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7 Myths About Your Brain

We all have brains, and most of us even use them. Still, chances are you believe some of these popular myths about your think muscle.

By Matt Christensen

MYTH #4: Your brain deals with information from your five senses
It actually perceives and processes information from a lot more than just five. Senses are like colors: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing are primary, but different combinations of them create secondary senses. For example, the sense of pain — called nociception — can combine touch and taste, or touch and smell. Proprioception, which is the sense of how your body is positioned in space, relies on sight and touch. Other senses monitor or regulate balance, body temperature, acceleration, and the passage of time.

MYTH #5: Your brain is all grey
Unless you’re into cannibalism or experimental surgery, the real brains you’ve seen were likely in jars of formaldehyde — a preservative chemical that turns them grey. But, a fresh brain’s color scheme is pretty much the same as the Atlanta Falcons: grey, white, red, and black. Grey matter is, in fact, mostly grey. But it also consists of white matter in the form of connective nerve fibers. The black part, called substantia nigra (“black substance”), is a melanin-rich part of the basal ganglia at the base of the brain. And the red? That’s blood.

MYTH #6: Subliminal messages work on your brain without you knowing it
In 1957, market researcher James Vicary inserted messages urging moviegoers to purchase soda and popcorn into showings of a film in New Jersey. Even though the messages appeared for no longer than 1/300 of a second, Vicary reported that Coca Cola and popcorn sales increased to the tune of 18 percent and 57 percent, respectively. The problem? Years later, Vicary admitted that he lied. Subsequent studies, including one based on the 1990 Judas Priest trial, in which the suicides of two teenagers were blamed on subliminal messages in the band’s lyrics, all concluded that no scientific evidence existed to support subliminal messages influence behavior.

MYTH #7: Classical music makes you smarter
Parents hoping to engineer Nobel Prize-winning babies by blaring sonatas instead of Wiggles CDs probably do so thanks to several early 90s studies conducted at the University of California Irvine in which scientists concluded that listening to classical music increases intelligence. But years later, after plenty of media exposure, the study’s lead scientist said that the notion of classical music making a person smarter has no basis in truth. He went on to clarify that the study’s findings didn’t involve an increase in overall intelligence — just a temporary boost in spatial problem solving. That didn’t stop musician Dan Campbell from trademarking the term “Mozart Effect” and creating a line of books and CDs based on the non-existent concept. Or at least three states from using taxpayer money to fund classical-music programs for babies.