Amazing Facts about the human brain

Enjoy this guest post by Sarah Patten, who also happens to be very fascinated by the brain. Her words will inspire you to nourish that most vital (and as it turns out hungry) organ!

Riding a bike has brought me joy for as long as I can remember (after mastering the whole “no training wheels thing” as a kid...), but it's been a while since I've had my own wheels to ride around town on. That all changed when I recently found the perfect “starter bike, ” and just in time to ride along the Charles in the beautiful sunshine! I have also recently discovered that I like to ride my bike while listening to the “TED radio hour” podcasts to achieve the added bonus of doing a little learning while I pedal.

One of the episodes I listened to recently was titled “What is so special about the human brain?” and I found myself listening with raptured attention (while still being mindful to obey all traffic laws and stay aware of my surroundings) as the speaker discussed how our brains function, how they've evolved, and just how much more there is to be discovered about their complexities.

The most fascinating part of the podcast to me was when Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas in Rio de Janeiro, discussed her research regarding what makes the human brain different from that of other creatures and how the evolutionary process allowed this to be so.

It turns out that it isn't the size of our brains which determines how cognitively advanced we are (evidenced by the fact that creatures like elephants and whales have much larger brains than we do), but instead it's the amount of energy that our brains consume. Although the human brain accounts for only ~2% of our body weight, but uses ~25% of all of the energy that our bodies requires to run daily. To illustrate this with an example, if you were to eat a ~2, 000 calorie/day diet, 500 of those calories would be used solely to fuel your brain.

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Q&A

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How much information can a human brain retain?

The human brain has the storage capacity to record 11 million books. Now, whether we use it all is debateable.

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