3 myths about the human brain that scientists have debunked
Did you know that in 1990 National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the United States launched an initiative to conduct a program “Decade of the Brain” between 1990 and 2000? The goal of this international project was to “raise awareness of people about brain research and its activities.” And since then, two decades have passed!
At that time, it was a rather daring and innovative project. During the “Decade of the Brain” and later, already in the 21st century, the study of this part of the human body made a leap forward. Moreover, over the past 20 years, many theories that were considered correct at the end of the 20th century have been refuted.
We used to think that the human brain stops growing and changing by the time of maturation and full formation of the body. However, now scientists say that the brain always and at any age adapts to the environment, and its neurons can continue to develop and transform.
Modern technology has made it possible for researchers to study what was previously incomprehensible and unknown, and our much knowledge about the brain has expanded significantly. Thus, what was once common knowledge begins to turn into myths of the past.
Young scientist from the University of Bristol (UK) Aliya Sarmanova She has been doing research on chronic pain and placebo for several years, so she joined us to tell our readers the truth about how the brain works.
Read also: Scientists have discovered 7 signs of intelligence. Suddenly!
So let’s take a look at the Top 3 Brain Myths that have been debunked lately.
- Each person has their own individual and most effective way of perceiving information: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
Previously, it was believed that the 3 types of learning are associated with different parts of the brain, that these parts are separate and independent in terms of perceiving information. However, the researchers came to the conclusion that in fact they are closely related, and between them this information is very actively transmitted.
Of course, someone prefers visual, someone auditory, and someone kinesthetic (tactile) learning, however, it has not been proven that children learn better using the method that supposedly suits them best.
Aliya Sarmanova: The idea that the effectiveness of training can be increased by taking into account the individual characteristics of the perception of information appeared long ago, back in the 70s of the last century. There are many variations, but the most common is the visual, auditory or auditory and kinesthetic division, known in Western literature as VAK learning styles. Despite the fact that the effectiveness of such methods remains controversial, up to 90% of teachers in different countries continue to believe in this myth.
Indeed, there are individual differences in how we perceive information in different formats, be it visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. But this does not mean at all that our learning is limited to one or another type of perception.
Thanks to the evolution of modern methods of studying the brain, such as PET or functional MRI, neuroscientists, psychologists and cognitive scientists have begun to better understand how our brains work and work.
There are two main concepts in modern neuroscience that contradict the theory of individual learning styles.
The first concept suggests that in our brain there is a close and complex relationship between its various departments. Indeed, there are various “specialized” centers in the brain – the visual center, the center of speech perception, the center of decision-making, and so on.
But it is important to understand that by receiving information from different senses, our brains combine it in a process called multisensory integration, thus gaining a reliable view of the environment and of the human body itself. It is these interconnections that determine our intelligence and our ability to think creatively. Moreover, anthropologists believe that it was this unique ability of the brain to form connections between different departments that gave an advantage to the ancestors of modern man – the Cro-Magnons. After all, the neighboring Neanderthals did not have such well-connected parts of the brain, which means that they could not adapt to changing conditions as quickly as Cro-Magnons.
Second concept Is neuroplasticity, which implies that our brains continue to change and reorganize, which allows us to develop new skills and abilities throughout our lives. Therefore, even if we have an “innate” peculiarity of perception or a preference for one or another method of obtaining information, this does not mean that other methods are not available to us and cannot be developed.
- We only use 10% of our brain’s potential
People have long supported and believed in this 10% myth. What if we could release the power of the other 90% of our brain? That would be a breakthrough, right? No it is not true.
Modern technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans can actually track our brain activity. PET scans, which create a three-dimensional image of brain activity, show that we are recruiting far more than 10%. Even Alzheimer’s patients use above that proverbial 10%.
Aliya Sarmanova: This myth is believed to have originated from misquoting or misinterpretation of the work of Albert Einstein, as well as several other scientists of the early 20th century. This myth is very popular with modern writers and filmmakers. Therefore, it is not surprising that people continue to believe in this.
Our brains weigh about 3% of our body weight and consume up to 20% of our dietary energy. The thing is that the brain is constantly working, and is not in an energy-saving mode as previously thought.
Through various brain imaging techniques such as PET and functional MRI, scientists have been able to prove that although some parts of the brain are more active than others at different times of the day, depending on the activity performed, a certain level of activity is maintained throughout the brain.
The main source of energy for the brain is glucose, which travels to the brain through the blood vessels. The higher the brain activity, the greater the need for glucose, the faster the blood flow. This is the basis of the effect of fMRI. Whereas PET measures the metabolism or glucose uptake of brain cells, which also reflects activity.
- Some people have the dominant right hemisphere of the brain, while others have the left.
This myth will probably never die, if only because a considerable number of tests for the curious are created on its basis. And while recent studies have proven that there are actually no people with a dominant right or left hemisphere, this is still believed sincerely and unquestioningly.
Aliya Sarmanova: So, in 2013, scientists debunked this myth by studying 7 thousand areas in the brain of more than a thousand subjects, and they determined that regardless of whether a person is a humanities or a techie, we all have the same activity in both hemispheres of the brain.
Indeed, the cited study from Uta University showed that brain activity is distributed relatively evenly between the right and left hemispheres. This does not disprove the fact that there are individual differences between techies and humanities, or between more emotional creative people and people of a mathematical mind. But this suggests that these differences are not determined by differences in the activity of the cerebral hemispheres.
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