest that our brain has a preferred method of intaking knowledge. One popular theory suggests that our brains may prefer visual learning over kinesthetic and as fun as this sounds there is little research to back up this concept.

A large-scale study was done but found no evidence to support the use of learning style assessment instruments.

Myth: People are right- or left-brained

There is a popular notion that people may either be dominated by their right or left brain hemispheres. according to this notion, right-brained people are more creative and expressive while left-brained people are more analytical and logical.

However, as fun and as spunky as this notion might seem, it isn't really true. It has been proven that we do better at tasks when the entire brain is utilized, even for things that are typically associated with a certain area of the brain.

Decades ago, scientists noticed neurons increase their activity when an individual is taking a particular action, for example, waving when others are waving. They named them "mirror neurons."

But, your brain is really predicting your next action based on what you see, hear, and feel if you move. Seeing someone wriggle their fingers in the air and understanding it as a greeting is a normal part of your brain's predictive processes.

During any day, it can seem like your brain is reacting to events around you. You're pricked by a needle and feel a bit of pain.

However, your brain constantly predicts the next moment and compares the guess to the data it receives from the world and inside your body. These predictions turn into your actions.

Myth: You have a lizard in your head

You may have heard that your passions lie deep in ancient parts of your brain that you apparently inherited from prehistoric reptiles. Or that your "rational brain" which sits on top of your "lizard brain" tries to moderate your desires.

The only animal with a lizard brain is a lizard. Neuroscience clearly shows that brains don't evolve in layers but follow a single manufacturing plan.

Your brain doesn't store memories like a filing system. Your brain reconstructs your memories on demand with electricity and chemicals.

"Remembering" is really "assembling" and may be influenced by your current situation, so your brain may reshape each occurrence so that it differs in the details.

Most parts of the human brain can't grow new brain cells, but some parts can.

The hippocampus can grow new neurons. The hippocampus is important for learning, remembering, regulating your eating, and other biological functions.

All of your sensations are computed in your brain.

  • You see with your brain, based on what is in your brain and the sense data from your eyes.
  • You hear with your brain as it makes sense of sounds based partly on the data from your ears.
  • Your skin has no sensors for wetness. Instead, your brain combines several sources of information, including touch, temperature, and knowledge from experience, to create a feeling of being wet.

Generally, no part of your brain is exclusively dedicated to creativity or mathematical reasoning. Neurons compute every action you take from across the entire brain.

While your cerebral cortex consists of two halves, both are intricately connected. Language ability does take place mainly in the left hemisphere, but this lateralisation develops gradually in most people.

Hormones don't just have one specific psychological purpose, and all the chemicals work together in your mind.

  • Cortisol boosts the amount of glucose in your bloodstream for a quick burst of energy, such as before you exercise or wake up in the morning, not just when you are stressed.
  • Serotonin has many functions. It regulates how much fat is made and helps keep track of your energy. It also helps other neurons pass on information as they create your thoughts, feelings and actions.

While you can't control everything, you can consider realistic options.

If you're worried about flying, research the physics and statistics, and remind yourself that you're safer in a plane than in your car. If you're concerned about a blemish on your face, make an appointment with your dermatologist.

The most effective way to overcome your fears is to face them.

If you fear flying, take a vacation where you have to fly. If you fear that you have a severe problem in your marriage, address it with your partner. This way, you will know what to work on instead of just worrying or feeling stuck.

Working with a therapist can help to overcome your catastrophic thoughts.

Focusing on the worst-case scenario may mask a different problem. For example, a fear of flying might be a fear to take a job out of state.

The impending catastrophe in your mind

The worst-case scenario thinking is troublesome because it causes the very problem we're trying to prevent - an unpleasant or difficult situation.

How often does a negative thought turn into catastrophic thinking? A spot on your face becomes a cancerous tumour. Your child not attending a specific school spirals into him not getting a good job. From just entertaining an idea, it quickly turns into a worst-case scenario.

When your thoughts tip from realistic anxieties into unlikely scenarios, take note of it. Also, if your thoughts become catastrophic, notice if you're judging yourself: "I always do this."

We often may not realise when our thoughts become catastrophic. A long-term solution for sharpening self-awareness is mindfulness meditation. It can help you become better attuned to your thoughts.

Counting calories in food

The system for counting calories comes from chemist Wilbur Atwater. To find out how much energy we get from eating, he measured the nutritional value in food and subtracted the amount of energy left in people's bodily excretion.

His research resulted in the 4-9-4 rule: Each gram of protein, fat, and carbohydrate provides 4, 9, 4 calories of energy, respectively.

Nutritionists are calling for calorie intake and nutrition information to be reviewed.

  • They say the present system does not differentiate between raw and cooked food. Processed food is easier to absorb, so it provides more calories.
  • USCA researchers found that pistachios' caloric value had been overstated by 5 percent on the nutrition label. Almonds were overstated by 32 percent.

People often get stressed about how much they should be sleeping. The stress elevates their cortisol that prevents them from sleeping. So they get into a vicious circle.

People who live in places where there is no electricity, iPhones or TV's don't sleep any more than the average American. They sleep 6 -7 hours on average at night. They also don't nap. If you get six or seven hours of sleep a night and you feel fine, then it is enough.

Our ancestors walked about 5 miles a day - or about 10,000 steps. Many people are moving less than they did before the pandemic. If 10,000 steps feel too out of reach, it's OK. It doesn't really matter what you do, as long as you're focused on movement.

In villages in remote parts of the world where people don't have chairs or a hunter-gatherer camp, people sit on average 10 hours a day. So it is not unnatural to sit a lot, but it is problematic if that's all you do.

There is this idea that running wears away your cartilage and causes arthritis in the knees. But it is not valid. Studies show that people who run more are less likely to get arthritis in their knees and more likely to benefit from physical activity.

Knee injury is indeed most common among runners. But these injuries can be prevented by learning to run properly.

Until recently, only the wealthy people had a chair with a seatback. Human beings used to either sat on the ground or on stools or benches.

A seatback makes sitting more passive than just sitting on a bench or stool because you use fewer muscles to stabilize your upper body. If you don't use your muscles in your body, they atrophy. And weak muscles make us more prone to pain.

As we age, physical activity becomes more important. One serious negative consequence of older individuals who are less physically active is that their muscles dwindle, they atrophy. The less they are active, the frailer they become.

The good news is that you can turn it around. The mechanisms that get turned on when we do a little bit of strength training don't diminish with age. Strength training will give you enormous benefits.

Exercise is a new phenomenon

For much of history, human beings had an active lifestyle, but it did not include any kind of formal exercise.

Movement just for movement's sake is a relatively new phenomenon in human history.

Getting up every 10 minutes or so just to go to the bathroom or make yourself a cup of tea is turning on your muscles. It uses up fats and sugars in your bloodstream, and it produces molecules that turn down inflammation.

Interrupted sitting and not sitting in a chair that's nestling your body keeps your muscles going and is much healthier for you.

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