Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Thursday, September 10, 2020

So Many Brain Myths

Discussions on the brain are ubiquitous. Magazines, books and T.V. are saturated with  information related to the brain. Lots, if not most of it is wrong.

How Many Neurons Are in the Human Brain?

When I was an undergraduate in graduate school, I learned the human brain consists of 100 billion neurons (Kolb and Whishaw 2009). This number was reported in scholarly journals, textbooks, and in college lectures. It was accepted as fact. I never saw a citation of an original source to support the claim, nor did I ever hear anyone question whether or not there was evidence to support it. I just assumed it was common knowledge and must be supported by a large body of data. Even the general public knew that the human brain consists of 100 billion neurons. In addition to academia’s dissemination of the supposed fact, popular media embraced and promoted the 100 billion neuron idea...


The Allure of Brain Science

The media have become fascinated with brain images—and the use of those images to explain almost everything. Neuroscience (the scientific study of the nervous system, in many cases focusing only on the brain) has made a mark in mainstream media and everyday conversation. You have probably seen headlines such as “This Is Your Brain on Sugar,” “The Brain’s Evil Spot,” or “Brain Based Learning.” These phrases, and the stories associated with them, generally hold some truth but at the same time are misrepresented and often fuel false beliefs and misconceptions. As an example, consider the implications of the so-called “Sugar Brain.” Proponents claim that consumption of sugar can activate the same brain reward mechanisms (dopamine pathway referred to as mesolimbic dopamine system) as those activated when consuming addictive drugs. Some of the same brain areas are activated (varying in strength and intensity) when consuming sugar and drugs, but other stimuli also activate the mesolimbic dopamine system. The mesolimbic dopamine system is rich in dopaminergic neurons. Dopamine cell bodies (parts of brain cells where dopamine is synthesized) are located in the brainstem...


The Truth About Nootropic Supplements

Nootropic substances—from the Greek words meaning “mind-bending” –are ingestible chemicals often promoted for their cognitive enhancing properties (Jasanoff 2018). According to companies selling nootropic products, benefits of using the products include prevention of cognitive decline, enhanced memory, increased learning, improved concentration, and rapid cognition. Nootropic drugs include stimulants like amphetamine and methylphenidate, marketed under the names Adderall and Ritalin, as well as sleep suppressants like Modafinil. Nootropics also include a range of dietary supplements...