What Students Want to Know about Brains and Learning, Part II

I recently wrote about a conversation I had with high school students in Japan. What questions did they have about brains and learning? What answers did they have?

In that last post, I wrote about the more school-centric questions that students asked: “what is the optimal amount of time to study?” I also noted their welcome skepticism: “does studying the night before a test really do nothing?”

Of course, lots of their questions pushed the boundaries of our knowledge. Several, in fact, pushed the boundaries of the plausible.

What Can We Know? What Can We Do?

How many signals does the brain send throughout the body in a second?

Well, there’s a question you don’t hear every day.

The answer is: I have no idea. In fact, I can’t imagine how we’d start answering that question. We’ve got BILLIONS of neurons (say, 85 billion for a round number guess). Each one makes something like 10,000 connections with other neurons.

How many signals do they send to each other? How many signals do they send to the body? The mind delights in (and boggles at) the calculations.

How much of your brain can you lose and survive?

Hard to say, precisely.

Here’s an article that will blow your mind: a man whose ventricles were so enlarged that he barely had a brain left. And, he more-or-less did just fine.

If you don’t believe me, check out the images. I mean: WOW.

Does your gut health/what you eat have a significant effect on your brain?

Every day I see more research on this topic. In brief: YES.

You’ll often hear the gut called “the second brain.” I suspect we’ll see lots more news in this field over the next decade.

Can I transfer my brain into a computer?

I have yet to meet the neuroscientist who thinks so. Given that the brain is roughly as complex as the universe, I suspect it will take a while for us to so.

Unless, of course, students keep asking high-quality questions like these. In which case, we’ll have the job done by next Thursday.

tags: category: L&B Blog

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