10 Myths About the Brain That Have Been Busted by Scientists

4 years ago

Some of the knowledge we have about the brain is based more on popular beliefs than on scientifically-based truths. In fact, this is still a very mysterious organ, and science has yet to understand many things about it. But it has been slowly debunking some myths, bringing us closer to understanding our own species.

That is why Bright Side created a list for you with some of these myths that have gained a lot of credibility — now it’s time to clarify them.

1. We only use 10% of our brain.

It was commonly thought that humans were only capable of using 1/10 of our brain mass. This was due to the misinterpretation of a study conducted in the early 20th century, which found that only 10% of the neurons in the brain were active at any given time.

However, according to neurologist John Henley, we continually use various areas of our entire brain. He claims that activities, ranging from pouring a cup of coffee to making decisions, require different neurons in the brain to be active at the same time, since different skills are employed.

2. A bigger brain is a smarter brain.

There is a belief that our organs can improve their functions based on their size, and even though in the case of the brain, a difference in intellectual abilities has been registered, the truth is that the results only vary by approximately 2%.

This difference is not even significant enough to make such a claim, according to a study by Gideon Nave, thus debunking the myth that people with big heads are smarter than the rest.

3. Listening to classical music boosts intelligence.

In the early 1990s, a study was conducted in which about 30 pupils who were exposed to Mozart’s music improved their concentration skills by a few minutes. This gave rise to the myth of the “Mozart Effect,” which says that listening to pieces by the composer can make children or babies develop greater intelligence.

In fact, this is a 1993 study involving young students who were assigned a specific task. Those who listened to Mozart before doing it performed better, but this only lasted for a few minutes, and it did not make them smarter. In 2003, one study said that musically trained children did not perform better when it came to psychomotor skills and number discrimination, than those who received visual training.

4. We have a dominant hemisphere.

Having one dominant hand that has finer motor skills than the other has forged the popular belief that it is the only section of our brain that is active. Subsequently, knowing that the left hemisphere handles logic and language, while the right hemisphere helps us develop our creativity and intuition, has served to support the idea that our brain functions asymmetrically.

In reality, there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of this polarity, since a left-handed person can develop great logical skills and a right-handed person can have great creative abilities. Having a dominant hand is as closely related to genetics as the color of the hair we are born with, and it is in no way related to the most developed skills in our brain.

5. All of our abilities diminish with age.

It is widely believed that as we age, our cognitive abilities decline, as do the other organs of our body. The truth is that not all people reach their maximum cognitive capacity at the same age. A study from 2015 revealed that some of the subjects reached a peak in their 30s, while another portion of them didn’t reach it until their 40s.

However, even though we might think that from then on everything will go downhill, a previous study debunks this belief, since, while short-term memory and the speed to process information decrease, there is also an increase in linguistic, mechanical, and long-term memory skills, which are reinforced with age.

6. One gender is smarter than the other.

While there are dozens of characteristics that make women different from men, their level of intelligence is definitely not one of them. At Arizona State University, a study was carried out in which the self-perception of students was evaluated in terms of their abilities.

There was no significant difference between the intelligence of men and women, but their school grades said the opposite. It turned out that men were more confident in their abilities, while women had doubts about their intelligence and had less confidence, showing that it is not gender but self-perception that affects our performance.

7. Mind games make you smarter.

Another common myth about the mind is that intelligence increases if we perform mental training exercises like memory games, video games, and crossword puzzles, among other activities that have been proven to be effective in preventing mental illnesses and neuronal deterioration, but not in increasing intelligence.

study done by computer to more than 11,000 people who received weekly mental training exercises showed that, although certain skills of the participants increased over people who did not receive the training, their cognitive capacity did not show a significant difference.

8. First-born children are smarter than their siblings.

Some preconceived ideas claim that the first-born child in a family is more intelligent than the next ones, and this has created the myth of the “smarter” older sibling. However, a 2007 study sought to get to the bottom of the issue and discover whether this was true or not.

Although there are differences in the intellect of siblings, these have nothing to do with the order in which they were born. Instead, they have everything to do with the environment of the gestation and psychological factors of the relationship that the subjects had with their parents before and after birth.

9. We work better under pressure.

The pressure to meet a deadline for school or work can be stressful, and sometimes it’s that same feeling that helps us move forward in ways we might not have imagined if we didn’t feel the pressure. But that doesn’t mean we work better that way.

In fact, what stress does is put us in a state of alertness that sometimes brings out the best in us. However, in the long run, continually keeping ourselves under pressure can cause significant damage to our brains by wearing out their connections. At least that’s what a study by the University of California at Berkeley says.

10. Cholesterol is bad for the brain.

Despite the fact that a high level of cholesterol in the blood is linked to the likelihood of suffering a stroke, it is a myth that it is completely harmful to our brain. It is also a reality that cholesterol is essential for its functioning, but eliminating its consumption can be a good decision.

According to scientists from Harvard University, cholesterol is vital for the brain, since 25% of the total amount in our body is housed in this precious organ, contributing to its functions. Our body is capable of generating it by itself, so we don’t need to consume it from external sources. The liver and the brain are capable of generating this substance that, in addition, is indispensable for our hormonal health, but within the appropriate levels.

Which of these myths did you believe? Which do you think that science should investigate further or disprove? Share your point of view with us in the comments.

Preview photo credit petrograd99 / Depositphotos


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I HIGHLY enjoy studies like these. We are never done learning!! Before getting to the one about females being less confident sometimes about intelligence, I would have pointed that out about my big brain.. sure, I love learning, but it also makes me overthink a LOT of things. It has taken a while to gain control over that and give myself grace.


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