14 facts about the brain

Head Your body contains at least 60 trillion cells. Yet your brain contains ‘only’ 60 billion cells, just 0.001% of the total. Proof that the ‘mind’ isn’t just inside your skull.

Each cell carries, on average 7000 connections to other cells. Therefore the number of cell networks in the brain is 42 thousand billion, or 42,000,000000,000 pieces of information your brain can, store.

Yet your brain only weighs 3 pounds and uses just 10-23 watts of energy per day. That is less than the energy in three bananas.

Each year you will lose about 3.3 million brain cells. But that is less than 0.00000006% of the total. And nearly all of it is replaced, right on up until old age.

There is no truth in the myth that we only use 10% of brain power. The entire brain is being used every day, even if some areas of the brain are there only for storage or for back-up functions.

Super memory. The brain is capable of storing 10 trillion bits of information about you and your life experiences. 

The brain can make its own ‘heroin’. Endorphins are released in the Hypothalamus after vigorous physical exercise, injury, meditation, laughter and chocolate. Endorphins are up to 19 times stronger than morphine. By contrast, heroin is only 7 times stronger than morphine.

Being happy is good for the brain. Happy states trigger dopamine release, a feel-good chemical. Personal fulfilment increases neuroplasticity, slows down ageing and improves memory.

Why is adolescence so difficult? One main reason is that, between puberty and early adulthood, the brain is being rebuilt. There is massive growth in the pre-frontal cortex (Headmind); connections between cell networks are being hard-wired (making emotional life-lessons more intense); and there is a temporary loss of connection between the brain’s emotional centres (the limbic system) and the intellectual centres – which means that teenagers lack the capacity to make good decisions.

New experiences are vital for improved brain function. Getting out of the rut and going for new horizons increases cell growth, delays ageing and improves cell connectivity. The same goes when you let go of the past and exercise forgiveness.

Binge-eating. Emotional self-neglect can lead to food cravings and over-eating. So-called stress triggers an increase in Cortisol in the blood stream, which stimulates Insulin release. High insulin levels are associated with a craving for sugary foods and foods high in carbohydrates.

Regular sex (at least twice a week) improves daily moods, reduces pain thresholds, cuts the risk of a heart attack, decreases menstrual pain and promotes sleep. This is because enjoyable sex fosters high endorphin release.

Love and sex can be addictive. Falling in love, like sexual infatuation) is similar to taking cocaine: the hypothalamus triggers a cascade of dopamine. One problem is that, once the dopamine wears off, a ‘down-mood’ sets in, leading to further cravings.

The brain also contains a bonding chemical: Oxytocin. During labour, female brains produce large amounts of oxytocin, which stimulates contractions and smooths the passage of the baby down the birth canal. Oxytocin also creates a primal, intense bond with the child. Adults in love (or during ecstatic sex) also release high levels of oxytocin.


Hugh Laurie, Schopenhauer, and the art of life

Schopenhaue This is the follow up article to Schopenhauer: a philosophy for grumpy people? Which attracted  a good response from many readers, many of whom had never heard of him, and were intrigued by his pessimism. Like Hugh Laurie in House he attracts people with his attitude problem.

In fact both Dr Gregory House and Schopenhauer have much in common:

  • Both are loners
  • Unconventional thinkers
  • Grumpiness combined with a wish to help others
  • Black humour
  • Grim realism
  • Mockery of conventional, pompous, people and ideas
  • Atheism
  • Disillusion
  • A (well-disguised) compassion for others.
  • Both are skilled wind-up merchants

For Schopenhauer, the world was a place he never made and little admired. Unlike almost all other philosophers, he did not believe that human beings were created to be happy. The reason for that is that our Will for personal gratification is out of all proportion to what Life can actually offer us. That, he claimed, was the reason for our continually recurring states of frustration, heartache and boredom.

Now, while I believe Schopenhauer was right in some of his diagnoses, I disagree about the cause. It is not the Universal Will which is the cause of personal misery but Headmind obsessions working through the Ego. I have written about this before in my article on How your Head F*cks You Up.

While I agree with Schopenhauer that we are not created to be happy (because we are blessed/cursed with an enlarged Headmind/Pre-frontal cortex), I disagree that we cannot, in fact find it. We can find it if we persist, through Awareness, and through downsizing the Ego.

However, I will leave you with a few more conclusions from the Master:

  • Make good use of the only thing you can control: your conscious mind.
  • Strive to live in the Now
  • Set limits everywhere: on desires, wealth and power.
  • Accept limitations: that leads to peace of mind.
  • Accept misfortunes: only dwell on them if you can change something about them.
  • Seek out personal space and time for yourself; other people may try rob you of peace of mind.
  • Keep busy, always.
  • Do not expect too much from other people: like you they are only human.
  • In the long run, assume disappointment will be your lot more times than not.
  • You are not alone: others share your disappointments.
  • Your recognition of your shared humanity with others is the basis for compassion.
  • This recognition frees you from the Ego.
  • At times of great difficulty you can take consolation from the fact that every other human being has endured similar difficulties.
  • Contemplation of Nature, Art, Music, Literature and the Spectacle of life raises you above it.

38 provocative thoughts

Much was decided before you were born.
You don’t choose what happens  in life.
Your actions are driven either by passion or by regimentation.
Regimentation comes from failed cultures.
Passion belongs to the divine in you.

You didn’t choose your gender.
Men and Women are from different species.
The correct attitude to the opposite sex is playfulness.

You didn’t choose your race.
Racial differences are really cultural.
The correct attitude to other cultures is curiosity.

You didn’t choose your parents.
You maybe didn’t get the parents you would have chosen.
The correct attitude to your parents is objectivity.

You didn’t choose your education.
Much that is taught in schools is based on ideas that were once alive but which are now dead.
The correct attitude to teachers is scepticism.

You didn’t choose the Law.
Laws are created by people in authority.
The correct attitude to the Law is caution.

You didn’t choose the Society in which you live
Social rules are based on customs.
The correct attitude to those customs is pragmatism.

You didn’t choose the people who love you.
Your relationships chose you.
The correct attitude to relationships is love.

You didn’t choose your Body.
Yet your Body decides your health, your emotions, desires, moods, and temperament.
The correct attitude to your Body is wonder.

You didn’t choose your gifts, talents, or your inner self.
The core of who you are is determined by your Daimon.
The correct attitude to your Daimon is obedience.

You didn’t choose your actions.
Your actions are decided by the needs and expectations of the moment.
The correct attitude to past actions is amusement.

You didn’t choose God.
God is another term for whatever it is that keeps the universe in being.
The correct attitude to God is silence.

What your moods tell others about you

Depressed Far more than emotions (which, after all, we all share) your moods show you what, and sometimes who, you are to others.

But first we need to understand what a mood is.

  • It isn’t a feeling.
  • It isn’t an emotion.
  • And it isn’t something that just happens to you.

It’s based on your attitude to things going on around you.

Your attitude, in turn, is governed by your relationship to people, events, the world – as shown to you by Headmind. It is the atmosphere in which you live. It is the atmosphere you give off to others.

For example, if your relationship to the world is that of Victim, your relationship to the world is likely to be self-pitying or else aggressive (in a negative way). So your mood will either be depressive or hostile.

By contrast, if your relationship to the world is based on the idea that you can do anything you want (within reason) then your mood is likely to be sparkling and aggressive (in a positive way).

Attitudes trigger moods in a variety of ways:

  • Suspicious (morose, surly mood)
  • Hopeless (depressive mood)
  • Self-sufficient (tranquil mood)
  • Self-important (impatient mood)
  • Manipulative (uncomfortable mood)
  • Loving (peaceful, blissful mood)
  • Nihilistic (despairing, suicidal mood)

It was said that the Buddha filled most of those who met him with a mood combined of tranquillity, kindness and awe. Similar reports apply to Christ.

Whatever your attitude to the world, to others, or to the things that happen to you, the rest of us can tell the kind of person you are, not only by the way you react to situations but by the vibe we pick up from you. One reason for that is that Bodymind not only tells us about other people through the emotions but also tells people about usthrough our moods.

If you prefer not to give away so much about yourself I will be telling you in the next post about how you can change both your attitudes and your (negative) moods.