Say Hi to Jim's Brain

04 January 2016

So did you know that the human brain has up to 100 billion neurons? That's over ten times the number of people on the planet. But the Earth is home to a hundred thousand times more ants but each ant has only 250,000 neurons. However if you do the math, collectively as a "species", ants are brainer than humans.  (NB. To ensure this comparison is as vigorous as possible, antelopes have been excluded from the analysis as they are not strictly ants.)

If we want to talk about large numbers then the estimated total number of stars in the universe is 100 octillion.  Octillion is a humongously big number.  Your poor brain with its puny 100 billion neurons has no chance of comprehending how big 100 octillion is.  So we pretend that an octillion is just 1 with 27 zeroes and 27 is a reassuringly small number.  Unless of course it is the number of toes you have.

Teaching an Old Brain New Tricks

Did you know there are a few individuals who can recall almost every day of their lives in near perfect detail?  The condition is called hyperthymesia*. If each neuron was a bit of memory in a computer then 100 billion isn't actually lot. That's equivalent to a single DVD or less than a day of video. However, neurons connect with thousands of other neurons to create synapses that store our memories.  It is estimated that about a million new connections are made every second throughout our lives.

Practicing an activity encourages a process called myelination that enables nerve cells to transmit information faster. It is a physical change to the brain like building up muscle. Neural pathways are developed that work like highways enabling us to perform the same mental activity with less effort. This obviously has its benefits but also its drawbacks. Any new behaviour is relatively more difficult until new pathways are created. So it's possible the ride may be a little bumpy before it gets better.

Change often needs some perseverance and a little patience.

* an asterisk at the end of a link means that if you click this link you will be taken to another site.