Spencer Turner MD, received the above question from a student in the 70s about the brain. He had been told, by a high school teacher, that the more a person learns the heavier the brain becomes. He wondered if, after a couple of semesters, his brain was becoming heavier and if this would impact him medically. I’m assuming he was wondering about supporting his soon to be enormous brain on his neck and back. Ok – so just to debunk this myth, his high school teach was WRONG.
According to WebMD the human adult brain weighs approximately 3 pounds which is about 2% of body weight. At age 2 the brain has reached 80% or so of its adult size. Maximum size is reached between 19 and 21. Although growth in size has stopped, development of the brain continues for several more years. The neural connections (gateways) continue to form, change, and redirect when confronted with new experiences and ideas.
Conclusion – the brain will not increase in weight while you are studying those calculus equations, but it will increase in gate, forming, changing, and redirecting those neural connections.
Oh – and about Einstein’s brain. A study was conducted of his brain in 1999 based upon images taken at the time of his death. Despite what a high school geometry teacher might say, Einstein did not have a larger than normal brain. In fact it was a bit smaller than most. His parietal lobes, linked to math ability, however, were 15% wider than most.
Here are some other tidbits WebMD has to offer on the brain:
- There are 100 billion brain cells, most of which are present from birth to death.
- A good night’s sleep allows your brain to store memories – good to know as finals approach.
- Multitasking is not really multitasking after all, instead the brain switches quickly from 1 task to another.
- The best way to keep the brain fit is with exercise. Learn new skills or do mental tasks.
Original Lantern article can be viewed in the Lantern Archives.