Fact: Evolutionarily, it would make no sense to carry around surplus brain tissue. And let’s apply other logic here: If the 10 percent idea were true, it would make brain damage a lot less worrisome. Medical scans show that much of the brain is engaged during even simple tasks, and injury to small sections of the brain called eloquent areas can have profound consequences for language, movement, emotion or sensory perception.
Myth: Older people are doomed to forget things.
Fact: Yes, some cognitive skills do decline as you age, especially if you don’t employ strategies to pay closer attention and help you remember. But though you may have been quicker at picking up a new language or memorizing a list of random words when you were a youngster, you’re more likely to be superior with vocabulary and a good judge of character when you’re an older adult. You would score higher on tests of social communication and diplomacy, such as how to settle an argument or deal with a conflict. The other good news about aging is that, over time, we tend to improve at controlling our emotions, weathering stress and finding meaning in our lives.
Myth: Age inhibits learning.
Fact: Learning can happen at any age, particularly when you get involved in stimulating activities, like meeting new people or trying new hobbies. Yes, mastering some skills, such as a new computer program, may take an older person longer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve it. Even people diagnosed with cognitive decline can continue to learn things.
Myth: Male and female brains differ in ways that dictate learning abilities and intelligence.
Fact: Differences do exist in the brains of men and women, though not necessarily to the extent that one is better “equipped” than the other. Scientists continue to study the brain to understand and learn more about any important differences between the brains of men and women — research is still emerging in the field of neuroscience. Another way to think about it more broadly: Each of us may be wired in our own unique way, though with a healthy brain we all have the capacity to learn, remember and make sense of the complex world around us.
Myth: A crossword puzzle a day can keep the brain doctor away.
Fact: Crossword puzzles flex parts of your brain related to word-finding ability, though they’re not a cure-all. While they might help you excel at that skill, it’s important to challenge your brain in a variety of ways.
Myth: You are dominated by your right or left brain.
Fact: Many people express and receive language more in the left hemisphere and experience their spatial abilities and emotional expression more in the right. But brain-scanning technology has revealed that the brain’s two hemispheres often work together in complex processing.
Myth: You have only five senses.
Fact: You know the basic senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. But other senses are processed in the brain: proprioception (where your body parts are and what they’re doing), nociception (feeling pain), thermoception (sensing temperature), chronoception (sensing the passage of time) and interoception (internal needs, such as hunger and thirst).