Logic v. Creativity
This brain myth goes long the lines of left-brain people being logical and mathematical – while right-brained people are creative and imaginative. Not quite true, as you will see when you learn which abilities the left side of brain controls and which the right:
Left side of the brain: Logic, verbal skills, details, science, remembering names, mathematics, form strategies, order thinking, writing
Right side of the brain: Pictures, stories, the big picture, observation, shapes, music, patterns, beauty, imagination, possibilities.
It actually seems that in order to be good at something you need a bit of left and a bit of right brain input – for example, musicians are often also good at maths or writers can also imagine pictures or stories (and need logic to process the story). Doctors have found, however, that the two halves of your brain work together in a much more complex way – and after brain injury, one side of the brain can adapt to help patients recover some of the abilities they have lost. It is also not unheard of for stroke or head injury patients to wake from a coma and find they have developed a sudden and extreme talent such as speaking another language fluently if they could not before – or painting or playing the piano.
The brain retains everything you can see
This may be true but it certainly doesn’t mean you are all-seeing at any one point in time. The brain stores memories and information in the grey matter – and uses the connecting cells in between (the white matter) to send this information to other parts of the body (eg how to pick up a cup or tie a shoelace). This is why when people suffer a brain injury they may end up forgetting the names of loved ones or even how to speak or walk and these skills have to be relearned.
Stored memories can also cause conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, when the brain can subconsciously replay distressing events which in turn can lead to panic attacks – although the sufferer may not even know at the time why they are having a panic attack. This is usually triggered by association ie the sufferer may see or hear something which triggers the traumatic memory hidden deep in their mind. The hippocampus is the memory centre of the brain – and this is a walnut-sized organ responsible for sleep and also storing information. The more information we take in and the more things we learn, the larger the hippocampus grows. The fewer memories we make, the more it shrinks, so it is important always to learn new information and skills.
Alcohol kills brain cells
Alcohol may not physically kill brain cells, but it does interfere with the connections and messages sent – which is why if you get drunk your legs appear to stop working or you cannot think straight. Alcohol is addictive, however, and it can cause brain damage if the brain is starved of oxygen and an alcoholic can fall into a coma if they drink to excess. Alcohol can also cause strokes and heart attacks which can lead to the brain being deprived of oxygen, causing brain damage. When alcoholics say they have “brain damage” they are usually joking, but sadly in some cases it proves prophetic. Research has found no difference in the density of alcoholics’ brain cells compared with non-alcoholics, however.
The Internet makes us stupid
Well, not stupid perhaps – and it could make us more clever if we use it to study and learn new information, or play games of strategy or logic which exercise brain cells and make new connections between the grey matter and white matter. The Internet may tempt us to indulge in celeb gossip, silly chat rooms and all sorts of useless past-times, rather than learning a new language or brushing up our maths online. How you use the Internet might make you less clever at small talk – but knowing all about celeb lifestyles could be the break you need if you are a PhD student or a right old cleverclogs anyway.
You only use 10% of your brain
People who lead an active life with a mixture of both physical and intellectual experiences are more likely to give their brain a good daily workout, compared with those who veg out on the sofa. This is because the connections in the brain send messages to the other parts of the body about movement, feeling, perception and thoughts, to name just a few functions we perform every day. Even at night when we are asleep our brains are ticking away. It is known that people who learn new things, write letters, have conversations and play sports or enjoy painting or gardening or other creative activities make more connections in the brain, as it constantly stores new information and memories. Travel really does broaden the mind, also, as you take in new sights and experiences and the brain stores these.
Music in the womb makes babies brainier
Mums playing Mozart to their unborns has become a yummy mummy myth –but Mozart was a child prodigy and his father was a musician, so perhaps listening to daddy’s cantatas in the womb has some effect. Babies in the womb can hear and do respond to music – some music can make them kick or move around, while other pieces can soothe them and stops them wriggling or kicking. Choose your baby’s soundtrack wisely and well – but don’t expect junior to emerge after nine months with an algebraic formula for the Lost Chord.
Boost IQ with Brain Training
If we’re not Brain Training we are Sudukoing these days – and exercising your brain can help keep it healthy by building new connections and storing new information. Tests like Brain Training exercises can also give different aspects of your cognitive skills a workout – eg, logic one day, visual perception the next, etc. Brain Training will certainly not decrease your IQ – but anything which exercises those little grey cells can help keep it agile and improve short-term and long-term memory recall.
IQs don’t alter
The Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London has found that 9% of students tested and then retested between the ages of 12-16 and at 20 had increased their IQs by around 15 points, suggesting studying is good for you. Einstein’s IQ was 153 – a “very superior intelligence” according to the Wechsler Intelligence Scale, but not in the top 1% genius group (and yet he did okay). Prisoners tend to have lower IQs in the 75-90 range on the IQ scale, so head to the prison library or computer room if you can and start expanding those brain cells with some studying. Legendary US fraudster Frank Abagnale – whom Leonardo DiCaprio played in the film Catch Me If You Can – has an IQ of 136 and a photographic memory. Mensa says that 100 is the most common score on their IQ tests – but IQs of around 205 have been recorded.
Brains function best when you are under stress
This can be true because adrenalin pumps the heart when you are under pressure and blood to the brain can boost oxygen levels to the brain cells. However, when you are stressed you also release hormones such as cortisol and cortisol can actually kill off brain cells or impede their function – which is why stress tends to cause foggy thinking and also shrinks the size of the memory centre, the hippocampus. This explains why you cannot remember the simplest thing under stress and fail miserably in exams. It is not your fault. Many women claim their brain function gets slower during pregnancy and this may be the result of hormones – or just tiredness and stress. Relaxing is the best therapy as a mother’s stress can affect her baby in the womb.
Leo Wyatt is a freelance writer & journalist who graduated from Birmingham University and has particular interests in cars, sports, parenting, safety, politics, law and health. Leo has worked for several newspapers in the midlands but now spends most of his time writing articles for companies, websites and businesses on a freelance basis, primarily the brain injury experts who offer rehabilitation and support services to those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury due to an accident or injury.