As humans, we are pretty proud of our brain power. After all, other than walking upright on two feet, it’s what sets our species apart and, by most estimates, above all of the other creatures on the planet. Our brain allows us to think, feel, reason, learn new things, remember, and understand complex concepts. In order for all of this to happen, the inner workings of our thinking organ are astoundingly intricate and nuanced. The phrase, ‘It’s not brain surgery,’ used sarcastically when referencing something simple, came into parlance for good reason.
The brain is 60 percent fat
Our grey, fleshy looking brain is actually made up of 60 percent fat, making it one of the fattiest organs in the entire human body. In terms of composition, mammal brains in general have a large amount of fat, too. It’s no wonder, then, that in terms of pure protein and unctuous flavor, humans evolved a thing for eating the brains of other creatures as a delicacy. Of course, one aspect of this was simply using all of the animal, a practice first developed at a time when sustenance was on a thin edge and you didn’t throw anything out.
The blood vessels in our brain are nearly 100,000 miles long
As a great example of the brain being a microworld unto itself, if you add the length of all the minuscule blood vessels in the brain, the total is nearly 100,000 miles. For comparison, the circumference of the Earth is a mere 24,901 miles. In terms of the brain, that 100K includes all of the arteries, veins, and capillaries, the different types of blood transmission tubes and connections running throughout our craniums. They carry, among other things, the all-important oxygen. Without oxygen, the brain is capable of surviving for only about five minutes, while shorter durations of oxygen deprivation can quickly lead to brain damage.
The brain generates up to 23 watts of energy
It’s strange to think of in these terms, but the way we think—physically—is electronic. All of those millions of neurons making connections are sending signals throughout the brain via minute electronic impulses. But, when you add all of those small zaps together, the average adult human brain has the capacity to generate approximately 23 watts of power when awake. What can 23 watts do outside our skulls? New LED light bulbs require only eight to 12 watts, for example, to create the brightness of an old-school 60-watt incandescent bulb. With a continuous 23-watt output in our heads, that’s a lot of bright ideas waiting to happen.
‘Brain freeze’ is caused by sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia
An episode of ‘brain freeze,’ ‘ice cream headache,’ ‘Slurpee headache’ or whatever you called it as a kid is really sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, in scientific lingo. When you eat or drink something substantially cold, it quickly cools the blood vessels and arteries at the back of your throat, which are just beneath the surface of the skin. When the cold substance stays in contact long enough, those vessels constrict and slow blood flow. Since those happen to be vessels taking blood directly up to your brain, the searing pain in your forehead ensues. It passes as soon as the vessels warm back up and regular blood flow resumes.