Isn’t it interesting that your brain is learning about itself by reading this post? The brain is one of the most fascinating organs in the human body. It’s no surprise that most people are intrigued by psychological facts about the brain. After all, it controls everything we do, from breathing, speaking, and eating to making decisions and showing emotion.
33 Psychological Facts About the Brain
1. Memories Are Stored in Various Regions of Your Brain
Neuroscientists began studying the phenomenon of memories over a century ago. Studies began on rats, where scientists studied their brains in search of the “engram,” or a physical structure of neurons that store memories.
Through developments in knowledge and technology, researchers have discovered that many parts of the brain are involved in capturing, storing, and recalling memories. Because the release of stress hormones is involved in storing memories, the brain’s amygdala plays an important role. It also helps the brain to strengthen memories and convert new information into long-term memories if the specific stimulus stirs your emotions.
Other parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and cerebellum, are involved in the capturing, storing, and recalling of memories. The hippocampus helps the brain allocate meaning to memories and is involved in normal recognition and spatial memory processes. At the same time, the cerebellum helps you remember procedural memories like how to play an instrument or how to ride a bike.
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2. Sleep Is an Integral Part of Learning and Strengthening Memories
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When we learn new information, our brain forms new connections between neurons. But, these connections need to be strengthened and solidified for the information to be retained in our long-term memory.
This is where sleep comes in. While we sleep, our brains shrink the synapses of memories we don’t need to keep, saving space and energy to maintain the important memories. Additionally, sleep promotes the production of neurotransmitters and hormones essential for memory formation.
Without enough good-quality sleep, our ability to learn and retain new information is compromised, making it difficult to remember what we have learned. Therefore, getting enough high-quality sleep is crucial for optimal learning and memory retention.
3. Your Brain’s Reward System Is Triggered by the Feeling of Pleasure
The brain’s reward system is a highly complex network that is responsible for motivating you to repeat behaviors that make you feel good. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. While your brain can reward you by releasing dopamine for eating delicious food, exercising, and socializing, it also releases dopamine when we engage in activities that may be harmful but still feel pleasurable.
Behaviors such as consuming alcohol, drugs, or unhealthy food can quickly become addictive because of this process. Having a deficit of dopamine or improperly functioning dopamine receptors can cause you to seek out things that will encourage your brain to release dopamine.
4. Your Brain’s Ability to Control Impulses, Prioritize, and Plan Continues to Develop Into Young Adulthood
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Your ability to control impulses, prioritize, and plan is all thanks to your prefrontal cortex. The brain’s prefrontal cortex only fully matures during young adulthood. This means that your ability to control your impulses and make decisions is not fully sound while you’re in your early twenties.
The process of development is heavily influenced by environmental factors and social interactions. Essentially this means that the people you surround yourself with in your early twenties can have a major impact on your ability to make decisions for the rest of your life.
5. The Part of Your Brain That Can Recognize Faces Might Be Involved in Helping You Perceive Emotions
Scientists have been studying the fusiform gyrus, a part of the brain that plays a role in helping you recognize faces. Studies have shown that this same small part of the brain possibly plays a vital role in helping people perceive emotions.
People with damage to the fusiform gyrus were found to have difficulty understanding the emotions of others, especially those conveyed through facial expressions. The ability to recognize faces and understand emotion is an essential part of human communication, so scientists are still studying this small part of the brain to fully understand its function.
6. Self Awareness, Empathy, and Decision Making Are All Influenced by a Part of the Brain Called the Insula
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The insula is a brain region located deep within the cerebral cortex. It’s extremely important in various aspects of human behavior and cognition, including self-awareness, empathy, and decision-making. Studies have shown that the insula is activated when we experience emotions such as compassion, empathy, and especially the feeling of disgust. Damage to the insula can result in deficits in these functions and poor decision-making.
The insula is also at play when you experience feelings of uncertainty and is a crucial part of decision-making under these conditions. The insula processes cognitive information and the emotions associated with the experience to help you identify the potential outcomes.
7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Is Not Just About Extreme Cleanliness
Many people assume that OCD is all about having a phobia of germs, being extremely conscious of order, and having to repeat actions. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is actually a relatively severe disorder that affects over 1% of the world’s population.
People with OCD experience recurring unwanted thoughts, which can be extremely hard to separate from reality. These thoughts can be memories of past events or fears (logical or illogical) that are sometimes very scary for those who experience them.
Read more on facts about OCD
8. The Term “Right-brained or Left-brained” Is a Myth
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You heard correctly. It’s not true that you’re more left or right-brained, although it is a common misconception. While everyone has different personalities and may perceive things either more logically or emotionally, it doesn’t mean one side of your brain works harder than the other.
It’s true that different areas of your brain have different functions, but all these functions work together most of the time. If you’re doing math, your prefrontal and parietal lobes would light up on neuroimaging, and if you’re engaging with language, areas of your brain’s temporal lobe would light up. But being better at one thing doesn’t mean one half of your brain is more dominant than the other.
9. The Medulla Is One of the Most Important Parts of the Brain
The medulla is vital for many critical functions, such as regulating heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Because of this, many scientists argue that the medulla is the most important part of the brain, while others argue that the brain is an intricate system in which each part is essential and unique.
10. Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Affects Over 50 Million People Around the World
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that there are over 50 million people around the world suffering from Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Contrary to popular belief, these diseases do not only affect elderly people but can affect those in their 20s and 30s.
The neurodegenerative diseases are known to cause severe and rapid cognitive decline, behavioral and personality changes, and memory loss. Dementia and Alzheimers have a severe impact on the lives of millions of people. However, there is no cure for either of the diseases.
11. Psychopaths May Display Reduced Brain Activity in Regions Responsible for Decision-Making, Morality, and Empathy
The prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex are the areas of your brain most responsible for decision-making, morality, and empathy. These are the areas that develop until your mid-twenties and might be the reason why everyone makes questionable decisions before they hit 25.
Studies have shown that psychopaths show significantly reduced activity in these parts of their brains. This may be able to explain why psychopaths can make immoral and unempathetic decisions without feeling any guilt. Having a poorly developed prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex results in reckless behavior and impulsive decision-making.
Read more about psychological facts on serial killers.
12. Your Body’s Hormonal Functions Are Regulated by the Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland, which is only roughly the size of a kidney bean, is a crucial part of your body’s functioning. It regulates the production and secretion of hormones that control various processes, such as your metabolism, growth, and reproduction.
The hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland. The tiny gland responds by releasing precise amounts of hormones into your bloodstream to suppress or stimulate the release of other hormones from other glands around your body.
13. Neuroplasticity Is What Allows Us to Learn, Remember and Heal
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Neuroplasticity is perhaps one of the brain’s most fascinating abilities. It’s your brain’s ability to change and adapt to your environment, experiences, and injury you may incur. Because of the phenomenon, you can learn, remember and heal as you live.
Your brain constantly forms new connections and strengthens existing connections which is crucial to the processes of learning and healing. Neuroplasticity is what allows people to recover from strokes and traumatic brain injuries.
14. Your Hypothalamus Regulates Hunger, Thirst, Body Temperature, and More
The hypothalamus is also known as the body’s control center. It regulates a wide range of physiological processes, including thirst, hunger, body temperature, and more. All of these feelings are essentially what keeps you alive. The hypothalamus links the body’s nervous system with its endocrine system by sending signals to the pituitary gland.
This small part of your brain also controls your circadian rhythm, which is commonly known as the sleep-wake cycle, and it’s also essential in the processes of regulating stress responses.
15. The Human Brain Protects Itself
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The human brain understands its importance and the its rolein your survival, which is pretty neat. Three incredibly thin membranes protect the brain called the meninges, which protect the brain by absorbing shock during injury. Further, the brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which decreases the weight of the brain and protects it from shock. Your skull is another layer of protection for your delicate brain.
Reflexes are another fascinating method of protection. During a fall or an accident, extending your arms and legs is instinctual to protect your body’s vital organs from impact.
16. Unbalanced Brain Chemicals Play a Role in the Development of Mental Disorders
A person developing a mental illness can be attributed to various reasons. Some disorders still have no concrete causes and are still being studied by researchers. What they do know is that your brain chemicals play a vital role in regulating your mood and behavior. When this delicate balance is interrupted, it can result in the development of mental disorders.
While environmental factors are also a major contributor to mental disorders, neurotransmitters are also at play. This is why medications used to treat mental disorders usually target specific neurotransmitters and aim to restore the balance in your brain.
17. Early Childhood Trauma Can Affect the Development of the Brain
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It’s no secret that early childhood trauma can negatively affect the development of your brain. This is especially true for areas of your brain involved in the regulation of your emotions, stress, and your overall cognitive function.
Negative experiences during early childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or parental abandonment, have been found to disrupt the brain’s development and increase the risk of the development of mental health problems and substance addiction.
Thankfully, early intervention and therapy can aid in rectifying or managing these deficits.
18. You Can Think Around 70 000 Thoughts per Day
Although you might not be surprised that there is so much running through your head each day, scientists estimate that humans think around 70 000 thoughts daily. That’s an incredibly large number if you think about it. Get it?
This can be anything from conscious and deliberate thoughts to automatic, subconscious processes. While this is fantastic for a human’s potential in problem-solving, creativity, and learning, it can also lead to mental fatigue, rumination, and anxiety.
People with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, ADHD, and OCD can experience significantly more thoughts per day than the average person.
Read more on facts about anxiety.
19. Your Sense of Smell Is Linked to Your Emotions and Memories
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Your sense of smell is intimately linked to your emotions and memories. Odors can trigger strong emotional responses and memories, often more vividly than other sensory stimuli. This is because the olfactory system is closely connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, regions of your brain that each play a part in emotion and memory processing.
20. Personality Is Heavily Influenced by Your Environment and Genetics
Your personality might be more complicated than you think. The multifaceted trait is created and shaped by genetic and environmental factors. Your genetics may influence how extroverted or introverted you are or how conscientious and open you are. But your environment also significantly affects how your personality is shaped. Your cultural norms, trauma, and social relationships are a big part of who you are and how you perceive the world.
21. Everyone Perceives Information Differently Thanks to Cognitive Biases
If you’ve had any dealings with another human being, you’ll know that everyone has different ways of thinking and perceiving information. These unique patterns of thought are called cognitive biases. They constantly influence what we do and believe, and they might be the reason we sometimes make mistakes in our judgments.
Our cognitive biases are ingrained in our beings and can be influenced by a variety of factors as we grow in the world.
22. A Hug Can Trigger Your Brain to Release Oxytocin
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We have a fantastic collection of powerful hormones in our bodies. Oxytocin, or the “love hormone,” is released when we experience physical touch, like hugs. This hormone enhances the feelings of intimacy, love, and trust when it’s released.
Oxytocin can also reduce your anxiety and lower stress. All of this explains why we sometimes just need a hug after a long day.
23. Cognitive Dissonance Occurs When Our Behavior Contradicts Our Beliefs
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A great example of cognitive dissonance is eating unhealthy foods every week, even though you know it’s terrible for your health. You experience cognitive dissonance when your behaviors contradict your beliefs. Even though you may be aware of the negative implications of a certain behavior, like smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol, you might just do it anyway.
High levels of cognitive dissonance put people at a greater risk of developing depression and anxiety.
24. ADHD Is More Than Hyperactivity and the Lack of Focus
While the stereotypical depiction of ADHD is a loud and hyperactive child bouncing off the walls, ADHD can appear very differently in individuals. There are actually three different types of ADHD; hyperactive, inattentive, and combination.
Opposed to the hyperactive kind of ADHD, people with inattentive ADHD are very quiet and lack the ability to focus; they appear zoned-out often and can be very sensitive to stimuli. Combination ADHD is diagnosed when a person experiences both hyperactive and inattentive ADHD.
25. Some People Experience Synesthesia, Which Is When Their Sensory Perceptions Overlap
Synesthesia is a condition in which sensory perceptions overlap, causing individuals to experience things like hearing music when they see colors or tasting shapes. Roughly 4% of the population has some form of synesthesia, which is thought to be caused by differences in how the brain processes sensory information.
Although it is not considered a disorder, synesthesia can negatively affect people’s lives. Children with synesthesia may have difficulty in school, and people with the condition can easily get overstimulated in loud, bright, or busy environments.
26. There Is a Lot of Buzz About the Brains of Honeybees
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The brains of honeybees are fascinating little organs. Although honeybees have some of the smallest brains on Earth, their small control centers are capable of amazing feats. Honeybees are capable of navigation, communication, and learning.
Bees communicate with each other through dancing. By dancing, they can communicate the location of food and danger. Researchers have found that bees can even remember types of flowers, shapes, and colors.
Read more on facts about animals.
27. Schizophrenia Affects Around 1% of the Global Population
Schizophrenia is a severe disorder that affects approximately 1% of the global population. Although the exact cause of Schizophrenia is still unknown, scientists have found a variety of factors that could contribute to the development of the disorder, such as genetics and environmental factors.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, abnormal behavior, disordered thinking, and delusion. The disorder usually manifests in early adulthood, and while there is no cure, treatments are available.
28. How You Feel Pain, May Be Related to Your Past
Your past experiences can affect how you perceive and react to pain. Having a history of chronic stress, trauma, and other psychological factors can alter the pain-processing pathways in the brain. This can cause you to have an increased sensitivity to pain and a decreased pain tolerance.
This phenomenon is known as pain memory and can significantly impact an individual’s overall well-being.
29. A Shark’s Brain Can Detect Electromagnetic Fields
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This unique ability has made sharks a leading predator in the animal kingdom. Sharks are able to detect electromagnetic fields, to navigate the oceans, and locate prey. They do this through their specialized sensory organs called ampullae of Lorenzini, which pick up electrical fields.
30. Mirror Neurons Are Likely Responsible for “Emotional Contagion”
Ever wondered why you feel the urge to yawn when your partner does or cry when you see a friend shed a few tears? You can thank your mirror neurons for that phenomenon. These specialized cells are triggered when you see someone performing an action.
Mirror neurons are specially designed to help us understand and empathize with each other. This is a key part of human communication. By mirroring the behavior of others, we can better understand their intentions, emotions, and thoughts, which helps form deeper social connections. This process is particularly important for infants and children as it aids in social bonding, communication, and the development of social skills.
31. The Human Brain’s Unique Structure Is What Allows Us to Understand and Produce Language
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The human brain’s unique structure is what allows us to understand and produce language. Specialized regions such as Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are responsible for language comprehension and production, respectively. These complex networks of neurons enable us to process and interpret the meaning of words and sentences.
The evolution of language and the human brain overlap, with our brains slowly adapting and allowing us to engage in complex communication and social interaction. This fascinating characteristic is one of the most defining abilities of the human species and has played an integral role in our success and survival.
Read more on facts about language
32. Psychological Experiences Can Cause Physical Pain and Discomfort
Psychological experiences can cause physical pain and discomfort through a phenomenon known as psychosomatic illness. This happens when emotional or psychological stress triggers physical symptoms, which can range from mild discomfort to chronic pain.
Examples of psychosomatic experiences commonly include tension headaches, stomach pain, and muscle aches, which can be caused by stress, anxiety, or depression. Psychosomatic illness is a complex phenomenon that is still being studied. However, neuroscientists have found that it may be caused by changes in how the brain processes pain signals and the release of hormones and neurotransmitters.
33. Selective Attention Is a Phenomenon That Allows Your Brain to Focus on Certain Stimuli
Ever wondered how your brain can focus on certain stimuli while ignoring others? This is a phenomenon known as selective attention. It is a crucial process that enables us to filter out irrelevant information and concentrate on what is essential.
It takes various regions of your brain to do this, including the prefrontal cortex and parietal lobes. Together, they control our attention and perception. Various factors influence selective attention, such as your goals, past experiences, and expectations.
Understanding how selective attention works can help you to improve your cognitive abilities and increase your ability to focus on what’s important.
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