12 Old Wives Tales about the Brain

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You probably have heard people say the following:
“You only use 10 percent of your brain.”
“Your memory declines with age.”
“Alcohol kills brain cells.”

Ever since I was a little child, I heard some myths about the brain that I often thought was true. It wasn’t hard to think that way because some of these myths were pushed by people who were supposed to know better, and so I believed them, but fast forward to a few years later, and I had enough reason to doubt the legitimacy of such stories. Chances are that you too have heard about some of the myths that I will mention below. Follow me as we debunk some of these myths.

Brain myth: We only use 10 percent of our brain

According to Rimas V. Lukas, MD, a neuro-oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, “This is a brain myth you often hear but it’s completely false,”. The brain’s operating system is complicated but all its cells are essential—in some capacity—to its ability to work well. All parts of the brain are important, and no part is more important than the other, according to Lukas.


Brain myth: The size of your brain dictates how smart you are.

Brain size and intelligence are completely unrelated and have absolutely nothing to do with each other because all humans have relatively similar” sized brains. It has more to do with the strength of neuron networks and how the cells in the brain communicate with one another. You can greatly help to keep your cognitive abilities with the food you eat as well as the lifestyle you lead.

Brain myth: We’re either left-brained or right-brained.

According to Rawan Tarawneh, MD, who is a neurologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, There is no scientific basis for the notion that people tend to use one hemisphere of the brain more than the other for cognitive functions,”. For example, it is true that speaking and comprehending languages is predominantly controlled by the left hemisphere, but the right hemisphere also plays a big role in language processing by allowing us to understand the emotional intonations of speech, such as identifying when someone is being sarcastic, as well as understanding the punch line of a joke. This means that both sides of the brain collectively work together to act in one accord, and not just one side of the brain over another.

Brain myth: Brain damage is always permanent

Recovering from brain damage after an injury or illness can be a painful uphill battle, but in some cases, it’s totally possible. The brain can actually repair itself, to some extent, or compensate for certain losses. The same applies to other parts of the body that have the ability to repair themselves after an injury. If a portion of the brain is injured or perhaps removed, for one reason or another, your brain isn’t necessarily going to regenerate and fill the hole; but instead, it can, to some degree, rewire itself and in some cases can even grow new cells.


Brain myth: Memory works like a photocopier

Your memories are not carbon copies of events, because your brain recreates them every time you call one up, and the more time goes but, the more you remember other intricacies of a memory, causing you to remember the chain of events a little differently. Memories live in complex networks of nerve cell pathways throughout the brain, therefore, when you commit something to memory, it is almost like you are laying tracks on a trail that is unique to the memory, and just like a path that is laid out in the woods, the more you traverse it, the more firmly established it becomes.


Brain myth: Alcohol kills brain cells

If your high school health teacher tried to scare you away from underage drinking by telling you it would kill your brain cells, then know now that he wasn’t telling you the complete truth. Although the heavy use of alcohol can definitely damage the brain, it doesn’t full on murder the brain cells- that would be taking it too far. The real damage occurs because the neurons that are responsible for cell communication are damaged, and that leads to cognitive problems as well as a slew of disorders.



Brain myth: There are five senses

This particular myth debunk surprised me because it completely ruined everything that I was taught in grade school. Although the human body may have five major senses—sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch—but there are many other ways of sensing and experiencing the world that is directed by the mind. There’s proprioception (a sense of how your body is positioned), nociception (a sense of pain), balance, and the passage of time.

Brain myth: Your brain dictates your skills

According to research and discoveries found by doctors of Mayo Clinic, Minneapolis, some people are just naturally better and gifted at some things than other people are. There’s not this perfect dichotomy that exists in areas of the brain and what they do to influence the personality and skills of a specific person.

skillful man

Brain myth: Your brain stays the same size all your life

Just as your height, weight, and even foot size can fluctuate with the passage of time, so also can your brain. According to Dr. Tarawneh of Mayo Clinic, brains normally shrink in size by about 1 to 2 percent every year after the age of 40. This is usually due to the loss of brain cells and brain cells shrinking in size with age.

Brain myth: Being in a coma is like being asleep

Television dramas often depict coma patients suddenly waking up from their sleep and feeling as fresh as a daisy, however the real experience is nothing like that: Patients who experience awakening from a coma can feel disabled, disoriented and often need rehab because the brain and body aren’t getting the usual activity that they would normally be getting during regular sleep.

Brain myth: Memory automatically declines with age

The popular belief is that older people tend to have memory deterioration with age. While a healthy older brain may lose some of its agility over time, its capacity to work usually stays the same. Although remembering a complicated set of directions or a long list of words will need more time and repetition, if you put in the effort, you’ll keep the information just as well as a younger person would, if not better. However, dementia can dramatically cut your ability to remember certain things.


Brain myth: Brain agility begins to fade at mid-life

Mental agility, not capacity—actually begins to decline at around the age of 24. I was shocked at this fact because I am actually 24 years old now, and I thought that I had more time, but apparently not. If you are approaching your mid-twenties and are having the same fear, do not be afraid, there is still time to correct your lifestyle and make the necessary changes that you need to make to make sure that you are keeping your brain healthy and agile even as you begin to age. The older we are, the harder we need to work to keep our minds running at a fast pace and momentum.