You have the most incredible computer on Earth in your head. He has the ability to memorize billions of pieces of information and retrieve them almost instantly. It can recognize noise or odor, handwriting or drawing much faster and more reliably than electronic computers. Of course, this is your brain. It is so complex that only a few years ago scientists began to understand how it works and what it is capable of. Here are some useful passages and interesting stories about the human brain from the books How to memorize (almost) everything and always, Fire Yourself, Healthy Brain.
How does the brain work?
Our brains are about the same size and shape as two fists of an adult placed together. It is divided into two hemispheres, which are connected by the so-called corpus callosum. The halves of the brain look the same, but have different functions. Each one “looks after” its half of the body.
A special part of the brain is called the hippocampus, from the Greek hippokampos, which means “seahorse”, due to its curved shape. She is responsible for short-term memory and memory of events that happened to you personally. The cerebral cortex (or “gray matter”) covers most of the brain. The memory is stored throughout its entire area.
Fun fact: the left half of your brain controls the right half of your body, and the right half of your brain controls the left half of your body. This is known because people who have suffered an injury or stroke in one of the cerebral hemispheres always suffer from the opposite side of the body.
The work of neurologists has led to many discoveries about how the brain works. First, the brain itself does not have pain receptors, a kind of pain sensors. This means that you can be awake while neurosurgeons are digging into your brains and not feel anything.
Left-handedness and right-handedness
Left- and right-handedness depends on how your brain is powered. In left-handed people, the control areas, which are usually located in the left hemisphere of the brain, may be in the right hemisphere. It is still unclear why this is happening. Surprisingly, most animals do not tend to be right-footed. For example, what kind of paw is your dog pitching? Which paw does your cat use to open the door when needed? Scientists have found that about half the time they use their right paw and half the time they use their left.
Although our memories are distributed across both hemispheres of the brain, they themselves work in different ways. For example, words and meanings are usually stored in the left hemisphere of the brain, while melodies and images are mostly stored in the right. We know this from studying people whose brains have been damaged in one way or another. One person with a stroke in the left hemisphere was unable to speak but could still sing!
In another case, a patient whose brain was split in the middle and the two hemispheres were severed was shown an image of a banana. In this case, the right eye
the patient was closed. The patient’s right hemisphere recognized a banana and knew it was a fruit, but was unable to name it. When the right eye was opened, the left hemisphere came into play, and the name popped up in the mind.
Most people remember very little of what happened to them before they were five. It is extremely unusual to recall events from less than three years of age. For many children, the earliest memories are exciting or scary.
Most two-year-olds, if they were promised a gift, will remember this and will often remind their parents about it; however, their memories won’t last too long. Even as children grow up, their memories are very short. Some are only 10 seconds long – just as long as you need to, if you are not trying to remember something forever.
Forgetting is useful, it helps to remove all unnecessary and concentrate on what is really important. Sometimes, you may consciously desire to get rid of memories that are painful or saddening.
People forget information if they store it but never use it. You may know that the French word for guinea pig is cobaye. It is also possible that you have learned this only now. There is also the possibility that you will never need this information again. Naturally, the word will soon disappear from your memory. To keep it, you need to repeat it very often.
The longest known case of amnesia occurred with American John R. Crosswight in 1936. He was in a car accident, and when he regained consciousness, he decided that his name was John Cross. As a result of this mistake, John Crosswight was reported missing and officially dead in 1940. John Cross later married, and his family did not know that he already had a wife and children. In 1973, this man had a stroke, and as a result of the changes in the brain, he remembered who he really was.
The smart ones forget too
Some very smart people seem to have terrible memories. A friend of the famous math genius David Hilbert once showed him a complex formula on a blackboard.
Gilbert was very impressed and said, “This is amazing! Who wrote this?”. “You!” – answered the friend. And this does not mean that Hilbert has a bad memory. Many smart people are often distracted, that is, inattentive, because their brains are busy with too many things.
Remember too much
Sometimes the desire to make the brain work can go too far. American William James Sideis was the son of a psychologist from Harvard University. From an early age he was trained to memorize and learn. By the age of seven, William had completed eight years of schooling in six months and learned five languages! He entered Harvard University, graduated with top marks, and became a university lecturer at the age of 14. However, at 25, he worked as a regular accountant. When asked why this is so, he replied: “I am happy. This work allows me to forget. “
Movements to help the brain
The brain is needed only for a moving living being, notes neurophysiologist from New York University Rodolfo Llinas. As an illustration, he cites the example of a small, jellyfish-like marine animal called the ascidian. Once born, it attaches itself to the coral and slowly eats away at its brain. Since the ascidian does not move, it does not need a brain.
As the human species evolved, the purely physical skills of its representatives turned into abstract abilities to anticipate, evaluate, communicate between phenomena, plan, observe oneself, make judgments, correct mistakes, change tactics, and then remember everything that was done in for survival. Those neural circuits that our distant ancestors used to make fire, we today use, for example, to study the French language.
By doing physical exercises, especially those associated with complex movements, we also train those parts of our brain that are involved in mental activity. Automatic thinking and motor functions are controlled by the basal nuclei, the cerebellum and the trunk – ancient zones that researchers have until recently associated only with motor functions. The transfer of fundamental skills and knowledge to these areas of the brain associated with our subconscious, frees up other important parts of it to work on adapting to the environment. This element in the structure of the brain is very important. Imagine that we would need to stop for a while and remember how to make the usual movement. We would be weary before we even had a cup of coffee in the morning. That is why, by the way, jogging in the morning is so important.
Memory loss… You instantly forget the names of new acquaintances; put your car keys somewhere and after a few minutes you cannot find them; If you don’t write down an important thought, then you can’t remember it? Surprisingly, your main problem is not memory-related: your brain knows where the keys are and what time you need to be at the doctor. The problem is, you can’t get to that information at the right time. Gradually, of course, you will remember where you put the keys, but before that you will rush about for several minutes in search. And two days later, the time of the missed appointment with the doctor will pop up in memory.
If you find it difficult to remember recent events, but what happened several decades ago, you remember very well, your memory is already quite seriously weakened. Memory loss is associated with a whole set of factors: age, unhealthy diet, lack of nutrients in the diet, disease. But with a change in lifestyle, memory can be restored.
Difficulty focusing on the task… Do you find it difficult to return to work after being distracted? If there is a radio or TV in the room, do you find it difficult to read or concentrate? The fact is that you are getting worse and worse at doing several things at the same time. If you use a popular computer term, you can say that multitasking is more difficult for you. The young brain is capable of multitasking and absorbing huge amounts of information very quickly. And the brain of an older person sometimes gets stuck. He is overloaded with information and cannot process it quickly.
Decreased learning ability… When the brain begins to lose efficiency, it becomes more difficult for us to master new things. The brain loses the power of the “hard disk”, due to which the perception of new information requires more and more effort. For example, it may become more difficult for you to learn a new language or even follow the plot of a novel. Here’s what happens in this case. Your brain is made up of billions of cells – neurons, each surrounded by a protective membrane. Neurons have tiny branch-like processes called dendrites. Here they play an important role in the learning process: when the brain is faced with a difficult task, it forms new dendrites, which activates communication between brain cells and increases your intelligence. And although new dendrites can form at a very old age, this process seriously slows down over the years, which makes it more difficult for you to keep information in your head, be it phrases in a new language or the intricacies of the plot of a new book.
Fatigue of the brain. Do you feel like your brain is terribly overworked? If you find it difficult to make simple calculations in your head or keep track of the score in a tennis match, this is definitely a sign of brain fatigue. You can find it increasingly difficult to complete tasks that require prolonged concentration (say, writing a report on work). You are now unable to process information as quickly as before, and you probably notice that you are thinking slower. Why do you now have to spend half a day looking for glasses or car keys? There are mechanisms inside your brain that, if left unchecked, can destroy it. All aspects of your life – sleep patterns, medications you take, diet – can either slow down these destructive processes or speed them up.
Based on the books “How to memorize (almost) everything and always”, “Light yourself up”, “Healthy Brain”.
Cover photo: pixabay.