That small grey lump we carry between our ears and are only really aware of when we read (or write) articles like this about it, or when we’re having trouble thinking, may just be the most incredible thing on the planet.
The average human brain weighs just 3 pounds – yet the tight bundle of cells that comprise it form the entire control centre of the human body and have some startling physical properties. The least we can do is to try to understand a bodily organ this amazing, so below we look at a few interesting attributes of the brain.
- Here are a few surprising brain facts you should know:
- There are no pain receptors in the brain – it can feel no pain (‘brain ache’ is used to describe something other than real pain!)
- Your brain consists 75% of water
- Your brain contains up to 60% fat – it is the most obese organ in your body!
- The blood vessels in your brain would reach 100,000 miles if stretched out
- There are around 100 billion neurons in your brain
- Each neuron has between 1,000 to 10,000 synapses
- Your brain uses 20% of the body’s oxygen supply
- You only need to lose blood to the Synapse xt brain for 8-10 seconds to become unconscious – but it can last 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen before it starts to die
- When you are awake your brain generates enough power to power a light-bulb
- Every time you recall a memory or think something new, you are creating a new ‘connection’ in your brain
- New neural pathways can be created at any stage of your life
Brain Chemicals (Neurotransmitters)
One of the most interesting aspects of the brain is the way it communicates with the rest of the body.
Neurotransmitters were first discovered in 1921 but it was not until the 1970s that neuroscience started to really make advances. Chemicals were found to transmit signals from neurons in the brain to our bodily cells via an incredibly complex network of synapses and receptors.
These neurotransmitters consist of amino acids, peptides, and monoamines, and they affect receptors either in an “excitatory” or “inhibitory” way. Some of the most commonly-referenced neurotransmitters include:
- Endorphins – used to mask pain, like natural ‘opiates’. They are released when we put our bodies through rigorous exercise or stress and are produced in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus.
- Oxytocin – stimulates feelings of trust and is triggered by such actions as orgasm, massage, giving birth and mothering.
- Serotonin – promotes a feeling of dominance and safety.
- Dopamine – known as the “reward” chemical, triggering the “high” feeling of nearing a goal. It has also been linked to learning.
These “feel good” chemicals are all produced in the brain and are generally maintained in good balance in a normal healthy human. When they are out of balance the consequences can be serious: deficiencies in dopamine and endorphins have been linked to depression and fatigue, as well as to some “negative” types of behavior. Neuroscientists believe the production of neurotransmitters is a primal response related to survival mechanisms.