July 28, 2022
Perhaps the most fascinating domain of science, neuroscience is making breakthrough discoveries year-on-year at the speed of light. Here we bring you three remarkable facts about your brain which reveal just why it is so amazing - enjoy!
Information travels to through your brain at 268mph (431kmh) via electrically charged chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Right now, your approximately 90 billion neurons are all active, even when we sleep, in order to keep your brain functioning.
Although it is impossible to know accurately, it is estimated that the human brain operates at 1 exaFLOP, which is the equivalent to a staggering quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.
The world’s fastest supercomputer at the time of writing is called ‘Frontier’, run by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Just recently it achieved the long awaited exaFLOP milestone, approximately matching the computational speed of the human mind. That said, go back just a year ago and your grey matter would have out-competed any supercomputer by a long, long way.
Unlike a computer, the brain is both hardware and software in one single system. Maintained by trillions of glial cells, neurons are extremely flexible in the roles they can carry out. This includes both restructuring the brain neuroanatomically, and redefining it's actual operating system in response to environmental stimulation.
Through a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity, the human brain can essentially rewire itself. Though most people are aware of this, just how flexible your grey matter is at readapting itself is uncommon knowledge. Neurons are able to disconnect and reconnect with others, reform their basic structure, and transform to carry out completely new types of cognitive roles.
In young age this process is super active. Not only do human brains double in size by age one, at just three years old, our brains develop to 80 percent of their full adult size. They also undergo ‘neural pruning’, essentially deconstructing neural networks not being sufficiently activated.
Still baffling neuroscientists today, perhaps the most remarkable evidence of total neuroplasticity comes out of a type of surgery called a hemispherectomy. Only operable on children with life threatening brain conditions, this drastic procedure involves literally cutting out one half of the human brain.
Amazingly, the other half of the brain then completely rewires itself into a new left/right brain. Once recovered, patients of this surgery usually go on to live a normal life. This demonstrates that there is no single center of the brain in control of itself - it's ability to adapt is truly emergent!
The two sides of the brain are connected by a narrow bundle of neurons called the corpus collosum. This is essentially a superhighway of communication, constantly relaying vast amounts of information between each of the two, otherwise physically separate, halves of the brain.
In rare medical cases it is necessary to completely sever the corpus callosum, disconnecting each half from directly talking with the other. Neuroscientists have confirmed through various experiments, that in this condition, there are two separate cognitions in the same individual - referred to as split-brain syndrome.
That said, it is not something you would want to experiment with. Somewhat scarily, it can actually lead to conflict with the self. As each side of the brain controls one side of the body, such conflict can result in a person physically fighting with themselves. In extreme cases, patients have even had to fight against self-strangulation!
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