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Amazing Facts About the Brain

Updated on November 9, 2012

Most people think of brain cells as neurons. While neurons are the main players in the brain, we have somewhere around 50 times more glial cells than neurons. Glial cells are simply non-neuronal brain cells.

While neurons transmit and receive electrical impulses, glial cells provide support and protection for neurons. Glial cells make myelin which are the insulating material of the axon of a neuron. Glial cells can make up 90% of the cells in the 3 pound mass that is our brain.

Interestingly enough, the genius Albert Einstein's brain did not have much more neurons than average. However, his brain did have much more glial cells than average.

Types of Brain Cells

There are different types of neurons depending on their shape. They include Purkinje neuron, Granule cell, Motor neuron, Tripolar neuron, Pyramidal Cell, Chandelier cell, Spindle neuron, and Stellate cell.

Just like there are different types of neurons, there are different types of glial cells classified as microglia and macroglia.

About 20% of glial cells are microglia. Microglia acts as the main immune defense system in the brain and central nervous system. They clean up debris by scavenging damaged neurons, plaques, and infectious agents and engulfs them in a process known as phagocytosis.

The different types of macroglia are astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, ependymal cells, radial glia, Schwann cells, Satellite cells, and Enteric glia cells.

Brain's Amazing Complexity

A single neuron may have anywhere from 6000 to 20,000 connections with other neurons.[7]

Let's say a neuron have on average 10,000 connections with other neurons. And say we have 100 billion neurons. And they can transmit electrical impulses at 10 different levels of intensity. That means that that total number of potential brain states is greater than the total number of atoms in the universe.[4]

Electrical impulse along nerve connection can travel at speeds of one mile per hour or up to 150 miles per hour.[7]

Building of a Brain

At some point during gestation, the brain makes as many as 250,000 nerve cells each minute. DHA is require for the manufacture of these neurons.

At birth, the baby's brain contain about 100 billion neurons, that is roughly the number of star in the Milky Way galaxy. The size of the brain at birth is typically 350 grams. During the first year of life after birth, the brain nearly triples in size at over 1000 grams. This implies that the brain has not formed completely yet at the time of birth, otherwise it would be so big that it would not be able to come out.

Some Neurotransmitters

Neuron connects with each other at synapses, or gaps. Neurotransmitter are chemical messengers that jump these gaps transmitting messages from one neuron to another.

Some of the neurotransmitters are ...

  • Serotonin - affects mood, sleep, aggression
  • Dopamine - for physical coordination
  • Acetylcholine - for memory and activates muscles
  • Glutamate - learning and memory and long-term potentiation (excitory)
  • GABA - inhibitory neurotransmitter
  • Epinephrine - regulates heart rate and fight-or-flight response
  • Norepinephrine - stress hormone affecting fight-or-flight response
  • Histamine - triggers inflammatory response as part of immune system

Neuron | Source

Mitochondria and Neurodegeneration

The brain weighs about 3 pounds. This is about 2% of body mass, yet it uses 20% of the oxygen and calories consumed by the body.

Needless to say the brain uses a lot of energy. What produces this energy? Mitochondria are organelles within cells that generate cellular energy known as ATP. Think of the mitochondria has the powerplants of the cells. Mitochondria dysfunction and oxidative stress are contributing factors in neurodegeneration (brain cell death). Almost without exception, our brains will shrink as we age. The most neurons we will ever have is at birth.

Although neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) occurs mainly during pre-natal development, neurogenesis does occur in adults throughout life to a limited extent. However, it only happens in certain parts of the brain. And many of the newborn cells die shortly after they are created.

To help prevent or delay neurodegenaration, we want to increase neurogenesis and also to produce new mitochondria in our brain cells. Exercise increase both the creation of new brain cells and also spur growth of new mitochondria in existing cells.[6]

In addition, oral coenzyme Q10 have been shown to increase brain mitochondrial concentration in mouse models.[5] Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant and help support the mitochondria.

Interesting Facts about the brain

There have been evidence that in pre-industrial time, some people practice biphasic sleep where they sleep for a few hour right after sunset. Then wake up in the middle of night and is very alert. And then they go back to a second sleep before daybreak.

Some parts of the brain is more active during sleep than any other 24 hour period.

Although serotonin is a neurotransmitter, 90% of all the serotonin in your body is located in gut.


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    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      Thanks for all the feedback.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Very interesting and well written Hub!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Great Hub giving great information about brain, thank you for sharing it.

    • pringoooals profile image

      Karina 5 years ago from Edinburgh

      Excellent hub which has given me another look at the brain. Thank you for sharing!

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      I find the brain fascinating and like to learn how to protect it from aging. From what I've learned, I wrote five ways to help reduce risk of Alzheimer's:

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      @rahulo Indeed. In certain respects, the brain is more powerful than a supercomputer.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Interesting information, thank you for sharing it.

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Very enlightening hub.... great on the info.... Learnt a lot of new things here...

      The brain in indeed a super computer at work...

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      Feel free to share with Hubpages followers as well.

    • profile image

      jada w 5 years ago

      Nice hub. Very interesting facts about the brain. Thank you for sharing.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      @billybuc, sorry some of my older Hubs don't have comment section because they were created back at a time when I didn't have much time to moderate comments.

      Rest assured that now I'm putting comment section in all my newer Hubs.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      @whonunuwho, thanks for the comment.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      @ChristyWrites, I like to cite references so that reader can cross-check my facts. I find it important to get my facts correct.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great hub with info I did not know. I went to make a comment on one of your other hubs and there was no comment section. I wanted you to know I really appreciate the attention you are giving me today on my now I've said what I wanted to say. :)

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 5 years ago from United States

      Very informative hub and I was shocked to learn earlier that the brain secretes hormones that may help heal the entire body.The brain is indeed much like the computer system for the body and its metabolic processes.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The brain is so interesting - as is this hub! I like that you cite the references at the end, I often find authors do not and that's not right... Well done.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      Yes, I like learning about the brain too -- especially in how to prevent age-related brain decline.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Wow! So did I. I learned a lot about the brain I didn't know before. This is interesting, fascinating and informative. Thanks so much!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Fantastic hub! I love learning about the brain. It's an amazing organ. We often don't think much about brain health but it's vital to our quality of life. Voted up and shared! Kelley

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      Learning a lot of things is also good for the brain.

    • chamilj profile image

      chamilj 5 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Great information. Learned lots of things about Brain! Thanks!