Think you use just 10 percent of your brain? That’s a myth

Think you use just 10% of your brain? That's a myth

This functional magnetic resonance imaging of a brain, provided courtesy of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, shows activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA).AP Photo/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Lucy Brown

Reading this, you’re probably using, what … 10 percent of your brain? Funny how that notion took hold—that we use a tenth of our brain at any given time—because there’s no actual evidence for it, the Conversation reports.

The idea may date back to psychologist William James, who wrote in 1907 that we use “only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources,” and a foreword to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People that loosely quoted James as saying that “the average person develops only 10 percent of his latent mental ability.” Now, products exist to “unlock the other 90 percent” and a new thriller, Lucy, shows Scarlett Johansson taking drugs that enable her to use all 100 percent of her brain.

But, as the Atlantic reports, scientists point out that the brain is an organ packed with living neurons that are always up to something. Brain scans that show only a small active portion of gray matter “lighting up” may confuse people, one neuroscience professor points out, because they show only the brain’s major activities, not all of them.

Yet “those kinds of ideas self-perpetuate,” he says. One possible basis for the 10 percent notion: The brain has almost 100 billion neurons, which are outnumbered roughly 10:1 by “glial” cells that keep the brain working.

“In other words,” the Conversation notes, “neurons are only 10 percent of our entire brain.” (See how lack of sleep can fry brain cells.)

‘Dead’ girl wakes up in coffin during her own funeral

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A 3-year-old girl who was pronounced dead after a fever woke up a day later — in a coffin, during her funeral ceremony.

Police confirmed the incredible incident to the Philippine Star , after footage of the child seemingly rising from the dead at the church service in Bayabas went viral over the weekend.

Citing accounts of the girl’s parents, Police Senior Inspector Heidil Teelan said the toddler was taken to a local hospital on Friday after suffering a severe fever.

“During that time, the attending clinic personnel and physician confirmed that the young patient had no more pulse and was clinically dead last Saturday morning about 9 a.m.,” Teelan said.

The grave error was only discovered when a funeral attendee removed the cover of the girl’s coffin and saw her head move.

Teelan said the parents immediately gave the girl water and rushed her to a clinic for a check-up.

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Scientists find how magic mushrooms alter the mind

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Boxes containing magic mushrooms are displayed at a coffee and smart shop in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

Scientists studying the effects of the psychedelic chemical in magic mushrooms have found the human brain displays a similar pattern of activity during dreams as it does during a mind-expanding drug trip.

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms can profoundly alter the way we experience the world, but little is known about what physically happens in the brain.

In a study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, researchers examined the brain effects of psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, using data from brain scans of volunteers who had been injected with the drug.

“A good way to understand how the brain works is to perturb the system in a marked and novel way. Psychedelic drugs do precisely this and so are powerful tools for exploring what happens in the brain when consciousness is profoundly altered,” said Dr Enzo Tagliazucchi, who led the study at Germany’s Goethe University.

Magic mushrooms grow naturally around the world and have been widely used since ancient times for religious rites and also for recreation.

British researchers have been exploring the potential of psilocybin to alleviate severe forms of depression in people who don’t respond to other treatments, and obtained some positive results from early-stage experiments.

In the United States, scientists have seen positive results in trials using MDMA, a pure form of the party drug ecstasy, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dream-like state

People who use psychedelic drugs often describe “expanded consciousness”, including vivid imagination and dream-like states.

To explore the biological basis of these experiences, Tagliazucchi’s team analyzed brain imaging data from 15 volunteers who were given psilocybin intravenously while they lay in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.

The volunteers were scanned under the influence of psilocybin and when they had been injected with a placebo, or dummy drug. The researchers looked at fluctuations in what is called the blood-oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal, which tracks activity levels in the brain.

They found that with psilocybin, activity in the more primitive brain network linked to emotional thinking became more pronounced, with several parts of the network – such as the hippocampus and anterior cingulate cortex – active at the same time. This pattern is similar to when people are dreaming.

They also found that volunteers on psilocybin had more disjointed and uncoordinated activity in the brain network that is linked to high-level thinking, including self-consciousness.

“People often describe taking psilocybin as producing a dreamlike state and our findings have, for the first time, provided a physical representation for the experience in the brain,” said Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London’s department of medicine, who also worked on the study.

“I was fascinated to see similarities between the pattern of brain activity in a psychedelic state and the pattern of brain activity during dream sleep, especially as both involve the primitive areas of the brain linked to emotions and memory.”

Rambutan: The next popular super fruit?


The rambutan fruit is both delicious and full of antioxidants. (Image courtesy of Chris Kilham)

If rambutan, a fruit indigenous to Indonesia, ever becomes popular, it will probably be known as “hairy fruit.” That’s the meaning of the name rambutan – and an apt description as well. The red fruit is related to the lychee, and looks like a ball of messy, fibrous hair. Inside the somewhat chaotic-looking exterior, a luscious treat awaits. Is rambutan delicious? You bet it is. This little wonder will take you by surprise.

I just returned from Malaysia and Borneo, where rambutan is currently in season. At roadside stands, rambutan sells in big piles. My friends and I bought the fruits in big bags, and made quite a mess in our van, eating as we drove. At Kuala Lumpur’s famous outdoor Chow Kit market, rambutan is everywhere. The fruit, which grows on an evergreen tree, is widely cultivated throughout all of Southeast Asia as well as in parts of Africa and the Caribbean. As with apples, there are many cultivars of rambutan – over 200 – but fewer that are grown on a large commercial scale.

Rambutan enjoys a history of use not only as a delicious and succulent fruit, but also as a traditional medicine. The fruit has long been used to quell dysentery, while the rind contains a variety of beneficial compounds that demonstrate antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Compounds responsible for this include the ellagitannins and xanthones. Additionally, some research shows that the hulls of rambutans contain several compounds that demonstrate value in inhibiting fatty acid synthase. These findings, published in the journal Carbohydrate Research, suggest that an extract of rambutan hulls could be a potentially effective anti-obesity aid.

From a nutritional standpoint, rambutan is a good source of natural sugars, potassium, calcium and magnesium. It is a modest source of fiber, and contains several B vitamins.

Rambutan is not an antioxidant heavyweight on a par with acai or pomegranate. But it does offer something extraordinary, in terms of consistency and flavor. The consistency of the fruit is slippery and juicy. Eating rambutans can be somewhat messy, because when they are fully ripe, the fruits can squirt a little when opened. True rambutan devotees do not care, just as lovers of ripe peaches favor their juiciness. The flavor is another matter altogether. Moderately sweet, similar to lychee and somewhat floral, the fruits win over most new tasters on the spot. I have introduced many people to rambtan, and they marvel at the fruit, asking why they haven’t known of it before.

Most rambutan fruits are red, yet there are yellow varieties too. The difference between them appears to be the variations in antioxidant pigments in the skins, as the inner fruits remain pretty much the same color. Rambutans are pollinated by various flies, bees and ants, and ripen only on the tree. Once picked, they do not ripen further.

In Southeast Asia, honey made from the nectar of rambutan is considered a special treat. In that region, the fruits are often packed and sold in cans, in addition to being available fresh in local markets. The fruit is also made into jams and jellies. These products are delightfully flavorful.

That’s the real key to rambutan: the flavor. Sure, the fruit is nutritious enough. But it isn’t going to be the next goji, or black currant, and nobody is going to hail it as the most potent source of antioxidants, though it contains them. But from a taste standpoint, rambutan is hard to beat.

As farmers cultivate rambutan from Sri Lanka to Puerto Rico, they are counting primarily on the sweet, succulent flavor of rambutan to win the day. It is a great pleasure to eat. Call it rambutan, or just hairy fruit, this gem from the east is poised to show up in household fruit bowls from sea to shining sea.


Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at

‘Selfie’ of woman’s mini-stroke helps doctors make diagnosis


A Canadian woman may have saved her own life by recording her stroke with her smartphone, CBC News reported.

In April, Stacey Yepes’s face froze and she began experiencing trouble speaking. Thinking it may be a stroke, she went to the hospital after her symptoms subsided. Doctors suspected she was simply suffering from stress and sent her home with tips for stress management.

Two days later, the 49-year-old began experiencing numbness on the left side of her body while she was driving. Yepes pulled over and began recording video on her smartphone, narrating the tingling sensation and her inability to smile. About a minute into the video, she shows she’s unable to lift up her hand.

“I think it was just to show somebody, because I knew it was not stress-related,” she told CBC News. “And I thought if I could show somebody what was happening, they would have a better understanding.”

Yepes showed the video to her doctors and they diagnosed her with a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a mini-stroke. Doctors confirmed her diagnosis with an MRI scan. Yepes’s mini-stroke resulted from atherosclerosis— a buildup of plaque in the arteries. A blood clot formed in the plaque, which blocked a small artery leading to one side of her brain, leading to paralysis on the opposite side of her body.

“In all my years treating stroke patients, we’ve never seen anyone tape themselves before,” Dr. Cheryl Jaigobin, the stroke neurologist at the Toronto Western Hospital’s stroke center told the CBC News. “Her symptoms were compelling, and the fact she stopped and found a way to portray them in such a visual fashion, we were all touched by it.”

Yepes has embarked on a healthy makeover, improving her diet, exercise routine and lifestyle, and is now on cholesterol-lowering medication and blood thinners. She hopes to return to work in July.

Warning signs of stroke include: weakness, trouble speaking, vision problems, headache and dizziness.

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Girl’s uncontrollable laughter caused by brain tumor


A brain tumor from a young girl with uncontrollable laughter is shown in this MRI scan.Burgos Zuleta et al \ ecancermedicalscience

They say laughter is the best medicine. But what if laughter is the disease?

For a 6-year-old girl in Bolivia who suffered from uncontrollable and inappropriate bouts of giggles, laughter was a symptom of a serious brain problem. But doctors initially diagnosed the child with “misbehavior.”

“She was considered spoiled, crazy even devil-possessed,” Dr. Jos Liders Burgos Zuleta, ofAdvanced Medical Image Centre, in Bolivia, said in a statement. [14 Oddest Medical Cases]

But Burgos Zuleta discovered that the true cause of the girl’s laughing seizures, medically called gelastic seizures, was a brain tumor.

After the girl underwent a brain scan, the doctors discovered a hamartoma, a small, benign tumor that was pressing against her brain’s temporal lobe.The doctors surgically removed the tumor, and the girl is now healthy, the doctors said.

The girl stopped having the uncontrollable attacks of laughter and now only laughs normally, the doctors said.

Gelastic seizures are a form of epilepsy that is relatively rare, said Dr. Solomon Mosh, a pediatric neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The word comes from the Greek word for laughter, “gelos.”

“It’s not necessarily ‘hahaha’ laughing,” Mosh told Live Science. “There’s no happiness in this. Some of the kids may be very scared,” he added.

The seizures are most often caused by tumors in the hypothalamus, especially in kids, although they can also come from tumors in other parts of brain, Mosh said. Although laughter is the main symptom, patients may also have outbursts of crying.

These tumors can cause growth abnormalities if they affect the pituitary gland, he said.

The surgery to remove such brain tumors used to be difficult and dangerous, but a new surgical techniquedeveloped within the last 10 years allows doctors to remove them effectively without great risk, Mosh said.

The doctors who treated the girl said their report of her case could raise awareness of the strange condition, so doctors in Latin America can diagnose the true cause of some children’s “behavioral” problems, and refer them to a neurologist.

The case report was published today (June 16) in the journalecancermedicalscience.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Scientists about to test ‘super banana’ on humans

Scientists about to test 'super banana' on humans

The inside of the “super banana” will be a bit more orange than that of a typical banana.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Vitamin A deficiency kills hundreds of thousands of children worldwide; hundreds of thousands more go blind, says a researcher. That’s why his team has developed a “super banana” it aims to grow in Uganda by 2020.

Cooking bananas are an East African staple, so professor James Dale and his team in Australia genetically engineered a version of the food that’s packed with alpha and beta carotene.

The body converts the two into vitamin A, AFP reports. The super bananas are now being sent to the U.S. for their first human trials, which will take six weeks and are backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Time notes; details of the bananas’ impact on vitamin A levels are expected to be released by year-end.

“We know our science will work,” Dale said. If the bananas get the green light in Uganda, the micronutrient-enriched crops could next be grown in Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.

One big difference between regular bananas and the super variety: The edible part of the latter is more orange than what we’re used to.

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Watching too much porn may be bad for your brain, study finds


Men who report watching a lot of pornography tend to have less volume and activity in regions of the brain linked to rewards and motivation, says a new German study.

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, can’t say watching porn caused the decrease in brain matter and activity, however.

It’s not clear, for example, whether watching porn leads to brain changes or whether people born with certain brain types watch more porn, said Simone Kühn, the study’s lead author from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, in an email.

“Unfortunately we cannot answer this question based on the results of the present study,” Kühn said.

But, she noted, the results provide the first evidence for a link between pornography consumption and reductions in brain size and brain activity in response to sexual stimuli.

For the study, she and her colleague Jurgen Gallinat from Charite University, also in Berlin, recruited 64 healthy men between the ages of 21 and 45 years and asked them questions about their porn-watching habits. They also took images of the men’s brains to measure volume and to see how their brains reacted to pornographic pictures.

“We found that the volume of the so-called striatum, a brain region that has been associated with reward processing and motivated behavior was smaller the more pornography consumption the participants reported,” Kühn said.

“Moreover we found that another brain region, that is also part of the striatum that is active when people see sexual stimuli, shows less activation the more pornography participants consumed,” she added.

What’s more, the researchers found that the connection between the striatum and prefrontal cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain associated with behavior and decision making, worsened with increased porn watching.

Because the study can’t prove that porn caused the changes to the brain, Kühn said it’s not possible to say whether watching porn is actually harmful.

“Everything is going to be bad in excess and it’s probably not terrible in moderation,” Dr. Gregory Tau of the Columbia University / New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York said.

Tau, who was not involved with the study, agreed that more research should be done in this area and that longer studies would be need to find out if porn leads to brain changes.

“It is possible that there are individuals with a certain kind of brain that are more susceptible to these kinds of behaviors,” he said. “Or, it’s possible it’s the excessive use (of porn) that’s perpetuating itself to causing brain changes. Or, it could be both.”

Kühn said other behaviors, such as driving a taxi, are linked to changes to brain size and functioning.

“Basically everything that people do very frequently can shape their brain structure and function,” she said.

7 ‘useless’ body parts, explained

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Every day, people have their tonsils, appendix, and wisdom teeth removed–and after the pain subsides, they proceed without a hitch. The truth is, it’s not all that apparent why many parts of your body are there, or what they actually do.

“Evolution moves toward features that are advantageous over others, so at some point all anatomical features were important to our early ancestors,” says Anthony Weinhaus, director of the University of Minnesota’s Human Anatomy program. Some of these still serve a purpose–just not necessarily a function crucial to our survival anymore.

Here are real explanations for these seven seemingly pointless body parts.

1. Nipples

Let’s get the biggest news out of the way: All men start off as women. “All embryos begin female, and if it masculinizes, it becomes male but keeps much of the same anatomy,” says Weinhaus. Nipples are the same in men and women, but without an influx of hormones like estrogen, they’re simply chest ornaments on men.

Did you know that prolonged exposure to BPA could give you man boobs? Find out how this chemical promotes abnormal breast growth in boys and adult men.

2. Armpit Hair

There’s no definitive story for underarm hair, but its location offers a clue. There are two types of sweat glands in your body: eccrine and apocrine, the latter of which are mostly in your armpits, explains Daniel Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. You use apocrine for sexual signaling. Presumably, the hair holds on to the secreted odors so they’ll stay around long enough for a potential mate to catch a whiff, he explains.

3. Eyebrows

The evolutionary purpose of eyebrows is debatable: In one camp, scientists believe brows keep sweat and rain off your eyes, which would help in primitive hunting and navigation. Lieberman favors the hypothesis that eyebrows serve to communicate your emotions, but they may also communicate your identity: Behavioral neuroscientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that people were less likely to recognize pictures of celebrities without their eyebrows than without their eyes. The researchers speculate that eyebrows have remained because they’re crucial to identifying faces and navigating social circumstances.

From the common to the uncanny, here are 9 Horrible Things That Can Happen to Your Eyes.

4. Appendix

The appendix is a vestigial organ, which means it has lost most of its ancestral function. “One idea is the human appendix is remnant of what used to be a larger fermenting chamber in our gut,” Lieberman says. Since humans stopped eating uncooked or low-quality foods like grass, this chamber is no longer useful. Recent research, though, suggests the appendix might be an essential hangout spot for healthy bacteria. “Your microbiome is very important to digestive tract function, so this reservoir would allow microbes to recolonize your gut after inflammation or digestive issues,” he explains.

5. Tonsils

Tonsils are technically lymph nodes–part of the lymphatic system, which is vital to your immunity. “Your oral cavity is an entryway to your body, so immune cells in your throat can help you fight respiratory infections,” Lieberman explains. Sometimes your tonsils get inflamed and infected, which is when they’re removed. Your lymph nodes are incredibly important, but there’s some redundancy, so if a pair is taken away, you can survive without them, Lieberman adds.

Don’t wait until you’re in a dentist’s chair. Inspecting your tongue may help detect serious issues in your mouth and body.

6. Wisdom Teeth

Like monkeys, men have three permanent sets of molars. Until recently, wisdom teeth were never an issue for humans: “Teeth don’t change size. They’re grown before you use them, and then they erupt to the surface,” says Lieberman. Jaws are bone and, like the rest of your body, need to be supported and used in order to grow properly. Since humans now eat soft, cooked foods as children, our jaws don’t grow to the full capacity.

7. Foreskin

Male foreskin takes years to separate from the glans (head), which is unusual enough of a process to suggest one if its main functions may help prevent infection, especially in infants. It helps shield the opening of the urethra from any contaminates or bacteria, explains Weinhaus. It also protects your reproductive chances: Without a foreskin, the glans rubs against objects, like your clothes, and develops a thick layer of skin to desensitize itself, Weinhaus says. Foreskin keeps men more sexually sensitive, which would’ve encouraged our ancestors to reproduce more.

These 15 Facts You Didn’t Know about Your Manhood will keep your member healthy and happy.

The healing power of poisons

Often, the only difference between a medicine and a poison is the dose. An aspirin, for example, will relieve pain. But 200 aspirins will kill you. Some substances are extremely toxic, and therefore, are primarily known as a poison. Yet, even poisons, like those listed below, can have medicinal value.

Snake venom
Snake venom, collected from farmed reptiles, has been used to make antivenom for snake bites for decades. To produce antivenom, pure snake venom is diluted and then injected into mammals such as sheep, goats, rabbits and horses. After being injected, the animal undergoes an immune response, and scientists can collect the antibodies produced by the animal to make the antivenom.

But making drugs from snake venom is a relatively new idea. For example, the protein disintegron eristostatin, extracted from the venom of the Asian sand viper, has been shown to help people’s immune systems fight malignant melanoma. Previous studies have shown that disintegron eristostatin stops melanoma cells from colonizing in the liver and lungs of mice. And additional work is being done to investigate the role that snake venoms may play in inhibiting neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and more.

An extremely potent neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin (TTX), derived from the pufferfish, is one of the most concentrated poisons known to man. TTX blocks voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs), which play a critical role in neuronal function. Administration of some specific TTX-sensitive VGSCs has shown improvement in cases of chronic pain. The administration of TTX at doses below those that produce acute toxic reactions in normal nerves has been used in humans and animals under different pain conditions. Various studies show value for the use of TTX as a potential therapeutic agent for pain. Further investigation of tetrodotoxin may lead to the use of this agent for the prevention of ischemic damage of the brain that follows stroke, suppressing pain in cancer patients, and relieving uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal in opiate addicts.

Deadly Nightshade, or Atropa belladonna, has a long and rich history of use as a lethal poison. Over the centuries, Deadly Nightshade has been used for poisoning enemy troops in war, as an implement of torture, for its extreme hallucinogenic activity, and reportedly for witchcraft, applied as a vaginal ointment to produce a sense of flying.

Rich in the tropane alkaloids scopolamine and hyoscyamine, belladonna (which means beautiful woman) was used by women to dilate their pupils, to make them appear more alluring.

Medicine has found numerous uses for the toxins in Deadly Nightshade. Scopolamine is administered by eye surgeons to dilate pupils and to alleviate motion sickness. Hyoscyamine is employed in cases of irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, colic and other inflammatory conditions of the GI tract. Belladonna toxins can help to control muscle spasms in cases of Parkinson’s disease. When applied topically, belladonna is also quite effective in reducing pain, as in rheumatism, sciatica or neuralgia.

The association of hemlock (Conium maculatum ) with the death of Socrates has made this one of the most widely known botanicals in ancient medicine. In antiquity, people were familiar with hemlock and its poisonous applications. In hemlock, eight piperidine alkaloids have been identified. Two of these, in the highest concentrations, account for the toxicity of this plant. These two compounds are g-coniceine and coniine. The latter is approximately 8 times more toxic than the former.

As an ancient medicine, hemlock has primarily been used for its sedative and antispasmodic properties. The plant was also used by Greek and Arab physicians to treat joint pain. Coniine has uses in surgery for its antispasmodic properties, as it can prevent muscle twitching while “under the knife.” But great care must be taken when using hemlock toxins, and in cases of surgery the patient must be on a respirator. Otherwise the coniine will stop breathing.

Foxglove, or Digitalis purpurea, contains a group of compounds known collectively as Digitalin. These agents, also known as cardiac glycosides, are used to strengthen cardiac output, and as an anti-arrhythmic agent to control heart rate, notably in cases of atrial fibrillation.

As recently as 1998, Digoxin was approved to treat heart failure by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, Digoxin use is declining, likely due to the fact that the drug cannot be patented, and offers little profit for pharmaceutical companies as compared with newer drugs under patent. Nonetheless, Digoxin works for a variety of cardiac needs, and has proven its medicinal value over time.


Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at