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50 Brain Facts Every Educator Should Know

January 27th, 2010

By Pamelia Brown
The brain is perhaps the most fascinating organ in
the human body. It controls everything from
breathing to emotions tolearning. If you work
with children, here are some facts that you might
find helpful, from how the brain affects learning
to facts about memory to interesting facts about
the brain that you can share with your students.
Brain Development and Learning
Read on to learn interesting facts about how the
brain develops, what can affect that development,
and how learning is impacted.
1. Read aloud. Parents and teachers who read aloud and talk often to young children are
promoting brain development.
2. Bilingual brains. Children who learn two languages before the age of five have a
different brain structure than children who learn only one language.
3. Child abuse and the brain. Studies have shown that child abuse can change the way the
brain develops and can negatively affect learning.
4. New neurons. Throughout life, mental activity promotes the production of new
neurons in the brain.

5. Handedness. Those who are left-handed or ambidextrous have a corpus collosum that is
about 11% larger than those who are right-handed.
6. Brain growth. The human brain continues to grow until about age 18.
7. Stimulating environment. If a child is in a stimulating environment, she has a25%
greater ability to learn . Conversely, if she is in an environment with low stimulation, she
has 25% less ability to learn.
8. Creative vs. methodical. Scientists have shown that creative thinkers brains work in
different ways from the brains of those who think more methodically.
9. Food and intelligence. One study looked at students in New York and showed that those
who ate lunches that did not include artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes did 14%
better on IQ tests than the students who ate lunches with these additives.
10. Boredom. Humans have an innate curiosity, but when they have a lack of
stimulation, boredom sets in.
11. Learning new things. A study shows that when people are learning new things, their
brains change very quickly. Those learning to juggle showed change in the brain in as
little as seven days.
12. Music. Children who take music lessons show a considerable increase in the ability to
13. Reading faces. The area of the brain called the amygdala is responsible for theability to
read someones face for clues to how they are feeling.
Learn about the way short-term memory differs from long-term memory, how scent affects
memory, and more.

14. Different types of memory. The ability to learn and remember new things is
called declarative memory and is processed in a different part of the brain from where the
memories of how to do something are stored.
15. Scent and memory. Scent is a powerful trigger for memory. A study indicates that a
memory paired with scent can be recalled more easily.
16. New connections. Each time a memory is recalled or a new thought occurs, a new
connection is created in the brain.
17. Create associations. Memory is formed by associations, so to promote memory in
students, create associations for them.
18. Sleep. The brain consolidates memories while you sleep.
19. No sleep. A lack of sleep may actually decrease your ability to create new memories.
20. Short-term memory. Studies suggest that short-term memory happens as a result of
chemical and electrical impulses in the brain, as compared to more structural changes that
are associated with long-term memory.
Brain Trivia
From how the brain helps while blinking to early brain surgery, these bits of trivia might come in
handy the next time you are teaching about the brain.
21. Blinking. Each time we blink, our brain keeps things illuminated so the whole world
doesnt go dark each time we blink, which is about 20,000 times a day.
22. Laughing. As easy as laughing seems, it is actually a very complex task that
requires activity in five different areas of the brain.
23. The purpose of yawning. Yawning often promotes yawning in others nearby. Scientists
believe that yawning may have been an ancient social behavior that signaled an event,

with others yawning in response. Today, we still hold on to the response, even if we dont
need it.
24. Brain Bank. Harvard maintains a Brain Bank where over 7,000 human brains are stored
for research purposes.
25. Disney and sleep disorders. Disney creators used real sleep disorders such as snoring,
nightmares, and sleepwalking in many of the characters in their movies.
26. Thoughts. It is believed that humans experience 70,000 thoughts each day.
27. Aristotle. Aristotle mistakenly thought that the functions of the brain actually took place
in the heart.
28. Outer space. The lack of gravity in outer space affects the brain in several
ways.Scientists are studying how and why, but you may want to hold off on your next
trip to the moon.
29. Shakespeare. The word "brain" appears 66 times in William Shakespeares plays.
30. Early brain surgery. Archeologists found evidence that primitive brain surgerywas
performed by drilling a hole in the skull as far back as 2000 BC.
31. Imaginary playmates. A psychological study in Australia showed that children with
imaginary playmates between the ages of 3 and 9 tended to be first-born children.
32. Oxytocin and autism. Oxytocin is a hormone that is responsible for promoting social
interaction and may help children with autism increase social skills and trust.
The Physical Brain
With this list, youll be prepared the next time you need to whip out fast facts about the make-up
of the human brain.
33. Water. The brain is made up of about 75% water.

34. 10% myth. If you were taught that humans only use 10% of their brain, then know that
is just a myth. Scientists can attribute a function to each part of the brain.
35. Weight. The human brain weighs about 3 pounds.
36. No pain. There are no pain receptors in the brain, so the brain can feel no pain.
37. Cerebrum. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and makes up about 85% of the
brains weight.
38. Gray and white. The human brain consists of about 60% white matter and 40% gray
39. Neurons. About 100 billion neurons make up the human brain.
40. Synapses. For each one of those neurons, there are anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000
41. Cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex grows thicker the more it is used.
42. Yawns. It is believed that yawning sends more oxygen to the brain, therefore working
to cool it down and stimulate it.
Amazing Brains
Here are examples of some amazing people and their brains.
43. Daniel Tammet. Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant who can perform astounding
mathematical computations, knows seven languages, and is developing a language of his
44. Albert Einstein. Einsteins brain was similar in size to other human brains except in the
region that is responsible for math and spatial perception, where his brain was 35%
wider than average.

45. Keith Jarrett. This jazz musician, at age 3, was discovered to have perfect pitch, which
scientists have been able to pinpoint in the right frontal lobe.
46. London taxi drivers. Famous for knowing all the London streets by heart, these taxi
drivers have a larger than normal hippocampus, especially the drivers who have been on
the job longest. This suggests that as people memorize more information, the
hippocampus continues to grow.
47. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. After his death, Lenins brain was studied and found to have
been abnormally large and to have contained numerous neurons in a particular region.
Some believe this brain structure may explain his famous intelligence.
48. Oldest brain. At the University of York in northern England, a brain thought to be2000
years old was unearthed.
49. Ben Pridmore. Ben Pridmore, a world champion memorizer, memorized 96 historical
events in 5 minutes and memorized a single, shuffled deck of cards in 26.28 seconds.
50. Henry Molaison. Known for decades as "HM," Molaison underwent brain surgery in
1953 and could not form new memories afterward. He became the most studied patient
by those who research the brain. Molaison died about a year ago and donated his brain to
science. Currently, it is undergoing extensive research.