Today I want to talk about the most complex system in the entire known universe. It is something that is often times compared (and wrongfully so) to a computer. I am, of course, talking about the human brain.
Here are 5 of the coolest things about the brain that you should know:
Brains have an amazing ability to adapt to constantly changing internal and external conditions. This is called neuroplasticity. When your brain is exposed to a stimulus, consistently, over time it becomes more efficient at sending signals related to this stimulus. This is great if you are learning a new motor skill like playing piano or learning to golf. However, your brain also becomes more efficient to negative stimulus such as pain or addiction to substances. In this case, it is called maladaptive neuroplasticity.
2. “FINE TUNING”
Not only can brains change the "circuits" or "hard-wiring" at will, they also have the ability to fine tune the neurons by using a variety of neurohormones and neurotransmitters. This means that the brain is capable of making certain neurons more sensitive than others which results in easier and faster "firing".
3. ASSOCIATED FUNCTIONS
The brain is capable of performing "association functions". These association patterns are fluid and are changing every day. An example of this is listening to a song and being reminded of a special time. At a later date, it may then be associated with a traumatic memory. When you listen to a song or smell a scent that triggers a memory, this is an association function. It gives us the ability to reach back into our memory and also recall associated information relating to that memory.
4. NEURON NETWORKS
Few things compare to the vast network of connections that the brain possesses. The human brain contains about 10 billion neurons. This seems like a lot until you realize that there are over 100 billion neuroglia cells (cells that support and protect neurons). And that seems like a lot until you realize that there are TRILLIONS of neuron connections in the brain. In fact, one neuron can make over 10,000 connections!
5. GROWTH CONES
In the developing baby's brain, the ends of neurons contain "growth cones". These growth cones guide the nerve to its final destination. How do they work? We don't know! But we do know that they are effected by nutrition (specifically food additives) both in-utero and after birth. This means that a pregnant mother's diet impacts the development of a baby's brain!
By far the most interesting thing about the human brain is that our knowledge of it is only scratching the surface. Most of it's functions are still unknown. There are many unanswered questions and mysteries. As science expands, our knowledge of the human brain will grow. I am very excited about what discoveries will come next.