The brain is undoubtedly one of the most astonishing and intricate parts of the human body. With the help of advanced science, we are learning new things about one of the most vital parts of the human body. Oddly enough, there’s so much the average person doesn’t know about their own brain. Thanks to neuroscientists, who dedicate their lives to better understand this complex piece of machinery, and thanks to scientific tools, we now know that our brains are capable of much more than previously thought. So, without further ado, here are 10 amazing things about your brain that you probably did not know.
1. Brain scans can “light up” when a person is in love. Scientists can precisely predict what stage of romance someone is in, just by looking at their MRI results.
Love is one of the most studied topics in the world but also the least understood. In 2005, scientists used the first functional MRI (fMRI) images of the brains of individuals to understand the connection between love and the brain. Throughout the study, which focused on 2,500 individuals from various backgrounds, participants were asked to think of someone special to them and then, they were asked to look at pictures of their acquaintances. During both times, scientists recorded the brain activity of individuals and observed that when the photo was shown, it caused their brains to become active in regions rich with dopamine, the so-called feel-good neurotransmitter.
Scientists also analyzed data from people who are at different stages of love and discovered that the emotions involved with each stages of love does affect the brain. The study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, discovered that the part of the brain called the caudate nucleus is most active at the end of a relationship. Scientists were also able to analyze the data and precisely predict the relationship status and stages of love they were involved with. (source)
2. Our brains are capable of sensing Earth’s magnetic fields.
For long, it has been known that birds and animals can detect Earth’s magnetic fields, which is what they use to navigate. In 2019, researchers from the United States and Japan have discovered that distinct brain wave patterns occur in response to rotating the field in a certain way. For the study, 34 participants were asked to sit in a testing chamber while the electrical activity in their brains were recorded. The testing chamber was a modified Faraday cage that allowed researchers to create controlled magnetic fields of high uniformity. During the experiment, when researchers shifted the orientation of the magnetic fields, they observed that the brain was reacting to the changes.
As obvious, the participants did not react or show any signs of feelings, but EEG data, on the other hand, revealed that certain magnetic field rotations were triggering strong and reproducible brain responses. Although the brain reacted to the changing magnetic field, scientists also observed that there was no reaction when the magnetic field pointed upward and only reacted when the magnetic orientation was the same as what would be found in nature.(source)
3. The brain activity of a person is as unique as their fingerprints.
According to the research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, a person’s brain activity may be as unique as his or her own fingerprints. In order to reach the conclusion, scientists utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to create “connectivity profiles,” which allowed researchers to identify the brain activity of more than 100 individuals. “Learning about individual brain connections offered scientists specific insights about an individual’s intelligence or personality,” explains Dr. McQuiston. “This could have implications for how scanning brains might be used in the future to one day help individualize care for each unique person”. (source)
4. The human brain has a natural alarm clock, that allows some people to wake up at a desired time without the need for an external alarm clock.
Waking up to an alarm clock can be exhausting since it creates a sense of panic early in the morning. For some people however, there is no need for alarm clocks since their brains take advantage of their body’s internal clock. According to scientists, this happens to people who maintain a diligent sleep routine, which trains their circadian rhythm. By doing so, they are allowing their brains to sleep and wake up at a predictable manner. Studies also shows that our bodies do not favor alarm clocks and to make our wake cycle smooth and comfortable, the body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which pulls you out of your deep sleep. This way, you wake up slowly, rather than all at once when your alarm goes off. (source)
5. A sleeping brain is capable of listening and acquiring new information.
It was previously believed that a sleeping brain cannot listen or acquire information. A new study published in Nature Communications reports that the sleeping brain can in fact learn new information, but only during rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep. During the study, researchers played various acoustic patterns embedded in white noise to participants while they slept. We decided to use white noise because it was a good example of something very complex and we were interested in seeing whether such complex automatic learning could be performed during sleep,” says study coauthor Thomas Andrillon, who conducted this work as a doctoral student in Sid Kouider’s lab at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris.
Upon waking up, researchers asked the 20 participants to identify the same patterns and to their surprise, all the subjects recognized them properly. However, the subjects were only able to recognize patterns played during REM sleep and were not able to recognize patterns during the deeper phases of sleep. (source)
6. We can accurately predict a person’s character in just 0.1 seconds, just by observing them.
If you are riding the public bus and you see someone who you instantly feel a distrust with, then you are not wrong. A study conducted by Stanford University researchers found that within just a few seconds of observing someone, our brains are capable of laying out their character. During the study, participants were asked to rate teachers on traits including competence, confidence and honesty after watching 2-, 5- or 10-second silent clips. Surprisingly, the scores successfully predicted the teachers’ traits, and 2-second judgements were as accurate as those given more time. (source)
7. We have a “sixth sense” that keeps a 360-degree awareness of our surroundings at all times. Our brains are also extremely skilled at “gaze detection”, and usually know when someone is staring at us.
When walking through an unfamiliar street or neighborhood, we usually have an overwhelming feeling of uneasiness. This happens because our brains are always aware of our surroundings and even if our field of vision is limited, it can still detect movements. A study published in the journal Nature, also found that our sense of hearing and vision can pick up even the slightest of sounds or movements; especially when it’s coming from a dark corner. In order to heighten security, our brain uses this information to create a 360 degree “view” of everything that is happening around us.
Apart from that, the “gaze detection” system can also pickup on things such as whether someone’s looking directly at you. Studies show that particular brain cells react when someone is staring right at you, but—amazingly—not when the observer’s gaze is averted just a few degrees to the left or right of you. (source 1, 2)
8. Our brains can literally be on the same wavelength as those who we like.
We know that when we listen to the music we enjoy the most, our heartbeat synchronizes with the beats. A new study however, also found that when two people profoundly connect with each other, their brain waves can sync. As explained in Princeton News, when we really relate to another person on a deep level, the activity in our brains literally mirrors theirs. During the study, researchers looked at brain scans of a person telling the story and another person listening to it. When the conversation was between two people who liked each other, the brain scans were surprisingly similar despite the fact that one person was speaking and the other listening, which are two distinct brain functions.
“The stronger the coupling between the speaker and the listener’s brain responses, the better the understanding,” Uri Hasson, Princeton University neuroscientist, told Princeton News of his findings. “Sometimes when you speak with someone, you get the feeling that you cannot get through to them, and other times you know that you click. When you really understand each other, your brains become more similar in responses over time.” (source)
9. “Brain freeze” is actually your brain recognizing a drop in temperature on your palate.
Brain freeze is also known as ice cream headache, and is a short-term headache that occurs after consumption of ice cream, popsicles, or very cold drinks. When something extremely cold touches the upper palate (roof of the mouth) on a very hot day, the blood vessels constrict. The brain recognizes the sudden change in temperature and quickly increases blood pressure in an effort to tell you to slow down or take it easy. “The scientific term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia and is a way for your brain to say that it is turning up the brakes on what you are doing to prevent unwanted changes due to temperature”, says Brandon Brock, MSN, BSN, staff clinician at Cerebrum Health Centers. (source)
10. Our brains are capable of creating false memories, which causes us to become convinced that something happened when it never happened.
Even with all the scientific advances, scientists are still unsure of how our brain stores and retrieves information. Another big mystery is the brains ability to create false memories, where it convinces itself that an incident took place when it never happened. Neuroscientists are still studying how our brains can easily convince us that we are involved in something when we are clearly not. A study also showed that 70% of people confessed to things they never did, when they were put under pressure for long periods of time. Not only did they confess, but also laid out details as to how it happened and why they did it. (source)