These disciplines have been around in some form since ancient times, so you’d think that by now we’d know all there is to know about the brain. Nothing could be further from the truth. After thousands of years of studying and treating every aspect of it, there are still many facets of the brain that remain mysterious. And because the brain is so complex, we tend to simplify information about how it works in order to make it more understandable.
Both of these things put together have resulted in many myths about the brain reports science.howstuffworks.com. Most aren’t completely off — we just haven’t quite heard the whole story. Let’s look at some myths that have been circulating about the brain, starting with, of all things, its colour.
Myth: Your brain is grey
We have all colours of the rainbow in our bodies in the form of blood, tissue, bone and other fluids. But you may have seen preserved brains sitting in jars in a classroom or on TV. Most of the time, those brains are a uniform white, gray or even yellowish hue. In actuality, though, the living, pulsing brain currently residing in your skull isn’t just a dull, bland gray; it’s also white, black and red.
Myth: You can learn through subconscious messages
A subliminal message is a message embedded into images or sound meant to penetrate into our subconscious and influence our behaviour. The first person to coin the term was James Vicary, a market researcher. In 1957, Vicary stated that he inserted messages into a showing of a movie in New Jersey. The messages, which flashed for 1/3000th of a second, told moviegoers to drink Coca-Cola and eat popcorn.
According to Vicary, Coke sales in the theatre increased by more than 18 per cent and popcorn sales by more than 57 per cent. But did the messages work? Turns out, Vicary actually lied about the results.
Myth: Listening to Mozart makes you smarter
In the 1950s, an ear, nose and throat doctor named Albert Tomatis began the trend, claiming success using Mozart’s music to help people with speech and auditory disorders.
In the 1990s, 36 students in a study at the University of California at Irvine listened to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata before taking an IQ test. According to Dr Gordon Shaw, the psychologist in charge of the study, the students’ IQ scores went up by about 8 points. Thus, the “Mozart effect” was born.
However, the original University of California at Irvine study has been controversial in the scientific community. Dr Frances Rauscher, a researcher involved in the study, stated that they never claimed it actually made anyone smarter; it just increased performance on certain spatial-temporal tasks.
Other scientists have been unable to replicate the original results and there is currently no scientific information to prove that listening to Mozart, or any other classical music, actually makes anyone smarter.
Myth: Alcohol kills brain cells
Even in alcoholics, alcohol use doesn’t result in the death of brain cells. It can, however, damage the ends of neurons, which are called dendrites. This results in problems conveying messages between the neurons. The cell itself isn’t damaged, but the way that it communicates with others is altered.
Myth: Brain damage is always permanent
There are many different types of brain damage, and exactly how it will affect someone depends largely on its location and how severe it is. A mild brain injury, such as a concussion, occurs when the brain bounces around inside the skull, resulting in bleeding and tearing. The brain can recover from minor injuries remarkably well; the vast majority of people who experience a mild brain injury don’t experience permanent disability.