Useful Facts About the Brain that Decision Makers Should Know
There are numerous myths about the brain, one of which is that we supposedly use only 10% of brains (a myth believed by about 65% of Americans according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research).
Thanks to technological advancements, neuroscientists and researchers now have more sophisticated tools and equipment to provide us with increasing knowledge about the brain and how it functions. These tools have also enabled scientists to disprove some of the rampant and common misunderstandings of this all-important organ.
This blog post is the first in a series of three that will highlight some of the more interesting and useful facts about the brain that decision makers should know.
Brain Power — the old saying that we use only a small portion of our brains (the 10% figure is frequently cited) is wrong. Research has yet to find an area of the brain that is completely inactive. Even studies that measure activity at the single neuron level have not revealed any inactive areas of the brain.
Modern scanning technology shows that we use most of our brains, most of the time. Even when we are asleep. Not every part of the brain is firing constantly all the time, however. This would likely overheat the brain and cause massive damage.
While all brain regions are not necessarily all active at the same time, all regions of the brain are utilized to some extent over the course of a day, depending on the activities of the individual. Hence, within every 24-hour cycle we are likely to tap into all regions of our brains as needed.
Left-brained or right-brained — our brains function as one entity, not as two distinct and separate hemispheres. Almost all brain functions require the interactions and interconnectivity of both hemispheres for these functions to be executed.
However, each hemisphere may perform separate functions to execute a task. For instance, the ability to understand and express language occurs in the left hemisphere, while other aspects of language processing, such as interpretation, rhythm, and word stress, happen in the right hemisphere.
Brain size — the size of the brain is not linked to the ability to learn or to intelligence levels. Additionally, even though men have larger brain volumes than women, this does not mean that the two genders are not equal in their learning capabilities. The male brain is larger due purely to relative body size. Besides, there is a lot of variability in brain size, structure, and wiring between individuals of the same gender.
Adaptation — the brain can elicit other areas of itself to compensate for a damaged area when needed. This includes the ability to adapt to injuries such as stroke or head trauma. Also, the brain can rewire itself if needed so that healthy neurons can form new networks or even modify existing networks to compensate for a damaged part of the brain.
Scientists have learned quite a bit about the brain in recent years, thanks to new scanning and imaging technology. Leaders and decision makers need to update their own knowledge about the brain, particularly in understanding how emotions, stress, poor diets, and excessive weight can all impact long-term brain health and short-term decision-making prowess.
This article is partially excerpted from my award-winning book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. The book is the recipient of a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association for bringing “a comprehensive plan of action for improving life through recognizing decision-making patterns that don’t serve us well, don’t enrich our lives, and don’t bring us to our goals and dreams.”