Research has shown that we spend about one third to a half of our time up in the clouds daydreaming, drifting, or thinking off-task. Whatever the term you choose to use, it implies that the brain is not working during that time.
However, scientists now know the brain is unusually active during that time. That’s because the brain activates several areas associated with complex problem solving. So, while the brain may not be concentrating on the task at hand, it unconsciously turns its attention to sort through other important problems.
So, with the idea that the brain is always working, here are a few other fun brain facts to think about.
- Nerve impulses to the brain travel at about 170 miles per hour. — Ever wonder why you can react so quickly to outside stimulus? Now you know.
- The “light bulb” analogy is pretty close. — Ever hear people describe a new problem solving idea as a “light bulb” or that they are no longer “in the dark” about an issue? The analogy is pretty accurate, because the brain uses the same amount of power as a 10 watt light bulb, whether you are awake or asleep.
- The brain isn’t static. — Contrary to the idea that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” the brain continues to grow and add neurons throughout your life. That means more connections and information will be learned.
- Deep breathing helps you think better. — Well, maybe. It is known that the brain uses about 20 to 25% of the oxygen you breath in. So it makes sense to take a deep breath to clear the brain.
- There's lot’s of space in there. — There are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain. To put that in perspective, it’s about the same number of stars in our galaxy.
- The brain is wet. — My apologies to those who are super smart; but you are all wet. Literally. The brain is about 77 to 78% water, 10 to 12% lipids, eight percent protein, two percent soluble organics, one percent carbs, and one percent inorganic salt.
— Frank Graff
Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!