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5 Unusual Things About Your Brain

 
11/01/2018 | By Freedom Health Insurance
Packed with nearly 90 billion nerve cells and weighing just over three pounds, the human brain is full of many wonders, many of them still left undiscovered. Uncover 5 unusual things that you probably didn’t know about your brain.








1. You can’t tickle yourself 

Robert Province, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore explains that there are two types of tickling: knismesis which is a defence reflex of the body’s skin, and gargalesis which is a harder tickle that is responded to with laughter, is linked to play and can be considered a social behaviour rather than a reflex. Your armpits, feet, stomach, sides and neck are the most common ticklish areas, and this may be because they are the most vulnerable parts of your body, however we cannot tickle them ourselves. 

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from University College London investigated the quick decisions the brain makes by scanning participants’ brains when her colleagues tickled them and when they attempted to tickle themselves. She found out that we don’t feel the same sensations with the same intensity when we tickle ourselves compared to when someone else tickles us.

Brain scientists at the University College London pinpointed the cerebellum (the part of our brain that monitors our movements) as the one that stops us from tickling ourselves, by distinguishing between unexpected and expected sensations. If we try to tickle ourselves, the cerebellum expects this contact and prepares for it.

2. What you eat affects your brain 

Your brain functions at its best when it gets healthy and nutrient rich food. Consuming foods that contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress (the waste produced when your body uses oxygen which can damage cells).

BBC Good Food reveals some food that could help boost your brain: blueberries may help boost short-term memory, blackcurrants may help reduce anxiety and stress, sage may help boost memory and concentration and pumpkin seeds could help enhance memory and boost your mood. Are any of these in your daily diet and do you recognise their effects?

3. We use more than 10% of our brain

The BBC reveals that simple actions such as clenching and unclenching your hand requires much more than just 10% of your brain. Your brain is always doing something, even when you think it isn’t. Healthline also reveals that you use almost every part of your brain in one day.

Encyclopaedia Britannica explains why this is a myth with a great analogy: if we were using only 10% of the brain, most injuries to the human brain wouldn’t have any noticeable consequences because the damage would affect parts of the brain that weren’t being used to begin with.

If you thought you still have 90% of your brain to ‘unlock’, it’s actually already being used up!

4. Physical exercise is good for your brain too

According to Psychology Today, physical exercise isn’t just good for your body and muscles, it can provide a work out for your brain too. Exercise increases blood flow to your brain which improves cerebrovascular (brain) health.

A research study carried out by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus (an area in your brain engaged with verbal memory and learning). The Guardian mentions several studies which found that exercise can boost your memory, improve your concentration, improve your mental health, enhance your creativity and slow cognitive decline.

5. Crocodile tears syndrome is a real brain disorder

‘Crocodile tears’ is a well-known figure of speech, described by Cambridge Dictionary as ‘tears that you cry when you are not really sad or sorry’. The saying comes from an old myth that crocodiles cry with emotion when munching on their prey but this figure of speech is a reality for some.

Crocodile tears syndrome is a condition in which nerve fibres (axons) in the brain that should be used for salivation become damaged and regrow into the lacrimal gland which controls tears under the eye, causing the sufferer to tear up while they are eating – this how powerful the brain can be.

This syndrome is uncommon and can usually follow after Bell’s palsy (a rare condition causing temporary weakness or paralysis in muscles on one side of the face) and is unilateral. According to the NHS, Bell’s palsy is most common among those aged 15 to 60 years and affects approximately 1 in 5,000 people each year with the exact cause unknown.  

The brain is a fascinating organ and with it, we all learn something new every day! While reading this and learning about your brain, the physical structure of your brain has changed and you have tapped into the natural curiosity and intrinsic motivation of your mind.