8 Misconceptions About the Brain Debunked

There are just some things our memory holds on to despite the fact that the information is not true.  The following are 8 misconceptions held by many of us regarding characteristics of our brains.  Read on and try, yet again to correct those misconceptions.

1.  MYTH.  You only use 10% of your brain.

TRUTH.  A neuroimaging technology known as functional magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI) shows  from study to study that several regions of the brain are at work for any given activity.  While not all of your brain is active all at once, through the course of normal activity, you must call upon all regions of the brain to function.

2.  MYTH.  Listening to classical music makes you smarter.

TRUTH.  Researchers have found listening to classical music not to have an impact on intelligence.  In one study, individuals who watch classical music-based television learned fewer words, as did those individuals who watched regular television.  In the one study during 1993 where college students exhibited a rise in IQ test scores after listening to classical music, they could not obtain the same success after 15 minutes.  So this so-called Mozart effect was temporary.  In contrast, learning to play a musical instrument has been shown to enhance cognitive skills over the long-term.

3.  MYTH. Vaccines cause autism.

TRUTH. There is no conclusive, scientific evidence demonstrating that any part of a vaccine causes autism.  Because autism symptoms first emerge during the time a child must receive several of their vaccines led some to suspect that link existed between the two.  More importantly the original research supporting this link has been wholly repudiated by the scientific community.  What scientist have come to know about autism is that it is linked to genes that influence brain cell connection and continue to investigate other genetic factors contributing to this disease.

4.  MYTH. Brain damage is always permanent.

TRUTH.  There are some cases in which the brain can repair itself.  The location of brain injury and the severity of the damage caused by that injury determine whether recovery is possible.  The use of different types of therapy can help individuals develop new connections of their neurons (nerve cells) to re-map function to health areas of the brain.

Memories are stored in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, shown in red in this computer illustration. (Source:Photo Researchers, Inc.)

5.  MYTH.  Your brain can’t make new cells.  Full disclosure, I was guilty of believing this myth.

TRUTH.  Your brain is constantly generating new cells so that it remains plastic (or adaptable) throughout your lifespan.  Most neurons are created before birth. However, regions such as the hippocampus (an area of the brain responsible for memory) and the olfactory bulb (the region responsible for processing smell) continue to form new neurons throughout adulthood.

6.  MYTH.  Consuming alcoholic beverages always kills brain cells.

TRUTH. Consuming moderate amounts of alcohol does not kill brain cells.  The primary danger of alcohol is due to its addictive qualities, its ability to alter brain function, and the shrinking effect it has upon cells because it causes dehydration. Years of chronic alcohol abuse or binge drinking, however will kill neurons.

7.  MYTH.  Drug use makes holes in your brain.

TRUTH.  Only physical trauma (think gun shot wound) can put a hole in your brain.  Key regions of he brain can atrophy (or become smaller in size) in people addicted to drugs but, of course these are not holes.  Drugs interfere with the brain’s chemical messaging system by blocking cells’ ability to receive these messages.

8.  MYTH.  Playing games keeps your brain young.

TRUTH. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku or similar games can improve specific skills like learning new words, but it doesn’t enhance overall brain function.  A healthy diet rich in anti-oxidants and regular aerobic exercise has the greatest impact on the maintenance of memory and cognition.

Source:  Society for Neuroscience
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