Why are some people smart, but others aren’t (brain chemistry-wise)?

Brain speed, if reduced to its physical mechanisms, is how fast an action potential (an impulse of electric charge) travels through and from neuron to neuron.

This is how neurons talk to each other; and neurons need to talk to each other, for example, when your eye needs to tell your brain what it is seeing, and then your brain needs to tell your hands what to do.

It all takes time.

As we know, our brain is based on electricity and chemicals, but the main form of base communication between neurons is indeed these electric impulses.

It is well accepted that the main modulator of the speed of these impulses is what we call a myelin sheath (a kinda fatty, rolled-up blanket around the neuron’s neck). It’s sort of like how your laptop charger cable has a layer of plastic or rubber around it to insulate it.

Neurons are often slender and also benefit from insulation. What actually happens is that the charge, when along a properly insulated neuron, jumps along the neuron faster (the term for this is “saltatory conduction”, where “saltatory” is based on the Latin for “leap” in English).

Neuroscientists often see it via a hose analogy — if you have more layers of protection around a water hose, the water can travel faster without much loss.

The caveat, or complexity, with neurons, is that you need to leave some unprotected spaces just in case you need to use that space as a place to send an initial message to the neuron.

As I see it, the spaces also are the places where the charges subsequently domino and correspond (they’re used as stepping stones to leap across a river, for example).

So myelin sheaths benefit the neuron the thicker and more plentiful they are. Although, there must remain places open at intervals. These open places are called Nodes of Ranvier, a really sexy name. On the whole though, more myelin means more speed.

Now we’ve been talking on the singular neuron level. We must not forget that neurons operate in vast networks of millions. Let’s say you need to get from one end of a city to another. You should just take a straight road plus little a shortcut for the quickest path.

But if you haven’t trained a lot to know about this shortcut, you may meander and take a longer time, make some errors and wrong turns. Similarly, in terms of networks, speed can also be greater affected by how reinforced and trained the network is.

More practice and more data will naturally lead to a greater repository of approaches to choose from, and logically the brain would follow the most energy-efficient one.


So, is the brain speed difference between people?

Yes, different by nature marginally and all else environmentally.

On the myelin level, small increases can add up. Some people say you should eat fish, or nuts, or whatever, to increase myelin coating. Only a rigorous scientific study can say for sure.

But on the network level, we can see these differences on greater timescales. Give a child who has been consistently practicing addition and multiplication problems a list of these sorts of problems. Their network for solving these types of problems is optimized.

We will almost surely see that the speed of their completion, on average, would be faster than a child that isn’t dealing with these sorts of situations.

But clearly, on average, this is a matter of training your neural pathways, not anything largely innate. There may be a few genetic differences in the ability for myelination or perhaps the step size for neuron-weight updating, sure; however, we can see that brain speed is highly susceptible to practice in specific domains.

A person who quickly can think of a sentence in English may not be able to read emotions as quickly — it just depends on what they’ve trained in the years and in their recent memory until that moment.

So, people definitely aren’t constitutionally equal in brain speed. Although, we could dispel a notion of intelligence as a static speed constant. Oftentimes, all it takes is practice (sometimes a lot of practice), and the results can be surprising.

One example: learning Chinese was eternally hard for me. Recently, I had less than 2 weeks to learn what most people would spend 30 weeks on during the school year (two levels of Chinese).

I spent most of my waking time training on these words and recognizing subtle differences in the Chinese characters. There were diminishing returns that farther I got (burnout), but my ability to quickly recognize characters generally increased to a level never had before.

Now I’m super amazed with how my brain automatically recognizes characters with greater ease.

I don’t credit myself because I’m just so surprised. We credit the wiring up there in my head (also maybe my parents, my childhood teachers for fostering that?).

I wish I could just communicate the feeling I had to people: that if something seems too impossibly hard, it often won’t after a while. In fact, because it seemed so hard before makes it all the much more rewarding.

Now, we didn’t need a neuroscience degree to feel this, but since we can explain it, we can more confidently generalize it to other parts of life.

  • therefore


Tips for speed differentiation:

  1. Build more myelin and speed increases.
  2. Optimize task pathways through practice and speed increases more significantly.


Thanks for reading

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Human brain! 11 amazing facts about the human brain you want’s to know.

The brain controls your ability to think, talk, feel, see, hear, remember things, walk, and much more. Check out what else.

  1. The human brain isn’t actually fully mature until age 25. The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so.

    In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.

  2. Scientists think that human brains are actually shrinking over time. When it comes to brain size, bigger doesn’t always mean better. As humans continue to evolve, scientists say our brains are actually getting smaller.
    The experts aren’t sure about the implications of this evolutionary trend.  Some think it might be a dumbing-down process. One cognitive scientist, David Geary, argues that as human society grows increasingly complex, individuals don’t need to be as intelligent in order to survive and reproduce. 
  3. The human brain is mostly water and dehydration can make it work poorly. Water is an indispensable part when it comes to an individual’s health and overall well-being. When you don’t drink enough water it leads to severe consequences. This, in turn, has a negative impact on your vital bodily functions. 
  4. Your brain can’t actually feel pain. The brain itself does not feel pain because there are no nociceptors located in the brain tissue itself. This feature explains why neurosurgeons can operate on brain tissue without causing a patient discomfort, and, in some cases, can even perform surgery while the patient is awake. 
  5. Extreme dieting may lead your brain to eat itself. Autophagy is a natural process that cells normally use to break down parts that are no longer needed. 
  6. The part of the brain responsible for memory is significantly larger in taxi drivers. This seahorse-shaped area lies in the core of the human brain, and animal studies had linked it to memory and spatial awareness. Species that store a lot of food tend to have a bigger hippocampus than those without the need to remember any burial sites. Maguire showed that the same applies to humans. 
  7. The part of your brain that lets you see is actually nowhere near your eyes. Though it might seem counterintuitive, the part of your brain that allows you to see is actually about as far away from your eyes as possible. 
  8. Contrary to the popular myth, you actually do use most of your brain. The myth has been perpetuated much like other urban legends. Movies depict characters capable of remarkable feats when the supposedly unused 90{65d74b771b6ceff07eaefc19ffed56e0ab6ea89ffc0f0b38516c35f1ac414386} of their brains are “unlocked.” Well-intentioned people such as motivational speakers or teachers often cite the 10{65d74b771b6ceff07eaefc19ffed56e0ab6ea89ffc0f0b38516c35f1ac414386} myth as a way to demonstrate that all people should strive to live up to their full potential. Unfortunately, less well-meaning people have also used the myth to promote and sell products and services that they claim will unlock your brain’s hidden abilities. 
  9. When musicians play together, their brain waves synchronize. It turns out that making music together might have a measurable effect on our brains. By hooking up guitar players to electrodes, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin discovered that the brainwaves of musicians synchronize when playing duets. 
  10. Some blind people are able to “see” out of their ears (It is possible to “see” sounds). This means that blind people may “see” sounds in the same part of their brain that sighted people use to tackle visual information. 
  11. Your brain activity is as unique to you as a fingerprint. Using a scan called an fMRI, scientists have been able to identify individual people by looking at their brains.

By examining the brain activity of more than 100 people,

Researchers discovered that a person’s brain activity is as unique as a fingerprint. In the future, this information could be used to tailor neurological care to each patient.

Read More:

Some brain hacks that a Neuroscientist or a Psychologist knows.

Emotions Fact. How to get emotional balance and endless vitality?

“Some Psychology Tricks Of Daily Life That Are 100% Effective”

Source: Yahoo/Wikipedia.

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