Previous: Why are blueprints blue? - Big Questions - (Ep. 206)
Next: Misconceptions about Hiccups- mental_floss on YouTube (Ep. 45)



View count:197,261
Last sync:2024-06-18 12:45
A weekly show where knowledge junkies get their fix of trivia-tastic information. This week, Craig shares some great facts about brains!


Mental Floss Video on Twitter:

Select Images and Footage provided by Shutterstock:

Store: (enter promo code: "YoutubeFlossers" for 15% off!)
Hi, I'm Craig, welcome to the salon, this is Mental Floss video.

1. And did you know that it's a misconception that brain size reflects how intelligent a person is. Lord Byron's brain weighed a whopping six pounds, Einstein's was only two pounds 11 ounces. I don't know how much mine weighs, but I'm really smart.

And that is the first of many brain facts to celebrate Mental_Floss's new show, Brain Surgery Live on the National Geographic Channel. I thought there was gonna be confetti, there's no confetti.


2. Let's start with some animal brains, the same way I start all my parties. Some spider species have brains so big "How big are they Craig?" Their central nervous system spills out of their body and into their legs, thanks for asking.

3. Another animal with a weird shaped brain configuration, the giant squid, has a donut shaped brain. It wraps around the esophagus, meaning a large bite of food could damage the brain.

4. It's a misconception that the Stegosaurus had a second brain in it's hip, neither did the Apatosaurus or Brontosaurus, whatever you want to call it. No dinosaur had two brains. 

5. In tropical forests the Cordyceps fungus will infect an ants brain and turn it into the living dead. The fungus takes control of a bug's brain, steering it up to the top of a nearby plant. Once it's basking in the sunlight a mushroom pops out of the ants head. Delicious.

6. A sperm whale's brain weighs as much as a bowling ball, 16 pounds! I bowl with, like, a 7 pound ball. They get, they're heavy.

7. Speaking of sperm, Roman physician Galen believed the brain was a sperm factory. He claimed the brain made sperm which later traveled down the spine. Galen also suggested the brain was a large cloud of phlegm. Hah, lovely. 

8. Aristotle also believed that the brain was full of phlegm.

9. The word "Noggin" originally meant small drinking cup. It didn't begin referring to the head until people started drinking out of heads. No, until boxers started using it as slang. The first recorded usage came from a 1769 brawl in which someone said "Giving him a stouter on the noggin, I laid him flat as a flounder." 

10. After the Catholic church declared it detests blood in 1163, brain surgery was relegated to barbers. Medieval barber surgeons roam the countryside claiming they could remove the stone of madness from the mentally ill. That's just what they told me at Supercuts.

11. Speaking of brain surgery, in the 1950s Walter Freeman, the inventor of the ice pick lobotomy, drove around the country in a van canned the "lobotomobile". He performed surgeries on about 50,000 people along the way. The press called it a "personality rejuvenator". In reality it made patients apathetic and childlike.

12. Charles Darwin's half cousin, Sir Francis Galton, invented one of the earliest intelligence tests. It measured people's sensitivity to the scent of roses, their ability to discern high pitches, and the firmness of their handshakes. The tests weren't accurate.

13. The zombies in the Night of the Living Dead, considered the first true pop culture zombies, didn't eat brains. Director George Romero told Vanity Fair in 2010 "I don't know where that comes from. Who says zombies eat brains?"

14. Another popular film, The Matrix, is based on the philosophical thought experiment by Hilary Putnam, called brain in a vat. Her question was, "How do you know that external reality is real? What if you're just a brain suspend in a jar of life sustaining fluid hooked up to a computer that's tricking you into thinking you're experiencing life. How can you confirm anything but your own consciousness?"

15. Video games can be good for the brain. A 2009 study in BMC Research Notes showed that people who played Tetris for 30 minutes a day developed thicker cortex's than a control group that didn't play. Cortex's, more like more texes is that they discovered when they discovered the thick cortex's, they made a pun.

16. Nobody knows where JFK's brain is. After his autopsy it was stored in the national archives. It went missing in 1966.

17. Nobody knows where Walt Whitman's brain is either. The poet belonged to a brain donation society but, as the story goes, it was destroyed when a clumsy lab assistant dropped it. Some would say he never had a brain. Poets, am I right?

18. Braintree, Massachusetts, has nothing to do with brains, but it's the birth place of some famous founders who had brains. John Addams, John Hancock, John Quincy Adams, and most importantly William Rosenberg the founder of Dunkin' Donuts. 

19. Humans have wandering minds. According to a 2010 Harvard study, we spend abut 47% of our time thinking about things that have nothing to do with our immediate surroundings.

20. Before the term was stolen by bosses and managers looking for good ideas, brainstorming meant "A sudden and violent upheaval in the brain, causing temporary loss of control or even madness." Basically temporary insanity. Lawyers used it in defense trials.

21. Brainstorming, by the way, doesn't work. For the past five decades studies have continually shown that brainstorming produces fewer and lower quality ideas than people who work alone. It's better for people to work by themselves, come up with a list of ideas, and then present them to the group. Or do what I do, practise brain drought.

22. Finally, I return to the salon to tell you about a 2014 study at Massachusetts General Hospital which showed that brain regions associated with maternal attachment didn't discriminate between children and pets. Basically a picture of your daughter will light up the same brain regions as a picture of your cat. Which is especially weird for me 'cause I have a dog and no daughter.

Thanks for watching Mental Floss video which is made with the help of all these nice brain surgeons. Be sure to tune into Mental Floss presents Brain Surgery Live on October 25th on the National Geographic channel. And if you're wondering, yes, we're going to be doing brain surgery totally live on TV. Well not us but highly trained doctors, but we'll be there with great facts and cameras. I don't get to do any brain surgery? Thanks again for watching, see you next week.