Science & Technology

Neuroscience myths and facts: What is going on up there?

Several regions of your brain, such as Wernicke’s area and the left temporal region, are currently hard at work as you read this Tribune article. With its approximately 86 billion neurons, the adult human brain fascinates not only neuroscientists, but all sorts of individuals, including students, artists, and writers. This fascination comes with a huge array of widely-disseminated myths. So grab a cup of tea or coffee and settle in as you learn some of the science behind two exciting neuroscience myths.

Do we really only use 10 per cent of our brain capacity?

If you have ever watched Limitless, please disregard the drug dealer Vernon’s statement that “we can only access 20 per cent of our brain.” Many neuroimaging studies attest that we do not only use 10 or 20 per cent of our brain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), for example, has shown the dynamic interplay of neural activity that beautifully interweaves brain areas that are both near and remote anatomically. Every daily task that we accomplish—from sensory processing to more complex cognitive functions—requires numerous specific brain regions. 

In fact, simply by listening to music, you already engage at least four different brain areas: The nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and the cerebellum for emotional processing, as well as the temporal lobe, which itself contains many subregions responsible for our auditory functions. According to the book This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by McGill neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, musical rhythm and pitch changes solicit motor movement areas of the brain—for example, when hearing a melody. It also engages language areas when lyrics are present, and since repetition is a major aspect of music, our brains rely on memory systems when listening to our favourite songs on repeat. Depending on the task you are carrying out, almost your entire brain works tirelessly by engaging several brain regions.

Do we only use our left hemisphere when we do multiplications? 

For all the lucky McGill students who have had to learn about multiple integrals and Taylor series in MATH 222, you were not only using your left hemisphere while you were solving those math problems. In reality, whenever we use logic and analytical thinking, we employ various brain areas, such as the frontal and parietal lobes of both the left and right hemispheres. Our brain’s anatomy also allows for the interhemispheric transfer of information thanks to the corpus callosum

Now for all the Arts students who need to come up with eloquent, creative ideas in their political science and international development classes, it is not just your right hemisphere that does the work. According to a Scientific American article, creativity is a “whole brain process” that encompasses both the left and right hemispheres, so neither one gets jealous for being less active. When you are at the McLennan library trying to finish that 15-page essay at 2:00 a.m., your brain is trying to fire on all cylinders and turns on both the left superior frontal gyrus (SFL) and the right cerebellum, along with plenty of other areas

We use our whole brain, and logic and creativity reside in both of our hemispheres 
Your Wernicke’s area and left temporal region will soon take a break after reading this article, but you now know that whatever activity you do next, you will be using more than just 10 per cent of your brain. No matter what you do afterward, whether you will apply more logic or creativity, both your left and right hemispheres will help you accomplish your task.

Share this:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.


Read the latest issue

Read the latest issue