The human brain controls the
central nervous system(CNS), by way of the cranial nervesand spinal cord, the peripheral nervous system(PNS) and regulates virtually all human activity.Cite web|url=http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761555359/Brain.html|title=Brain|accessdate=2006-12-21|publisher=Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia|year=2006|author=Toga, Arthur W.; B.S., M.S., Ph.D.|work=MSN Encarta|format=html] Involuntary, or "lower," actions, such as heart rate, respiration, and digestion, are unconsciously governed by the brain,Cite web|url=http://www.newscientist.com/channel/health/brain/dn9969|title=Instant Expert – The Human Brain|accessdate=2006-12-22|publisher=Reed Business Information Ltd|year=2006|author=Philips, Helen|work=New Scientist] specifically through the autonomic nervous system. Complex, or "higher," mental activity, such as thought, reason, and abstraction, is consciously controlled. Anatomically, the brain can be divided into three parts: the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain;Cite web|url=http://biology.about.com/od/anatomy/a/aa120704a.htm|title=Brain Basics|accessdate=2006-12-22|publisher=About, Inc|author=Bailey, Regina|work=Human Anatomy and Biology|format=htm] the forebrain includes the several lobes of the cerebral cortexthat control higher functions, while the mid- and hindbrain are more involved with unconscious, autonomic functions.During encephalization, human brain mass increased beyond that of other species relative to body mass. This process was especially pronounced in the neocortex, a section of the brain involved with languageand consciousness. The neocortex accounts for about 76% of the mass of the human brain;Cite web|url=http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/qa2.html|title=Questions and Answers|accessdate=2006-12-22|publisher=Eric H. Chudler|author=Chudler, Eric H. |work=Neuroscience for Kids|format=html] with a neocortex much larger than other animals, humans enjoy unique mental capacities despite having a neuroarchitecture similar to that of more primitive species. Basic systems that alert humans to stimuli, sense events in the environment, and maintain homeostasisare similar to those of basic vertebrates. Human consciousnessis founded upon the extended capacity of the modern neocortex, as well as the greatly developed structures of the brain stem.
The human brain is the source of the conscious, cognitive
mind. There is consistent debate between the humanities and the sciences about the nature of the human mind and if and how it may be observed. The mind is the set of cognitive processes related to perception, interpretation, imagination, memories, and crucially language(cf. Broca's area) of which a person may or may not be aware. Beyond cognitive functions, the brain regulates autonomic processes related to essential body functions such as respiration and heartbeat. The brain controls all movement from lifting a pencil to building a superstructure.
Extended neocortical capacity allows humans some control over
emotional behavior, but neural pathways between emotive centers of the brain stem and cerebral motor control areas are shorter than those connecting complex cognitive areas in the neocortex with incoming sensory informationfrom the brain stem. Powerful emotional pathways can modulate spontaneous emotive expression regardless of attempts at cerebral self-control. Emotive stability in humans is associated with planning, experience, and an environment that is both stable and stimulating.
The human brain appears to have no localized center of conscious control. The brain seems to derive consciousness from interaction among numerous systems within the brain. Executive functions rely on cerebral activities, especially those of the
frontal lobes, but redundant and complementary processes within the brain result in a diffuse assignment of executive control that can be difficult to attribute to any single locale. Visual perceptiongenerally is processed in the occipital lobe, whereas the primary auditory cortexresides in the temporal lobe.
Midbrain functions include routing, selecting, mapping, and cataloguing
information, including information perceived from the environment and information that is remembered and processed throughout the cerebral cortex. Endocrine functions housed in the midbrain play a leading role in modulating arousalof the cortex and of autonomic systems. Nerves from the brain stem complex where autonomic functions are modulated join nerves routing messages to and from the cerebrum in a bundle that passes through the spinal column to related parts of a body. Twelve pairs of cranial nerves, including some that innervate parts of the head, follow pathways from the medulla oblongata outside the spinal cord.
A description of the biological basis for consciousness so far eludes the best efforts of the current generation of
researchers. But reasonable assumptions based on observable behaviors and on related internal responses have provided the basis for general classification of elements of consciousness and of likely neural regions associated with those elements. Researchers know people lose consciousness and regain it, they have identified partial losses of consciousness associated with particular neuropathologies and they know that certain conscious activities are impossible without particular neural structures.
The 19th century discovery of the
primary motor cortexmapped to correspond with regions of the body led to popular belief that the brain was organized around a homunculus. A distorted figure drawn to represent the body's motor map in the prefrontal cortexwas popularly recognized as the brain's homunculus, but function of the human brain is far more complex than this simple figure suggests. A similar, "sensory homunculus" can be drawn in the parietal lobe that parallels that in the frontal lobe.
The balance of findings, which have been largely on participants of European ancestry, indicate an average adult brain volume of 1130
cubic centimetres (cc) for women and 1260 cc for men. There is substantial variation however;Kelly P. Cosgrovea, Carolyn M. Mazureb and Julie K. Staleya [http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0006322307001989 Evolving Knowledge of Sex Differences in Brain Structure, Function, and Chemistry] Biological Psychiatry Volume 62, Issue 8, 15 October 2007, Pages 847-855] a study of 46 adults aged 22-49 years and of mainly European descent, found an average brain volume of 1273.6cc for men, ranging from 1052.9 to 1498.5cc, and 1131.1cc for women, ranging from 974.9 to 1398.1cc.John S. Allen, Hanna Damasio, and Thomas J. Grabowski [http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/96515947/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 Normal Neuroanatomical Variation in the Human Brain: An MRI-Volumetric Study] American Journal of Physical Anthropology 118:341–358 (2002) DOI 10.1002/ajpa.10092] The right cerebral hemisphereis typically larger than the left, whereas the cerebellar hemispheresare typically of more similar size. There is evidence of an increase in average brain size over the course of the last centuries, estimated to have been around 0.5% per decade.Ross P. Carnea, c, Simon Vogrina, Lucas Litewkaa and Mark J. Cooka Cerebral cortex: An MRI-based study of volume and variance with age and sex Journal of Clinical Neuroscience Volume 13, Issue 1, January 2006, Pages 60-72 PMID 16410199]
Overall, there is a background of similarity between adult brain volume measures of people of differing ages and sexes. Nevertheless, underlying structural asymmetries do exist. Males have been found to have on average greater cerebral, cerebellar and cerebral cortical lobar volumes, except possibly left parietal. The gender differences in size vary by more specific brain regions. Studies have tended to indicate that men have a relatively larger
amygdalaand hypothalamus, while women have a relatively larger caudateand hippocampus. When covaried for intracranial volume, height, and weight, the balance of studies indicates women have a higher percentage of gray matter, whereas men have a higher percentage of white matterand cerebrospinal fluid. There is high variability between individuals in these studies, however.
twin studieshave indicated high heritabilityestimates for overall brain size in adulthood (between 66% and 97%). The effect varies regionally within the brain, however, with high heritabilities of frontal lobevolumes (90-95%), moderate estimates in the hippocampus(40-69%), and environmental factors influencing several medial brain areas. In addition, lateral ventriclevolume appears to be mainly explained by environmental factors, suggesting such factors also play a role in the surrounding brain tissue. Genes may cause the association between brain structure and cognitive functions, or the latter may influence the former during life. A number of candidate genes have been identified or suggested, but await replication.citation | last = Peper | first = Jiska S. | year = 2007 | title = Genetic influences on human brain structure: A review of brain imaging studies in twins | journal = Human Brain Mapping | volume = 28 | pages = 464 | doi = 10.1002/hbm.20398] [Jianzhi Zhang [http://www.genetics.org/cgi/content/abstract/165/4/2063 Evolution of the Human ASPM Gene, a Major Determinant of Brain Size Evolution of the Human ASPM Gene] Genetics, Vol. 165, 2063-2070, December 2003]
A discovery in recent years is that the structure of the adult human brain changes when a new cognitive or motor skill, including vocabulary, is learned. [Lee H, Devlin JT, Shakeshaft C, Stewart LH, Brennan A, Glensman J, Pitcher K, Crinion J, Mechelli A, Frackowiak RS, Green DW, Price CJ. Anatomical traces of vocabulary acquisition in the adolescent brain. J Neurosci. 2007 Jan 31;27(5):1184-9. PMID 17267574] Structural
neuroplasticity(increased grey mattervolume) has been demonstrated in adults after three months of training in a visual-motor skill, with the qualitative change (i.e. learning of a new task) appearing more critical for the brain to change its structure than continued training of an already-learned task. Such changes (e.g. revising for medical exams) have been shown to last for at least 3 months without further practicing; other examples include learning novel speech sounds, musical ability, navigation skills and learning to read mirror-reflected words. [Driemeyer, J, Boyke, J, Gaser, C, Buchel, C, May, A. [http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2447176#pone.0002669-Gaser1 Changes in Gray Matter Induced by Learning—Revisited] PLoS ONE. 2008; 3(7): e2669. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002669. PMCID PMC2447176] [Ilg R, Wohlschläger AM, Gaser C, Liebau Y, Dauner R, Wöller A, Zimmer C, Zihl J, Mühlau M. Gray matter increase induced by practice correlates with task-specific activation: a combined functional and morphometric magnetic resonance imaging study. J Neurosci. 2008 Apr 16;28(16):4210-5. PMID 18417700]
Studies have tended to indicate (in terms of group averages) small to moderate
correlations(averaging around 0.3 to 0.4) between brain volume and the narrow measure known as the IQtest. The most consistent associations are observed within the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes, the hippocampus, and the cerebellum, but only account for a relatively small amount of variance in IQ, which itself only shows a partial relationship to the general concept of intelligence and real-world performance. [Eileen Ludersa, Katherine L. Narra, Paul M. Thompsona and Arthur W. Toga (2008) [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4M-4TB9P7F-1&_user=2283714&_origUdi=B6W4M-4FG4VBP-1&_fmt=high&_coverDate=08%2F30%2F2008&_rdoc=1&_orig=article&_acct=C000010000&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2283714&md5=6058a61832a9e806cdda2a3455a33570 Neuroanatomical correlates of intelligence] Intelligence doi:10.1016/j.intell.2008.07.002] [Christian Hoppe and Jelena Stojanovic (2008) [http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=high-aptitude-minds High-Aptitude Minds: The Neurological Roots of Genius] Scientific American] In addition, brain volumes do not correlate strongly with other and more specific cognitive measures In men, IQ correlates more with gray matter volume in the frontal lobeand parietal lobe, whereas in women it correlates with gray matter volume in the frontal lobeand Brocas area, which is involved in language.
There is variation in child development in the size of different brain structures between individuals and genders. [Lange N.1; Giedd J.N.; Castellanos F.X.; Vaituzis A.C.; Rapoport J.L. Variability of human brain structure size: ages 4–20 years. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, Volume 74, Number 1, 14 March 1997 , pp. 1-12(12) PMID 107101] Total cerebral and grey matter volumes peak during the ages from 10–20 years (early in girls than boys), whereas white matter and ventricular volumes increase. There is a general pattern in neural development of childhood peaks followed by adolescent declines (e.g.
synaptic pruning). Consistent with adult findings, average cerebral volume is approximately 10% larger in boys than girls. However, such differences should not be interpreted as imparting any sort of functional advantage or disadvantage; gross structural measures may not reflect functionally relevant factors such as neuronal connectivity and receptor density, and of note is the high variability of brain size even in narrowly defined groups, for example children at the same age may have as much as a 50% differences in total brain volume.Jay N. Giedd (2008) [http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(08)00075-X/abstract The Teen Brain: Insights from Neuroimaging] Journal of Adolescent Health Volume 42, Issue 4, April 2008, Pages 335-343] Young girls have on average relative larger hippocampal volume, whereas the amygdala is larger in boys.
Significant dynamic changes in brain structure take place through adulthood and ageing, with substantial variation between individuals. In later decades, men show greater volume loss in whole brain volume and in the
frontal lobes, and temporal lobes, whereas in women there is increased volume loss in the hippocampusand parietal lobes. Men show a steeper decline in global grey matter volume, although in both sexes it varies by region with some areas exhibiting little or no age effect. Overall white matter volume does not appear to decline with age, although there is variation between brain regions. [Catriona D. Gooda et al. A Voxel-Based Morphometric Study of Ageing in 465 Normal Adult Human Brains. NeuroImage Volume 14, Issue 1, July 2001, Pages 21-36 PMID 11525331]
Some anatomical trends are correlated in our evolutionary path with brain size; basicranium becomes more flexed with increasing brain sizerelative to basicranial length [Basicranial Flexion, Relative Brain Size, and Facial Kyphosis inHomo Sapiens and Some Fossil Hominids; CALLUM ROSS, MACIEJ HENNEBERG; AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 98:575-593 ] Due to human migration spacial differentiation of brain size is more diffused than earlier in time. In paleolithic past largest cranial capacity, "in vivo" filed by brains, is observed in
Neanderthalspecimens. An average Neandertahl had bigger brains than worldwide average person today. Microcefalin common allele was introgested, as dated by -D lineage mutational variance around 35 kya. Neanderthal population is major candidate among ancestral genetic pools where this gene evolved to be spread and shared by majority of Humans.
Study of the brain
Grey matter, the thin layer of cells covering the cerebrum, was believed by most scholars to be the primary center of cognitive and conscious processing. White matter, the mass of
glial cells that support the cerebral grey matter, was assumed to primarily provide nourishment, physical support, and connective pathways for the more functional cells on the cerebral surface. But research fueled by the interest of Dr. Marian Diamond in the glial structure of Albert Einstein's brainled to a line of research that offered strong evidence that glial cells serve a computational role beyond merely transmitting processed signals between more functional parts of the brain. In 2004, Scientific Americanpublished an article suggesting scientists in the early 21st century are only beginning to study the "other half of the brain."
For many millennia the function of the brain was unknown.
Ancient Egyptians threw the brain away prior to the process of mummification. Ancient thinkers such as Aristotleimagined that mental activity took place in the heart. Greek scholars assumed that the brain serves a role in cooling the body, incorrectly believing it to function as a sort of radiator. The Alexandrian biologists Herophilosand Erasistratuswere among the first to conclude that the brain was the seat of intelligence. Galen's theory that the brain's ventricles were the sites of thoughtand emotion prevailed until the work of the Renaissanceanatomist Vesalius.
The modern study of the brain and its functions is known as
neuroscience. Psychologyis the scientific study of the mind and behavior. Neurophysiologyis the study of normal healthy brain activity, while neurologyand psychiatryare both medical approaches to the study of the mind and its disorders and pathologyor mental illnessrespectively.
The brain is now seen as the primary organ responsible for the phenomena of
consciousnessand thought. It also integrates and controls (together with the central nervous system) allostatic balance and autonomicfunctions in the body, regulates as well as directly producing many hormones, and performs processing, recognition, cognition and integration related to emotion. Studies of brain damage resulting from accidents led to the identification of specialized areas of the brain devoted to functions such as the processing of vision and audition. Neuroimaginghas allowed the function of the living brain to be studied in detail without damaging the brain. New imaging techniques allowed blood flowwithin the brain to be studied in detail during a wide range of psychological tests. Functional neuroimagingsuch as functional magnetic resonance imagingand positron emission tomographyallows researchers to monitor activities of the brain as they occur ("see also history of neuroimaging").
Molecular analysis of the brain has provided insight into some aspects of what the brain does as an organ, but not how it functions in higher-level processes. Further, the molecular and cell biological examination of brain pathology is hindered by the scarcity of appropriate samples for study, the (usual) inability to
biopsythe brain from a living person suffering from a malady, and an incomplete description of the brain's microanatomy. With respect to the normal brain, comparative transcriptomeanalysis between the human and chimpanzeebrain and between brain and liver(a common molecular baseline organ) has revealed specific and consistent differences in gene expressionbetween human and chimpanzee brain and a general increase in the gene expression of many genes in humans as compared to chimpanzees. Furthermore, variations in gene expression in the cerebral cortex between individuals in either species is greater than between sub-regions of the cortex of a single individual.Khaitovich, P., et al. 2004. "Regional patterns of gene expression in human and chimpanzee brains". "Genome Research," 14:1462-1473. refers to four studies of comparative transcriptome analysis prior to publication of the findings in the cited manuscript]
In addition to pathological and imaging studies, the study of computational networks, largely in
computer science, provided another means through which to understand neural processes. A body of knowledge developed for the production of electronic, mathematical computation of systems provided a basis for researchers to develop and refine hypotheses about the computational function of biological neural networks. The study of neural networks now involves study of both biological and artificial neural networks.
A new discipline of
cognitive sciencehas started to fuse the results of these investigations with observations from psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science as expressed in On Intelligence.
Recently the brain was used in
bionicsby several groups of researchers. In a particular example, a combined team of United States Navyresearchers and Russian scientists from Nizhny NovgorodState University worked to develop an artificial analogue of olivocerebellar circuit, a part of the brain responsible for balance and limb movement. The researchers plan to use it to control Autonomous Underwater Vehicles.
In human beings, it is the left hemisphere that usually contains the specialized language areas. While this holds true for 97% of right-handed people, about 19% of left-handed people have their language areas in the right hemisphere and as many as 68% of them have some language abilities in both the left and the right hemisphere. The two hemispheres are thought to contribute to the processing and understanding of language: the left hemisphere processes the
linguistic meaningof prosody, while the right hemisphere processes the emotions conveyed by prosody. [cite web|url=http://umainetoday.umaine.edu/issues/v5i1/stroke.html| title=Deleted Words| first=George| last=Manlove| publisher=UMaine Today Magazine| month=February | year=2005| accessdate=2007-02-09] Studies of children have provided some fascinating information: If a child has damage to the left hemisphere, the child may develop language in the right hemisphere instead. The younger the child, the better the recovery. So, although the "natural" tendency is for language to develop on the left, our brains are capable of adapting to difficult circumstances, if the damage occurs early enough.
The first language area within the left hemisphere to be discovered is called Broca's Area, after Paul Broca. The Broca's area doesn't just handle getting language out in a motor sense, though. It seems to be more generally involved in the ability to deal with grammar itself, at least the more complex aspects of grammar. For example, it handles distinguishing a sentence in passive form from a simpler subject-verb-object sentence. For instance, the sentence: "The boy was hit by the girl." implies the girl hit the boy, not the other way around. As a simple subject-verb-object interpretation it could mean: "The boy was hit by the girl.", and therefore, the boy hit the girl.
The second language area to be discovered is called Wernicke's Area, after Carl Wernicke, a German neurologist. The problem of not understanding the speech of others is known as Wernicke’s Aphasia.Wernicke's is not just about speech comprehension. People with Wernicke's Aphasia also have difficulty naming things, often responding with words that sound similar, or the names of related things, as if they are having a very hard time with their mental "dictionaries."
deathis defined as an absence of brain activity as measured by EEG. Injuries to the brain tend to affect large areas of the organ, sometimes causing major deficits in intelligence, memory, and movement. Head trauma caused, for example, by vehicle or industrial accidents, is a leading cause of death in youth and middle age. In many cases, more damage is caused by resultant edemathan by the impact itself. Stroke, caused by the blockage or rupturing of blood vessels in the brain, is another major cause of death from brain damage.
Other problems in the brain can be more accurately classified as diseases rather than injuries.
Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, and Huntington's diseaseare caused by the gradual death of individual neurons, leading to decrements in movement control, memory, and cognition. Currently only the symptoms of these diseases can be treated. Mental disorders, such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorderand post-traumatic stress disordermay involve particular patterns of neuropsychological functioning related to various aspects of mental and somatic function. These disorders may be treated by psychotherapy, psychiatric medicationor social intervention and personal recovery work; the underlying issues and associated prognosis vary significantly between individuals.
Some infectious diseases affecting the brain are caused by
viruses and bacteria. Infection of the meninges, the membrane that covers the brain, can lead to meningitis. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy(also known as mad cow disease), is deadly in cattleand humans and is linked to prions. Kuru is a similar prion-borne degenerative brain disease affecting humans. Both are linked to the ingestion of neural tissue, and may explain the tendency in some species to avoid cannibalism. Viral or bacterial causes have been reported in multiple sclerosisand Parkinson's disease, and are established causes of encephalopathy, and encephalomyelitis.
Many brain disorders are congenital.
Tay-Sachs disease, Fragile X syndrome, and Down syndromeare all linked to genetic and chromosomal errors. Many other syndromes, such as the intrinsic circadian rhythmdisorders, are suspected to be congenital as well. Malfunctions in the embryonic development of the brain can be caused by genetic factors, drug use, nutritional deficiencies, and infectious diseasesduring pregnancy.
Certain brain disorders are treated by brain
neurosurgeons while others are treated by neurologists and psychiatrists.
Comparison of the brain and a computer
Much interest has been focused on comparing the brain with
computers. A variety of obvious analogies exist: for example, individual neurons can be compared with a transistor(although a neuron's computing power is probably closer to a simple calculator than a transistor [ [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11127834 The role of single neurons in information processi... [Nat Neurosci. 2000 - PubMed Result ] ] ), and the specialized parts of the brain can be compared with graphics cards and other system components. However, such comparisons are fraught with difficulties. Perhaps the most fundamental difference between brains and computers is that today's computers operate by performing often sequential instructions from an input program, while no clear analogy of a program appears in human brains. The closest to the equivalent would be the idea of a logical process, but the nature and existence of such entities are subjects of philosophical debate. Given Turing's model of computation, the Turing machine, this may be a functional, not fundamental, distinction. However, Maass and Markram have recently argued that "in contrast to Turing machines, generic computations by neural circuits are not digital, and are not carried out on static inputs, but rather on functions of time" (the Turing machine computes computable functions). Ultimately, computers were not designed to be models of the brain, though constructs like neural networksattempt to abstract the behavior of the brain in a way that can be simulated computationally.
In addition to the technical differences, other key differences exist. The brain is massively parallel and interwoven, whereas programming of this kind is extremely difficult for computer software writers (most parallel systems run semi-independently, for example each working on a small separate 'chunk' of a problem). The human brain is also mediated by chemicals and analog processes, many of which are only understood at a basic level and others of which may not yet have been discovered, so that a full description is not yet available in science. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the human brain appears hard-wired with certain abilities, such as the ability to learn language (cf.
Broca's area), to interact with experience and unchosen emotions, and usually develops within a culture. This is different from a computer in that a computer needs software to perform many of its functions beyond its basic computational capabilities. The human brain is able to interpret and solve complex problems that are not formalized using its powers of pattern recognition and interpretation (strong AI), whereas the computer with current software and current hardware is only able to solve formalized problems (weak AI) due to more limited pattern recognition capability [ [http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0134.html?printable=1 The Law of Accelerating Returns] by Ray Kurzweil] . A human can understand context in an arbitrary text, something even the most powerful and best software is not able to discern (as of 2008). A simple example is to attempt write a program that can determine if an arbitrary text contains humor or not.
There have been numerous attempts to quantify differences in capability between the human brain and computers. According to
Hans Moravec, by extrapolating from known capabilities of the retinato process image inputs, a brain has a processing capacity of 0.1 quadrillion instructions per second(100 million MIPS). In comparison, the fastest supercomputerin the world, called Roadrunner and devised and built by engineers and scientists at I.B.M.and Los Alamos National Laboratory, is capable of handling 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/09/technology/09petaflops.html?adxnnl=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1213002399-Wb35UQYAGB5ILBFLTHE5QQ Military Supercomputer Sets Record] ] , and an average 4-function calculator is capable of handling 10 instructions per second. It is possible the brain may be surpassed by normal personal computers (in terms of Instructions Per Second, at least) by 2030. [ [http://www.transhumanist.com/volume1/moravec.htm - transhumanist.com When will computer hardware match the human brain?] ]
computational powerof the human brain is difficult to ascertain, as the human brain is not easily paralleled to the binary numberprocessing of today's computers. For instance, multiplying two large numbers can be accomplished in a fraction of a second with a typical calculator or desktop computer, while the average human may require a pen-and-paper approach to keep track of each stage of the calculation over a period of five or more seconds. Yet, while the human brain is calculating a math problem in an attentive state, it is subconsciously processing data from millions of nerve cells that handle the visual input of the paper and surrounding area, the aural input from both ears, and the sensory input of millions of cells throughout the body. The brain is regulating the heartbeat, monitoring oxygen levels, hunger and thirst requirements, breathing patterns and hundreds of other essential factors throughout the body. It is simultaneously comparing data from the eyes and the sensory cells in the arms and hands to keep track of the position of the pen and paper as the calculation is being performed. It quickly traverses a vast, interconnected network of cells for relevant information on how to solve the problem it is presented, what symbols to write and what their functions are, as it graphs their shape and communicates to the hand how to make accurate and controlled strokes to draw recognizable shapes and numbers onto a page.
The following are some commonly held misconceptions of the mind and brain perpetuated through
urban legends, mass media, and the promotion of dubious products to consumers (Sala, 1999):
* "Holes in the brain": Often lesions in the brain, from injury, disease, or drug use, are described as 'holes', however, these 'holes' are in fact not cavities, most often are simply inactive areas of the brain where neurons no longer fire.
* "The human brain is firm and grey": The fresh/living brain is actually very soft, jelly-like, and deep red. It does not become firm and grey until it has been preserved with various chemicals/resins.
* "Humans use only 10% or less of their brain": Even though many mysteries of brain function persist, every part of the brain has a known function. [cite web|url=http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/10percnt.htm| title=The Ten-Percent Myth| first=Benjamin| last=Radford| publisher=snopes.com| date=
8 February 2000| accessdate=2006-04-13] [cite web| url=http://www.brainconnection.com/topics/?main=fa/brain-myth| title=Myths About the Brain: 10 percent and Counting| first=Eric| last=Chudler| accessdate=2006-04-12] [cite web| url=http://www.twopercentco.com/rants/archives/2005/03/a_piece_of_our.html| title=A Piece of Our Mind - About Ten Percent| publisher=The Two Percent Company| accessdate=2006-04-12]
**This misconception most likely arose from a misunderstanding (or misrepresentation in an advertisement) of neurological research in the late 1800s or early 1900s when researchers either discovered that only about 10% of the neurons in the brain are firing at any given time or announced that they had only mapped the functions of 10% of the brain up to that time (accounts differ on this point).
**Another possible origin of the misconception is that only 10% of the cells in the brain are neurons; the rest are
glial cellsthat, despite being involved in learning, do not function in the same way that neurons do.
**Einstein is reported as quipping that people typically only use 10% of their brains. The popular press took this as fact, although the comment was meant only facetiously.
**Lower level of brain activation does not mean a lower performance of cognitive functions; this variable has confounded scientists, because some 'gifted' individuals showed less activity than the average person. Haier proposed that indeed more gifted individuals might possess more efficient brain circuits.
New Ageproponents propagate this belief by asserting that the "unused" ninety percent of the human brain is capable of exhibiting psychic powers and can be trained to perform psychokinesisand extra-sensory perception. However, there is still no actual proof of this, and many neurologists say that this is not possible.
* "Mental abilities are absolutely separated into the left and right
cerebral hemispheres": Some mental functions such as speech and language(cf. Broca's area, Wernicke's area) tend to be localized to specific areas in one hemisphere. If one hemisphere is damaged at a very early age however, these functions can often be recovered in part or even in full by the other hemisphere. Other abilities such as motor control, memory, and general reasoning are spread equally across the two hemispheres. See lateralization of brain function.
Learningcan be achieved more powerfully through subliminal techniques": The extent to which subliminal techniques can influence learning depends largely on what level of perception the techniques affect.
neurons cannot be created, they only die as one ages." In fact, new neurons can grow within the mature adult brain; this process is known as neurogenesis. Regardless of neuron growth or death, brain "function" and capabilities can be learned and developed throughout life.
* "The brain cells do not duplicate at all after it has developed (around late childhood)." Although most of the brain does not grow, the cells in the
hypothalamusare still growing.
Cephalic disorders, concerning defects of the head, especially the brain
Holonomic brain theory
History of the brain
Lateralization of brain function
* Regions in the human brain
* The Memory-Prediction Framework
* Simon, Seymour (1999). "The Brain". HarperTrophy. ISBN 0-688-17060-9
* Thompson, Richard F. (2000). "The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience". Worth Publishers. ISBN 0-7167-3226-2
* Campbell, Neil A. and Jane B. Reece. (2005). "Biology". Benjamin Cummings. ISBN 0-8053-7171-0
* [http://www.thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/index_d.html The Brain from Top to Bottom]
* [http://www.med.harvard.edu/AANLIB/home.html The Whole Brain Atlas]
* [http://primate-brain.org High-Resolution Cytoarchitectural Primate Brain Atlases]
* [http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/facts.html Brain Facts and Figures]
* [http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/mind_brain/ Current Research Regarding the Human Brain] ScienceDaily
* [http://vadim.oversigma.com/MAS862/Project.html Estimating the computational capabilities of the human brain]
* [http://www.transhumanist.com/volume1/moravec.htm When will computer hardware match the human brain?] – an article by
* [http://science.howstuffworks.com/brain.htm How the human brain works]
* [http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/brain Everything you wanted to know about the human brain] — Provided by "
* [http://www.solbaram.org/articles/humind.html More about the Human brain!]
* [http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/heshe.html Differences between female & male human brains]
* [http://cns.sahlgrenska.gu.se/goude/brainmap4 Surface Anatomy of the Brain]
* [http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&articleID=000363E3-1806-1264-980683414B7F0000 Scientific American Magazine (May 2005 Issue) His Brain, Her Brain] About differences between female and male brains.
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