There are a lot of misconceptions about the brain, and social media sometimes does more harm than good when it comes to perpetuating some of the untruths. Here are a few of the most commonly confused tidbits about the human brain.
- You’re either left-brained or right-brained.
FALSE. This long-standing myth has been debunked. There is no evidence that people preferentially use one side of their brain more.
- Females are generally better at language because of their brain structure.
TRUE. Females have more Foxp2 protein in the cortex of the brain, which is the area associated with language. In rats, the opposite is true—and male rats are more vocal than females.
- Cognitive decline is not impacted by choices or circumstances.
FALSE. We now understand that there are lots of things you can do that appear to fight cognitive decline: exercise, social interaction, good nutrition, brain stimulation and one-on-one brain training.
- ADHD often manifests differently in girls.
TRUE. Boys are more prone to problems with impulse control, while girls’ symptoms often manifest as inattention.
- IQ cannot be changed.
FALSE. We now know the brain is “plastic,” that is, capable of changing at any age. And since IQ is simply a measurement of cognitive skills, stronger abilities translate into higher IQ.
- Brain size determines intelligence.
FALSE. On average, the male brain is about 10 percent larger than the female brain, but it has nothing to do with intelligence.
- Alcohol kills brain cells.
FALSE. It’s not that brain cells are being killed off by excessive alcohol consumption, it’s that the dendrites (which help cells communicate) are being damaged.
- The brains of men and women are structured differently.
TRUE. Males have an average of 6.5 times more gray matter than females, while females have 9.5 times more white matter, which is what connects the different regions of the brain.
- Some people are just destined to be bad at math.
Struggles with math, called “dyscalculia,” are often caused by weak cognitive skills, which can be trained. Brain training works on the skills needed to learn, process and recall math-related information—such as visual processing, working memory and logic & reasoning.
- Dyslexia is about reading letters backwards.
FALSE. Dyslexia simply means “trouble with words” and even smart kids can be dyslexic. In people with dyslexia, the weakest cognitive skills are often phonemic awareness and auditory processing, although other areas may suffer as well. Personal brain training can target and train these weak skills.
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