Do you ever wonder about your own brain? Do you think, “Gosh, I wonder how much my brain weighs?” or “If I’m so smart, why am I having trouble multitasking?”
The brain has three main parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum (“little brain”) and the brain stem. When the brain is functioning normally, each part fulfills its functions and coordinates with other parts as needed. The main functions of each part are:
- Cerebrum – Thinking, feeling, remembering, problem solving, movement control
- Cerebellum – Balance and coordination
- Brain stem – It is connected to the spinal cord which is a “trunk line” of messages to and from the body. It controls automatic processes (e.g. heart, breathing, blood pressure, digestion, etc.)
Brain or mind?
The brain does one other important thing: it creates a mind. You may ask, what’s the difference between a brain and a mind? Well, the brain is an organ, but the mind isn’t. The brain is the physical “house” for the mind, but the mind is not limited by the brain. According to Dr. William Salt, “Your mind is part of the invisible, transcendent world of thought, feeling, attitude, belief and imagination…. The intelligence of your mind permeates every cell of your body, not just brain cells. Your mind has tremendous power over all bodily systems.”1 If you start wondering about your brain, you are using the mind that the brain created.
When you put all this together, it’s pretty amazing that something in your skull that weighs just over 3 pounds and has a texture like soft tofu is actually the central command for everything you are and do.
Fun facts about the brain
I selected the following fun facts from a website called Be Brain Fit. The site is an information resource on sustaining and improving brain wellness. The originators of the site recognize that there is conflicting information – not to mention marketing and promotion of “brain health” products – out there. They make every effort to keep current with the latest science on optimizing brain function. Here are the facts I chose to quote, and if you visit the site, you will see at least one footnote documenting each fact:
- Your brain is 73% water. It takes only 2% dehydration to affect your attention, memory and other cognitive skills.
- 25% of the body’s cholesterol resides within the brain. Cholesterol is an integral part of every brain cell. Without adequate cholesterol, brain cells die.
- A piece of brain tissue the size of a grain of sand contains 100,000 neurons [specialized brain cells] and 1 billion synapses [junctions between neurons], all communicating with each other.
- Babies have big heads to hold rapidly growing brains. A 2-year-old’s brain is 80% of adult size.
- Brain information travels up to an impressive 268 miles per hour. This is faster than Formula 1 race cars which top out at 240 mph.
- Your brain generates about 12-25 watts of electricity. This is enough to power a low-wattage LED light.
- There’s a reason the brain has been called a “random thought generator.” The average brain is believed to generate up to 50,000 thoughts per day.
- Albert Einstein’s brain weighed 2.71 pounds (1,230 grams) — 10% smaller than the average of 3 pounds (1,400 grams). However, the neuron density of his brain was greater than average.
- The modern diet is low in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3s result in brain shrinkage equivalent to two years of structural brain aging.
- Technology has forced most of us to be prodigious multitaskers. But your brain can’t learn or concentrate on two things at once. What it can do is quickly toggle back and forth between tasks. But doing so decreases your attention span, ability to learn, short-term memory, and overall mental performance.
- Unexpectedly, millennials (aged 18 to 34) are more forgetful than baby boomers. They are more likely to forget what day it is or where they put their keys than their parents!
- Attention spans are getting shorter. In 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds. Now, it’s 8 seconds. That’s shorter than the 9-second attention span of the average goldfish.
The importance of brain health
It’s very important to maintain brain health, and obvious aspects of that include good nutrition, fostering cardiovascular health, practice safety (avoid head injury), avoid multi-tasking, etc. In addition, the brain doesn’t like to be stressed, but neither does it like to be idle. It likes positive challenges. Studies have shown that we can keep our brains active by doing things like crossword puzzles or sudoku, learning a new language, exercising (yes, movement is good for our mental health), and meditating.
Sometimes things go wrong. A malfunction in one tiny area can have far-reaching consequences. While we don’t know what causes neurodegenerative conditions like essential tremor (ET) or Parkinson’s disease (PD) to begin, we know that they start small. Until we have the means to reverse such disorders – or prevent them altogether – it helps to know that there are effective treatments to control symptoms and improve quality of life. For instance, uncontrollable tremors from ET that don’t respond to medication can be safely and effectively treated using our MR-guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS). Visit our website to learn more or to request a consultation.