Practical Neuroscience

The other day I jotted down a couple tidbits of useful brain knowledge off the top of my head.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle


1. The brain is always changing. These changes are based on the direction of our attention. Where attention goes, energy flows. And neurons that fire together, wire together. Frequent thought patterns become automatic, good and bad.

2. Prolonged stress is bad for the brain and body in a number of ways. Whatever we’re stressing over, it’s not more important than our health. Living with chronic stress subtracts from life’s experience in every possible way.

3. Exercise makes the body-brain system function far more efficiently. Physical exertion causes capillaries to tunnel further into tissue, including brain tissue, allowing more nutrients, more efficiently, to more body cells.  Humans were designed by nature to be active.

4. The brain’s interpretation of reality is shaped more by what’s already in our head than what’s going on outside it. Even for vision, what we see is about 40% visual input, and 60% information supplied from within the brain. Our beliefs and knowledge shape everything about our personal reality.

5. Brain synchrony equals performance. In order for the brain to orchestrate complex tasks, billions of neurons must fire in synchronized patterns. More thought power isn’t necessarily a good thing if it’s not working in synchrony with the rest of the brain. A calm, clear, focused mind is a brain in perfect synchrony.

6. All minds are unique. In the future we’ll be able to use brain scans as a sort of fingerprint. This fact has interesting implications for how people learn. “Learning disability” often just means learning differently. Many of history’s most brilliant minds, including Da Vinci and Einstein, would have been considered “learning disabled” (Ha!) by today’s elementary school standards.

7. Men and women do indeed think differently. Women are more active in the left Amygdala that records memories emotionally, and men in the right, which records them conceptually. The reason women can seem emotional to men is because they tend to have more emotional data points. But this is in no way inferior. In fact, probably on the contrary.

8. Sleep is imperative to brain development. Learning hinges on reinforcing neural pathways. This happens during sleep, where among other things, the brain ingrains neural patterns from the previous waking day.

9. The Brian makes new neurons every day. This is extremely important for longevity and warding off mental illness. Neuron growth can be stimulated by learning, and making good lifestyle choices. See: Neurongenesis.

10. There is no more important time in the life of a brain than childhood. Children’s brains are hyper-aware, more malleable, and they develop lifelong traits. The fresh brain of a child is the most beautiful thing, and its development can make or break the potentiality of a mind. Always remember that.