5 Things Science Says Will Shrink Your Brain

No, ‘reading my articles’ is not one of them
5 Things Science Says Will Shrink Your Brain

You only get one brain. When God themselves slipped a wet pile of synapses into your skull (if we evolved from monkeys why do I keep falling out of trees?), it did not come with a warranty, much less a replacement. It’s why helmets are heavily recommended for bikers, various athletes and ground infantry. We understand its fragility enough to, at least outside of the NFL, avoid repeatedly smashing our noggins into hard stuff, knowing we’ve got a pretty important payload squelching around in there. 

Not all brain damage is as clear as it might be on rough pavement, though, and there’s plenty of things you might be doing that shrink your brain over time.

Here are five things in particular that are making your brain shrivel up without you knowing it…



This is your brain on nugs.

Sorry, bud. Yes, it’s a plant, and it comes from the earth, and it’s one of the options for making life and bad movies slightly more tolerable. Unfortunately, as things so often are, healthy/unhealthy isn’t a binary. Honestly, even the staunchest stoner probably has an inkling that it’s not, in fact, “all good,” simply because it feels good, and things that feel good tend to slowly kill you.

An Australian study from 2008 showed that heavy, long-term marijuana users saw shrinkage in their brains, specifically in the hippocampus and amygdala. These are the areas that specialize in memory and fear response, which, yeah, that tracks. Turns out the blasé behavior of the stoner character in horror movies might have been not only anecdotally but medically accurate. The good news is, this was seen in serious, Snoop Dogg/Chief Keef level imbibers, subjects who had smoked at least five joints a day for an average of 20 years.

Lack of Sleep


Cats brains must be huge.

Bad news for Instagram grindsetters and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Waking up at the anus of dawn and throwing yourself into a cold shower might give you more waking hours to hustle within, but it’s not doing the electric cantaloupe upstairs any favors. According to a study that examined participants’ brain volume over a three-and-a-half-year period, those with poor sleep health were losing more mass in their gray matter. The results were especially pronounced in people over 60.

The study showed that the right superior frontal cortex of the brain was smaller in those who hadn’t slept well in the interim, but also saw signs of atrophy in multiple other locations. Given that there’s now evidence linking lack of solid sleep to the development of dementia, this all, unfortunately, tracks, too. So next time you’re late for work, just explain to your boss that you needed to sleep in so that you don’t try to fistfight your grandson in 40 years.



Shockingly, the brain in there isnt loving this.

Look, I’m not trying to be the fun police here, but it turns out that the stuff that shrinks your brain is generally a good time. I’d love to pop on here and tell you that it turns out too much broccoli turns your brain into a pea, but no dice. You had to know alcohol was in the crosshairs the moment you loaded this page. I’m not denying it’s a good time. I love alcohol! So much so that I did my friends and family a favor by eliminating all but the smallest sips of it on special occasions! At least now when I’m thinking about how much I miss all those sweet, sweet, outdoor pees, I can at least take comfort in the consolation prize of my brain staying the same size. 

Anyway, we all know alcohol isn’t good for us. Our body screams that at us the moment we wake up after having it (with a megaphone if you’re over 30). The more information we get on it, the worse it turns out to be. A lot of you might remember, and possibly cling to, old studies that claim a glass of red wine a day is actually good for you, medical advice that will likely go the way of “cigarettes make the baby’s lungs strong.” Turns out, even just one beer a day causes brain atrophy, and it only gets worse the more you have. Of course, given that a lot of people drink to shut off their brain in the first place, maybe it’s all fair play.

Specifically Wine


Still poison, just in a tailored suit.

Finally, a win for the working man! Bad news for your heavy-drinking, red-mawed friends who act like their problem is somehow classier because they don’t sell it at the corner store. A study from Gottingen University in Germany found that, when measuring the declining brain volume of alcoholics of varying tastes, the worst offender was those who chose wine.

Specifically, the loser’s circle looked like the following when it came to the size of the participant’s hippocampi: versus a healthy human’s 3.85-milliliter lump, beer drinkers measured in at 3.4 milliliters, spirit enjoyers at 2.9 milliliters and wine swillers bottoming out at 2.8 milliliters. Scientists theorized that beer’s better performance may have to do with an ingredient not present in spirits or wine, but before you high-five yourself for having the healthiest version of a crippling addiction, remember that your liver’s probably going to pop long before you have a chance for a senior moment. 

My Secret Weapon


Yes! Yes!

That’s right, you fools! Even as you read this, my network of subterranean towers has been emitting a devastating, secret wavelength that’s decreasing the volume of your brain! Soon, the human race will be reduced to nothing more than shuffling supplicants, allowing me to finally win a game of online chess!

Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple PodcastsSpotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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