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How Powerful Is Your Brain?

[Music]

hey everyone and welcome to top tank

today we're going to learn about how

powerful your brain really is now let's

begin the human brain is often compared

to an extremely advanced computer for

skills like storage and information

processing the two are very similar in

fact in many complicated tasks the human

brain significantly outperforms the most

sophisticated supercomputers in the

world but that isn't to say brains and

computers are exactly alike No if that

were true fully functioning a I would

already exist so besides the obvious

what's the biggest difference between a

brain and a computer what distinguishes

these two immensely complicated systems

to answer this question let's focus on

the construction of each system we know

very well where a computer's power comes

from there are plenty of people who can

build these machines from scratch the

brain on the other hand is much more

intricate and mysterious not only does

your brain surpass the specs of most

supercomputers it's capable of

understanding things that computers

haven't even come close to yeah

computers are quick and efficient at

simple tasks but take something more

complicated like facial recognition

humans excel at identifying other humans

if you know someone chances are you can

pick out their face in all kinds of

different situations they could be

wearing makeup aged 20 years or turn

their skin blue yeah you'd still know

exactly who they are a computer would

struggle to make those connections it

could tell you the names of every person

in your entire city but it would just as

easily get confused by a fake mustache

so why is it that the human brain is

capable of so much more like I said the

difference is in the details

to get a better understanding let's take

a closer look at the building blocks of

the human brain I'm talking about the

hundred billion nerve cells or neurons

that influence every thought you have

and every decision that you make neurons

are responsible for transmitting

electrochemical signals throughout the

brain to do this they form intricate

webs of neural connections passing

signals from one neuron to the next

every neuron can make thousands of these

connections that means that each signal

can potentially trigger a chain reaction

that covers the entire brain in the

blink of an eye the actual biology of a

neural connection is pretty complicated

but to really understand why your brain

is so powerful you should know how these

building blocks function so here's a

basic overview every neuron is made up

of three important parts the first is

the soma this is the main body of the

cell that contains its nucleus

next are the dendrites they're a group

of feathery filaments located on the

outside of the soma and finally we have

the axon this is a long narrow tube that

extends from the soma so even though the

axon and soma

are connected the axon can actually be

thousands of times longer so now that

you know the players we can dive deeper

into the connections themselves in order

to transmit a signal to neurons connect

by linking the axon of one cell to the

dendrites of another this establishes

something called a synapse since every

neuron can make thousands of connections

neuro scientists estimate that the

average human brain contains about 100

trillion synapses so what does a synapse

actually look like there's a common

misconception that the axon and

dendrites physically touch each other

when two neurons create a synapse but

there's always a tiny tiny gap between

them this is known as the synaptic cleft

and it's only about 20 nanometers wide

for reference that's 20 millionths of a

millimeter but don't let its small size

fool you your synapses contain one of

the most important processes in your

brain so how do neurons actually send

electrical signals well it's a lot like

flipping on

light switch when it's off nothing

happens the neuron essentially just sits

there but when the switch is turned on

the neuron springs into action it's

important to remember that each neuron

requires a certain amount of stimulation

to start working this is called an

activation threshold now thinking back

to our light switch what happens if you

don't push hard enough

well you won't actually turn anything on

right but with enough pressure you can

successfully change the position of the

switch neurons do the same thing it only

activates when a stimulus crosses that

threshold if it does an electrical

impulse will start at the soma travel

down the axon and arrive at the synapse

now like I said axons can get pretty

long so to make sure the signal moves

fast enough axons are wrapped in a fatty

layer called the myelin sheath this

layer insulates the axon and keeps the

signal traveling at a steady rate once

the signal arrives at the synapse the

axon releases a bunch of

neurotransmitters these chemicals cross

the synaptic cleft that tiny gap between

the two neurons and then bind onto a new

set of dendrites those neurotransmitters

are then responsible for stimulating

another electrical impulse which passes

through the next neuron this process

repeats over and over again sending

electrochemical signals all over the

brain this sounds pretty complicated

right well when it comes to the human

brain we've just barely scratched the

surface we hardly touched on glia or

glial cells these are non neural cells

that are found in the brain and spinal

cord now while they don't process

information glial cells serve a variety

of different purposes one type of glial

cells surrounds neurons and holds them

in place another supplies neurons with

nutrients to keep them healthy

a third produces the myelin that wraps

around the axon of each neuron and keeps

it insulated glial cells are often left

out of the conversation but they make up

a huge portion of the brain scientists

estimate that every

has between 100 billion and 1 trillion

glial cells each one working to support

your neurons in one way or another ok so

I think you get the idea

the brain is amazingly complex but that

isn't the only reason why it's so

powerful especially compared to a

computer you see the brain uses its

complexity in a very special way which

awards it the deeper level of subtlety

and flexibility think back to our light

switch analogy if you push the button

hard enough the light switch will turn

on right so that means one of your

neurons is stimulated enough to start

working so wouldn't that suggest that

information transmission in the brain is

a binary process in other words aren't

there only two options either the neuron

is working or it's not working right one

of the other because that's essentially

how computers work their signals are

digital which means there are only a

finite number of options on or off 1 or

0 normally the opposite of a digital

signal is called an analog signal that

means the information would be

continuous and uninterrupted but the

brain isn't really digital or analog

it's a unique combination of the two

while the individual neurons are either

turned on or turned off the signals

themselves can fluctuate multiple

neurons might fire simultaneously or in

a strange pattern to create different

kinds of continuous signals you can

imagine how those changes could

influence the way the receiving neurons

react yet another major difference

between your brain and a computer lies

in its modularity when a system has

modularity its pieces can be separated

into logical interchangeable sections if

for example if I ask you to show me

where your computer's memory comes from

could you of course you could point to

the individual parts of the computer

that handle the processing and storage

of information and so if your computer

runs out of memory you could remove and

replace that small section of the system

okay now what if I asked you to do the

same thing for your brain you might

reference the cerebral cortex or the

hippocampus which are both well-known

contributors to memory but there are

many more sections of the brain that

play an equally important role I know it

is tempting to organize the pieces of

the brain according to function

modularity is usually a helpful way to

understand complicated systems in this

case you might assume the frontal lobe

handles one thing while the temporal

lobe handles another but the pieces of

your brain aren't really separate or

modular everything is tied together that

means several areas of the brain are

activated when you do just about

anything this unique design allows for

each part of the brain to influence and

strengthen seemingly unrelated processes

well take memory and imagination don't

your creative ideas usually stem from

something that stands out in your memory

by activating similar parts of the brain

our cognitive talents are woven together

they strengthen and diversify each other

by working in tandem finally the brain

distinguishes itself from computers by

operating without any kind of software

without a program to run a computer

can't really do anything it's just a big

hunk of metal and plastic you build a

machine in order to run a certain kind

of software if the brain is like a

computer shouldn't it have software too

this is where the brain mind distinction

usually comes into play some scientists

claim that your physical brain acts like

hardware while your abstract mind is run

through your brain like software but

this model fails to consider how your

brain and mind are fundamentally

connected anytime something happens in

your mind something physically will

always reflect that change in other

words differences in one are

consistently tied to differences in the

other okay

so let's jump back to our original

question how powerful is the human brain

while it's usually equated to a

supercomputer

this comparison doesn't really do your

brain justice at its core the brain

might be comprised of a hundred billion

light switches but it uses those

switches to blend adapt and fluctuate in

ways that will continue to baffle

scientists for decades to come

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