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The 6 Most Frequently Quoted Brain Facts (That Are Total BS)

#3. "I'm Getting Older, so My Mind Isn't What It Used to Be."

What you heard:

It's common knowledge that the brain deteriorates with age. That's why your grandpa keeps forgetting things, referring to the television as "the wireless" and calling you by your father's name. It's also why he's cranky all the time, and complains when anyone is making too much noise -- he's just getting on, and his old deteriorating brain can't handle the hectic modern world.

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We might as well bury him now.

The truth:

Discounting the ones who actually develop mental disorders like dementia or Alzheimer's, old people actually have better brains than the rest of us. Ironically, that's kind of what makes them seem so stupid -- their seasoned brains are taking in a whole lot of information that your comparatively idiotic brain just doesn't notice.

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He's a lean, mean information processing machine.

As it turns out, although your body tends to deteriorate as the years go on, your brain only gets sharper. Research has shown that, the older you get, the more information you take in from your environment. As a result, older people are actually better at problem solving, even though they become curmudgeonly and easily distracted at the same time due to the sheer amount of information their superior brains are taking in. Kind of like a kid with A.D.D., except they're a lot slower and quieter and sometimes have to use little motorized vehicles to cart them around.

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Lucky old farts.

This, by the way, is also why the old lady downstairs is always yelling at you about turning down the TV, and shouting at the neighbor kids to cut out that racket. The fact that older brains absorb more information means they're actually impacted more by noisy distractions. It'd be like if you had a superhuman sense of smell, but as a result were constantly bombarded by an entire city's worth of farts. Suddenly you'd seem cranky, too.

#2. "You Get New Brain Wrinkles When You Learn Stuff."

What you heard:

At some point you probably heard someone try to tell you that the number of wrinkles in your brain has something to do with how intelligent you are. Or maybe you heard Donald Glover's character on Community claim that every sudden revelation "wrinkles his brain."

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Pickling is another fine way to wrinkle a brain.

It kind of makes sense -- the more you learn, the more room your brain is going to need, but because it's all cramped up inside your skull, it has to fold over on itself as it grows. Why else does your brain look like it's been soaking in a bathtub for six weeks?

The truth:

By the time you're born, your brain is about as wrinkly as it will ever be, barring some kind of cosmetic brain surgery.

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"Could you shoot some botox in there? I don't want wrinkles anywhere."

So why are brains wrinkly? We're sad to say that nobody really knows, but a leading theory suggests that it might have something to do with shock absorption. Computer models have shown that, if your brain was smooth, you'd sustain a lot more damage from hitting your head on stuff. So it turns out we have an evolutionary tolerance to heavy metal fandom.

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And drunken bike rides.

Then again, some scientists believe that the more advanced animals, like primates, have more wrinkles in their brains because they allow for neural connections to be much faster. The brain has more surface area, so it has more neurons to deal with your monkey problems. Or, maybe it's both. But it certainly doesn't get wrinklier the more you learn.

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Donald Glover lied to us. We never knew it would hurt so much.

Though that brings us to easily the most common brain myth of all ...

#1. "Whoa, He's Smart! Check Out the Big Brain On That Guy!"

What you heard:

It has been said by many a grandmother that their grandchild's huge skull means he or she will probably be a genius. No, Granny Dumbass, that kid's just ugly. People throughout the ages have assumed that brain size has some correlation with intelligence, which is why really intelligent people in pop culture have always been portrayed as having giant, bulbous noggins, and stupid people have tiny little pea brains.


As illustrated by this educational cartoon.

The truth:

Here's one clue: human beings don't have the biggest brains in the animal kingdom -- that award goes to the sperm whale, whose brain actually weighs about 9 kilograms (that's a little more than six times the size of a human brain). Dolphins also have bigger brains than us. Does it make them smarter? When was the last time a dolphin landed on the moon?

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Where's your iPad?

The fact is, brain size doesn't have much to do with intelligence. That's why mice can navigate mazes but whales keep getting caught in fishing nets. It's not the size that counts, it's what you do with it. You're not going to get any smarter by swapping your brain with a big, juicy elephant brain -- you're just going to stand around like an idiot trying to pick things up with your nose. As it turns out, brain size correlates pretty much with how big the animal is, and that's about it.

And among individual humans, brain size has no visible effect on standardized intelligence tests. And though lots of dubious claims have been made about men being smarter than women because they have larger brains on average, the average IQ among men and women is pretty much exactly the same. Men have around 4 billion more brain cells than women, but there's no measurable difference in intelligence, so presumably those are the cells that males devote to learning the process of peeing various shapes into snow.

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Also, shirtcocking.

Read more from J. N. Chaney at his blog, jnchaney.wordpress.com.

For more pieces of bullshit you believe, check out 6 Inspiring Rags to Riches Stories (That Are Bullshit) and 6 Bullshit Facts About Psychology That Everyone Believes.

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