Dispelling Three Brain Falsehoods


Some of the falsehoods that circulate about our brains have grains of truth in them, while others are misrepresentations or misinterpretations of research findings.

A few may have come from someone’s lively imagination and yet are so pervasively believed that they seem to be rooted in science.

We all know that brains can have chemical and wiring glitches that cause their owners problems. In addressing these issues, it helps to know what is true about our gray matter and what is a tall tale.

Right Brain, Left Brain Personality

No one’s personality stems from either right or left brain dominance. The two hemispheres always work together in an integrated, coordinated way. Brain imaging technology has revealed how amazingly interdependent the brain halves are.

Where this falsehood comes from

In the 19th century, scientists determined that injury on one side of the brain frequently resulted in the loss of specific abilities. For instance, language was lost with left brain injuries while spatial capability was lost with injury in the right hemisphere.

In the 1960s, doctors separated the brain hemispheres of some epilepsy patients. When no longer connected, one brain half was unaware of the other half, and each side responded differently to the same stimuli.

It is true that the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and that the left brain runs the right side.

Dispelling this falsehood

What is becoming clear to scientists now is that the role distinctions between brain hemispheres are fuzzier than once thought. For instance, grammar and pronunciation are left brain processes but intonation is a right brain function, so it cannot be said that language is only a function of the left hemisphere.

Spatial relationships involve right and left integration as well. Our right brain seems to be in charge of our general sense of space, but it is the left side that registers objects in definite locations.

Brain Damage Is Always Permanent

Only a couple decades ago, it was generally believed that we were all born with a set amount of brain cells. If any of them atrophied or were damaged through trauma, it created a lifelong deficit in brain functioning.

Now, most scientists are on board with two different and far more encouraging ideas. One of them is neuroplasticity, the lifelong ability of the brain to change or rewire itself as a response to learning (it seems our brain is more like silly putty than we ever imagined).

The second discovery is neurogenesis, the brain’s ability to manufacture new cells throughout an individual’s lifetime.

We Use Only 10 Percent of Our Brain

Every day we use nearly all of our brain, so how is it we came to believe that we use only 10 percent of it? Likely this is owed to a combination of unsubstantiated quotes passed around and the misreading of neuroscience discoveries.

What is going on in your brain right now

You are reading this article, and that means the frontal lobes of your cortex are buzzing with thoughts and reasoning.

If you are snacking or sipping coffee, the parietal lobes are giving you information on the smell, taste and texture of your food.

To see the words on this screen, the occipital lobes have to be processing the light waves traveling to your eyes.

What do you hear? If your neighbor is mowing the lawn or you are crunching a potato chip, your temporal lobes are hopping with hearing data.

There is a lot going on in your body that you do not have to think about. Breathing, digestion and blood circulation are functioning compliments of your brainstem; your pituitary gland is monitoring your hormone and blood sugar levels; and your hypothalamus is making sure you are warm enough.

The brain’s hippocampus is doing its job of transferring information from short to long-term memory and allows you to remember the reason for this list of mental processes is to see that more than 10 percent of your brain is busy.

Source: Brain Mythology

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