Ten facts about how your brain works

How we think our brain works isn’t always how it does.

I have always thought that multi-tasking was the most efficient way I could complete more tasks in the same amount of time. However, according to the latest research, it is literally impossible for your brain to handle more than one task at a time.

Recently I have discovered ten more fascinating facts about our brain and how it functions.

  1. Your brain is more creative when you are tired

If you are trying to do creative work, chances are that you will be far more productive at the end of the day when you are tired. It is why often you have some of your best ideas in that bath before bed.

When tired, your brain isn’t as good at focusing, blocking out distractions and making connections between common concepts which is ideal for being creative and making new connections. Being tired helps the mind open up to ideas that the focused mind doesn’t allow to filter through. So, a fuzzy brain is vastly more useful when you are trying to be creative.

  1. Stress can reduce the size of your brain

Stress is actually the most common cause of brain function changes.

A study involving rats found that in those exposed to chronic stress, the Hippocampus in their brains actually shrank. The Hippocampus is the integral part that forms memories. It has previously been debated that those with PTSD have shrunken Hippocampi. Further studies could point to stress as a major factor in changes in our brains.

  1. Multitasking is literally impossible

When we think we are multitasking, we are actually context-switching (rapidly changing from one thing to another). The problem with multitasking is that we are splitting our brains resources giving less focus and attention on completing one task correctly to semi-completing several badly. Research shows your rate of mistake making when doing more than one thing at a time is fifty per cent.

  1. Naps improve brain function

Alongside our regular night’s sleep taking naps are actually really useful. A forty-minute nap can improve memory and increase learning with the ability to absorb information correctly.

The right side of the brain is more active during a nap than the left side. 95% of the population are right-handed and left-brained so whilst this side of the brain relaxes during sleep the right side is there cleaning up storing things to short/long term memory and solidifying your memories for that day.

  1. Vision trumps all senses

One of our five senses, vision takes precedence over all the others. If you hear a piece of information three days later you will be able to recall about ten per cent. If you see a picture with some information you will be able to recall about sixty-five per cent three days later. It is surprising that we rely on our vision so much when it isn’t even that good!

“Our brain is doing all this guessing because it doesn’t know where things are. In a three-dimensional world, the light actually falls on our retina in a two-dimensional fashion. So our brain approximates viewable image.”

  1. Introverts and extroverts come from the wiring in our brains

Introversion and extroversion are not actually related to how outgoing or shy we are but how our brains recharge. Research has shown that the differences come from how we process stimuli. For extroverts, the process is shorter. The pathway rind through the area where touch, taste and visual and auditory sensory processing takes place. For introverts, stimuli run a long pathway, especially in areas associated with remembering, problem-solving and planning.

  1. We prefer people who make mistakes

Making mistakes tend to increase your likeability due to the Pratfall effect.

Mr Lee explains how this works;

“Those who never make mistakes are perceived as less likeable than those who make the occasional faux pas. Making mistakes makes us more human and allows people to not feel threatened by us. Perfection creates distance.”

A theory that was tested involved a group of people listening to another taking a quiz. Half of those taking the quiz was asked to spill their coffee at some point during the experiment. The participants that we listening to the event we asked to rate the quizzers on likability. Those who had spilt their coffee came higher than those who didn’t.

  1. Meditation can rewire your brain

Lessen anxiety. The more we practice meditation the less anxiety we have because we are loosening the connections of particular neural pathways. It has been proven that anxiety and agitation levels decrease with just twenty minutes of meditation.

Increase creativity. Researchers at Leiden University, Netherlands, studied focused attention and open-monitoring meditation to see if there were any improvements in creativity levels afterwards. Those who did open-monitoring meditation were found to be more creative and better at thinking up new ideas than the other group.

Increased memory. Those who practice mindful meditation are more likely to have rapid memory recall because they can easily filter out distractions and increase self-productivity.

Meditation has also been linked to increasing compassion, decreasing stress, improving memory skills and even increasing the amount of grey matter in the brain.

  1. Exercise can boost willpower and reorganize the brain

There is a link between exercise and mental alertness, it works in the same way as exercise is related to happiness. When you start exercising your brain recognizes this as a moment of stress. As your heart pressure increases it leads your brain into thinking fight or flight. Your body protects itself by releasing a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. This has a protective and repairing element to your memory neurons which act as a reset switch. Of course, as we all know, endorphins are released through exercise which increases mood.

“These endorphins tend to minimize the discomfort of exercise, block the feeling of pain and are even associated with a feeling of euphoria.”

McGovern, A researcher

  1. Make time slow down by doing new things

Do you ever find yourself asking where the time goes or where the year has gone? This little trick relates to the hour our brains perceive time. Essentially the brain takes in the information and organizes it in a way we understand. But not all information comes in order, it is up to the brain to categorize it so that we can make use of this information. So, our sense of time is merely a list of things we need to order. New information takes a longer period of time to sort than regular information does thus making absorption time feel elongated. The newer things we do the longer time will last.

When we’re in life-threatening situations, for instance:

“We remember the time as longer because we record more of the experience. Life-threatening experiences make us really pay attention, but we don’t gain superhuman powers of perception.”