Did you know that our brains are much more efficient than computers in every way? Or that our brains have 100,000 miles of blood vessels, which is enough to circle the earth four times?
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“The brain is the most complex thing in the universe,” says neurologist Marwan Sabbagh, MD. “On one level, it’s a softball-sized collection of cells, chemical and connective tissue and on another level, it’s the totality of all things.”
He shares nine mind-blowing (see what we did there?) ways your brain is incredible:
- The human brain is the only object of any kind that can contemplate itself.
- The brain only feels pleasure and there are no pain receptors in the brain. Migraine and headache pain arise in the meninges, or the brain’s covering.
- The brain runs on electricity, producing enough power to light a 25 watt bulb.
- The brain is both the hottest (2.5 degrees celsius warmer than core body temperature) and “hottest” (arousal actually starts in your brain) part of the body.
- The brain’s ability to create new connectivity is known to occur throughout life.
- The brain is at least half fats.
- Brains have the consistency of a loose gelatin dessert. Brains removed for study are specially treated to make them firm.
- Your eyeballs are an extension of your brain and are directly connected to it.
- The collection of neurons lining the stomach and intestines operates independently to digest food and is sometimes called the second brain.
The brain is a truly unique, one-of-a-kind organ. Thinking takes place in the brain and specifically, in cells called neurons, which are connected to each other by branches.
Brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis take place among the branches in what is called the neuron forest. These diseases can rob us of our ability to think, reason and remember. The neuron forest starts at a healthy brain and diseases expand from there:
- Healthy brain: Healthy neurons have smooth branches called dendrites in elegant clusters.
- Alzheimer’s disease: There are tangles inside the neurons and sticky bits of protein form around them. The brain loses memory, mass and other functions. The risk increases with age and affects 1 in 10 people older than 65. Nearly half of people over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS): The covering of the branches, known as myelin, wears away, peels off or otherwise disappears. Brain signals are no longer insulated from one another and they get mixed up. About 1 in 1,000 people get MS and the cause is little understood.
- Parkinson’s disease: The brain cells and their branches need a substance called dopamine to transmit messages properly. When dopamine-producing cells stop working, messaging breaks down. Parkinson’s disease is most commonly seen in people over the age of 60 and is more prevalent in men than women. The cause for Parkinson’s disease is barely known.