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5 Myths about the Brain

Written by Tom Crosley
Brain Injuries, Catastrophic Personal Injury

There’s no denying that the brain is an amazing organ. Every day, it processes an incredible amount of information, and scientists discover new and exciting things about the brain almost every single day. Because the brain is such an incredible and still-mysterious part of our bodies, a lot of false information has been spread about it. At Crosley Law Firm, we often work with clients who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries, so we’d like to set the record straight and debunk a few of the most common myths out there about the brain so we can all gain a better understanding of what the brain can – and can’t – do.

 

Myth #1: We Only Use 10% of Our Brains
Almost everyone has heard this myth. Whether someone was claiming we only use 10% or 1%, there’s a common belief out there that we’re not using our brains to the fullest. And while it is true that certain parts of the brain are more engaged than others during specific tasks, recent research has summarily disproven the idea that our brains aren’t fully active whenever we’re thinking. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) tests have been performed that measure brain activity in real time, and these tests have revealed that even simple tasks engage much of your brain. At Crosley Law Firm, we see how important every single part of the brain is on a daily basis because even small injuries to the brain can have drastic consequences involving linguistic, sensory, emotional, and cognitive impairment.

 

Myth #2: We Only Have Five Senses
In grade school, most of us learned about “the five senses”: hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. While these senses certainly seem to dominate our day-to-day experience and our memories, the brain has to process many, many more senses to keep our bodies in tip-top shape. For example, we have a sense of balance that is detected by the inner ear; it’s called “equilibrioception.” Without it, we can’t stand up straight, we can’t walk, and we feel dizzy or ill. “Proprioception” is our ability to tell where our body parts are at any time. For example, when you are told to touch your finger to your nose with your eyes closed, “the five senses” can’t really help you; you need to rely on a completely different sense to understand where your body parts are even if those other senses are out of commission. Without proprioception, we wouldn’t be able to walk in the dark. Even hunger and thirst are different senses from the five that we traditionally think of. Scientists generally agree that we have twenty-one or more senses, and our brains keep track of all of them without us having to consciously think about it.

 

Myth #3: Our Brains Are Like Computers
It’s tempting to think of the brain as a computer, and we often use similar terms to compare the functions of the brain with the functions of a computer: processing, memory, storage, wires, etc. However, the brain does not have a certain number of gigabytes it can store, and it doesn’t have a file system. The brain doesn’t flawlessly store images, videos, and audio bytes, and we don’t retrieve memories from one part of our brain. Historically, people have just used any new, advanced technology to describe how the brain works – probably because the brain is still the most advanced technology that exists. In the past, the brain has been compared to a telephone switchboard (have you ever heard of “getting your wires crossed”?), a steam engine (has your brain ever been “under a lot of pressure”?), and a clock (have you ever been able to “see someone’s gears turning”?). All of these comparisons are just ways for us to try to understand all of the things that our brain does every minute of every day.

 

Myth #4: We See the World as It Is
The world is a beautiful place, but it turns out that much of that beauty is determined by our brains, and not just in an “is the red you see the same as the red I see?” kind of way. Our many senses gather an exorbitant amount of information, and we do our best to use that information to construct our reality. However, rather than acting as infallible input machines for external stimuli, our brains are constantly attempting to interpret data at a pace with which we can’t always keep up. Sure, we recognize all kinds of patterns and create harmony out of discord at a phenomenal rate, but we also miss thousands of tiny, seemingly inconsequential details each and every day. Our attention spans are limited at best (and getting shorter with each new technological advancement), and we are constantly allowing our preconceptions fill in the blanks incorrectly. Our reality is driven by our perceptions, which are driven by expectations – expectations that are just as often misguided as they are justified.

 

Myth #5: We Only Have One Learning Style
We’re so glad to finally put this one to rest. Obviously, certain people learn better through certain learning styles in certain learning environments, but to isolate and categorize each individual as a specific “type” of learner only hinders that individual’s progress. We all process information differently, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t all capable of processing that information through multiple channels. When we assign someone (especially a young person) a learning style, we don’t just encourage that mode of development; we simultaneously tell that person that they are powerless to learn any other way. There is no solid science to suggest that we aren’t all capable of learning through a variety of styles, even if, for example, some of us are more visual learners while others are more tactile learners. Learning styles are no different from other aspects of our lives in that some of us are more inclined to have skills or deficiencies in different areas, but that doesn’t mean that we are totally incapable of absorbing, processing, and applying information in any way it comes to us.

 

Just in Case

The brain truly is one of the most wonderful and amazing parts of our bodies, which is why we should all take care to protect it by wearing helmets when we’re out riding bikes and wearing seatbelts when we’re in the car. Unfortunately, even the most careful individuals can sometimes be hurt by the negligence of other people. If you have been injured and deserve justice and compensation because someone else was at fault, contact Crosley Law Firm today. Our experienced, knowledgeable attorneys will sit down with you for a free consultation so you can get your questions answered and make a smart, informed decision about what to do next. Call our offices today at (877) 535-4529 or visit our website to learn more about Crosley Law Firm.

 

References:

5 common myths about the brain. (2015, January 1). Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/5-common-myths-about-the-brain/

Ferro, S. (2013, September 12). Everything you’ve ever been told about how you learn is a lie. Popular Science. Retrieved from http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-08/everything-youve-ever-been-told-about-how-brain-learns-lie

Helmuth, L. (2011, May 19). Top ten myths about the brain. Smithsonian. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/top-ten-myths-about-the-brain-178357288

Jarrett. C. (2014, December 9). 10 ways that brain myths are harming us. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/2014/12/10-ways-brain-myths-harming-us/

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