Brain Facts

Video highlights from Brain Surgery Live

Before Brain Surgery Live begins, brush up on everything there is to know about the world’s most powerful computer

  1. The average adult human brain weighs just under three pounds and has a tofu-like consistency
  2. Human brains are more wrinkled than other species' brains. Wrinkles create more surface areas for neurons, which means the human brain would be 2.7 square feet if flattened.
  3. Neurological disorders affect more than 50 million Americans annually, and the cost of treatment is more than $500 billion. The United States alone could save an estimated $50 billion per year by discovering how to delay Alzheimer's disease by five years.
  4. MIT researchers have found that after seeing something for just 13 milliseconds the brain is capable of identifying image.
  5. When your nose breathes in odorous molecules from the air, they get trapped in the back of the nose on special olfactory receptor cells, which then route them along the olfactory tract to all different areas of the brain. A human brain has around 40 million olfactory receptor neurons and different odors trigger different actions from combinations of receptor neurons. These different combinations allow an adult to detect up to 10,000 different odors.
  6. Scientists now believe that sleep is essential to the brain's daily housekeeping to remove harmful toxins that build up during waking hours. Through research on baboons and rats, scientists found that during sleep, more cerebrospinal fluidflushes through the brain to cut through the clutter and wash away harmful proteins, including beta amyloids, which forms plaque associated with Alzheimer's disease. This could have important implications for preventing or slowing neurological disorders like Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia although the processes have not yet been observed in humans.
  7. The brain doesn't have one single memory system. The system we use to retain memories of phone numbers or world capitals is a different system from that where we remember how to perform mathematical operations, and from the system that allows us to remember how to ride a bicycle, even if we haven't done it in years.
  8. There are thought to be between 86 and 100 billion neurons in the human brain. Researchers are working to map the brain and its networks to better understand how we think and how to respond to brain disorders like epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  9. A Harvard study found that meditation may have a multitude of positive effects on the brain. One study found that long-term meditators have more grey matter in theauditory and sensory regions of the brain, as well as in the frontal cortex, areas which are associated with memory, decision-making, and enhanced senses.
  10. One of the most important patients in the history of neuroscience taught the world a great deal about how the brain forms memories. Known by his initials, H.M., Henry Molaison underwent surgery in 1953 at age 27 to treat severe epileptic seizures. But the surgery left him without the ability to create new memories: He retained his intelligence and could recall many details from his childhood and young adult life, yet he could not form memories of new events and people. Molaison volunteered to participate in decades of research, and upon his death, consented to have his brain dissected to better understand why the surgery had robbed him of his memories.
  11. Our perception of pain comes from the brain, which has the power to "turn up" or "turn down" the intensity of information related to pain entering the brain. The emotion attached to a painful experience is determined by the brain. Recent research suggests that the brain can be trained to tune out things like chronic pain.

Brain Surgery Live airs Monday 26 October at 12.00pm AEDT/2.00pm NZDT with an encore at 8.30pm AEDT/NZDT.

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