Look around your house or car at all the amazing inventions that have come along in the past few years: iPods and iPads, GPS devices, satellite TV, those weird little robots that can vacuum a room by themselves. All these technological toys are like Stone-Age tools compared to the amazing wonders of the human brain. Although humans have been studying the brain for thousands of years, in the past 15 years or so, scientists have debunked some longstanding myths about our most vital organ. Here are some surprising facts about the human brain.
Also contrary to popular belief, the process of aging itself doesn’t necessarily kill brain cells. A study at Harvard in the mid-1990s examined the brains of 38 people who had died between the ages of 57 and 90. The study found no age-related loss of brain cells. In other words, the brains of those in their 80s and 90s had as many neurons as those of the 50-somethings. But changes in the brain that begin in our 20s and 30s eventually result in diminished mental function. Researchers have found that the brain shrinks slightly with age, losing up to 10 percent of its weight by age 90. And the brain’s chemistry changes, slowing the connections between neurons. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can help keep your brain young. Of course, some of these are obvious — don’t smoke, drink alcohol in moderation, eat a heart-healthy diet, and exercise. Most importantly, keep mentally active. Take up a new hobby, learn a new language, and stay active with friends.