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Is liquor really as harmful to our grey matter as we are being told? Is it true that an average human only uses a fraction of his brain capacity? Are women really better at using both halves of the brain? Finnish researchers have recently debunked some of the most deep-rooted myths about the human brain.
Weighing about 1.2-1.4 kilograms or about 2 percent of the total body weight, the brain remains the most enigmatic part of the human body, accumulating a myriad of myths and misconceptions through the ages.
New research on the brain by the University of Helsinki has recently highlighted the benefits of learning two languages at an early age. To celebrate the new discovery, Swedish national broadcaster Yle took up some of the most hardened misapprehensions surrounding the human brain with Hasse Karlsson, a professor of neuroscience and psychiatry at Turku University.
Myth #1: Only ten percent of the brain is used
Nobody really knows where this statement comes from. One of the possible originators of the misconception is Einstein who has been often credited with claiming that he only uses 10 percent of his brain. However, modern research suggests that there are virtually no areas of the brain that remain inactive. Therefore, the brain is running at a capacity close to 100 percent all the time.
Myth #2: Right half is for logic, left half is for creativity
A deeper look inside the human brain with a magnetic camera indicated that both halves of the brain are engaged in emotional activity in an almost identical way. Indeed, some of the brain functions are more or less focused to certain areas, but when it comes to “big things” like logical thinking, the brain works as a whole. Nor it is possible to “train” one’s brain to prioritize one hemisphere above the other.
“This virtually impossible because the brain hemispheres are heavily interconnected. What happens in one brain half, affects the other,” Hasse Karlsson said, brushing aside the stereotype that women are better at using them both at a time. “There is no scientific evidence of a big difference between the sexes,” he said.
Myth #3: IQ stays the same throughout one’s lifetime
Regardless of what exactly is meant by IQ and how it is measured, people are not born with the same level of intellect that stays the same.
A certain form of intelligence actually improves with age, while other forms that have to do with speed and accuracy deteriorate all the time.
Myth #4: Memory can be exercised using brain gymnastics
This is only partly true. While the memory indeed can be trained by doing sums in one’s head or memorizing poems, it will not affect other areas of memory. In short, the specific thing you are training gets better, but the overall memory capacity does not improve. In other words, if you play a memory game every day, you will certainly become a dab hand at memory games, but it will not help you remember if you have left the oven on or not.
Myth #5: Omega 3 fats are for the “smarts”
Unfortunately, this is not true either. There are no miracle pills for becoming smarter and no shortcuts either. According to Hasse Karlsson, the only way of improving one’s mental capacity is being versatile and doing things that require various brain activities.
Myth #6: Drinking kills brain cells
The brain cells do not actually die of excessive alcohol consumption, but start functioning at a vastly reduced capacity.
Myth #7: Memories are etched in the brain forever