By Bruce Bliven
THE MEAN BRAIN is one of the most wonderful things in the entire universe. Most of us think of it as a delicate mechanism, which it is; but is is also sturdy and durable, a far more useful too than is generally realized. Her are seven important facts, which can help you to use your brain more efficiently.
1.Is there such a thing as “brain fag”? Laymen often speak of “mental fatigue” or “brain fag,” thinking that long, concentrated mental effort produces tiredness in the brain itself. Yet scientists believe that this state cannot exist. Your brain is not like your muscles. Its operations are not muscular but electro-chemical in character, comparable in part to a direct-current wet-cell battery.
When your brain appears tired after hours of mental work, the fatigue is almost certainly located in other parts of the body, your eyes, or the muscles of your neck and back. The brain itself can go almost indefinitely.
A young woman undertook as an experiment to multiply in her head a series of two four-digit numbers, one after the other, as rapidly as possible. She went on doing this for 12 hours. During that time there was only a slight decrease in her efficiency, measured by speed and accuracy. At the end of 12 hours she stopped only because of bodily fatigue and hunger.
What seems like mental fatigue is often merely boredom. In reading a difficult book, for example, you are torn between the desire to go on and the impulse to stop. According to one psychologist it often is not fatigue that you feel but inattention and the inability to ignore distracting thoughts.
2. The brain’s capacity is almost inexhaustible. That part of your brain involved in thinking and memory, and all your conscious activities, has as its most important part 10 or 12 billion minute cells. Each of these has a set of tiny tendrils by means of which an electro-chemical message can pass from one cell to another. Thinking and memory are associated with the passage of these electrical currents . the wisest person who ever lived came nowhere near using the full capacity of his wonderful mental storehouse. (Quite possibly, people in general employ only 10 to 15 percent of their brain’s capabilities.)
How the brain stores its memories is still not fully known. Some scientists believe that each item of memory is contained in a loop of cells connected by tiny tendrils with an electrical current going around and around the loop, which might be hundreds or thousands of cells in length. Other theories suggest that the memory is somehow impressed, or “etched” on the cell, or exists on a chain of cells like knots in a string.
We do know that for the first 30 to 60 minutes after being received, any sensory impression is “floating around,” so to speak, in the brain, not yet firmly registered. This may be why, after a sharp blow on the hand, people often permanently forget what happened to them during the previous 15 or 20 minutes.
Be that as it may, the number of items that can be remembered is far greater than the total number of brain cells. It has been estimated that after 70 years of activity, the brain may contain as many as 15 trillion separate bits of information. Thus your memory is a treasure house whose size and strength are almost beyond human comprehension. It is a pity that so many of us store up so much less learning and experience than is possible.
3. Your I.Q. is less important than you probably think. Many of us have an unnecessary inferiority complex about our I.Q.’s – the figure that represents native intelligence as compared to that of the average individual. It is easy, however, to score lower in such a test than you deserve. This might result from temporary ill health or emotional disturbance. So, if you have ever seen your score on an I.Q. test, you can be reasonably sure that your I.Q. is at least that high.
What is the physical basis of high intelligence? Contrary to a common belief, it does not require an unusually large skull. It is likely to be associated with especially large numbers of surface convolutions in the cerebral cortex the great to part of the brain. Highly intelligent people also have good blood circulation to the brain, bearing oxygen glucose and certain other important chemicals. It is possible that a with some very special talent-a mathematical or musical genius, for example-many have an unusually thick bundle of nerve-fibers in one particular place in the brain.
But the physical endowment of your brain is far less important than what you do with it. The number of brain cells in an individual with an I.Q. of 100 (which is average) is large enough so that, used to the full, it could far exceed the record, so far as memory is concerned, of the greatest genius who ever lived. A person of average I.Q. who industriously stores up knowledge and skills year after is better off than a person with a very high I.Q. who refuses to study. Studies indicate that some of the most important men in history had no more than ordinary I.Q.’s.
Among them, for example, are statesmen such as Cromwell, John Adams and Lincoln; military heroes like Drake, Napoleon and Nelson; writers like Goldsmith, Thackeray and Emerson. All these men, to be sure, were above the average in intelligence; yet they ranked far below the most brilliant of the individuals studied. What they possessed in high degree was character, and the ability to keep plodding ahead until they achieved what they had set out to do.
4. Age need not prevent your learning. One of the commonest misconceptions about the brain is that as you grow older something happens to it so that further attempts to study are difficult. This is true only to such a minute extent that for most of us it is of no practical importance.
you are born with all the brain cells you will ever have; a few of them die from time to time, and are not replaced. Except in the case of a serious brain disease, however, the number that die is negligible.
It is true that all old people suffer impairment of their physical powers, and that some experience a decline of mental power. The best current medical opinion is that, in both cases, what happens is a series of minor “accidents” to various parts of our marvelously complicated physiological mechanism. Will be CONTINUE—->>