Dec 29, 2012

Our brains are as individual as our fingerprints

How well and how fast your brain works, says Leif Finkel, M.D., Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, depends on the genetic structure of your brain and the experiences you've exposed it to over your own 40, 50, or 60 years.

"Everybody's brain starts off just a little bit differently," explains Dr. Finkel, "because genetic programming influences how your nervous system gets set up in the first place. If you have a hundred antelopes, for example, they're not all equally fast at running and they don't have the same visual capability. So when the lion comes to chase them, certain ones are going to get away and certain ones aren't."

The same difference in ability is true in people, he adds. All of us have billions of densely interconnected brain cells that continually fire electrochemical messages back and forth. But the difference in the way these cells connect is the reason that some of us can do complicated math in our head, others can write novels, and some can ace a tennis serve.

One reason for these different capabilities lies in the visual cortex, an area in the back of the brain that processes images. "There are about two ' dozen different areas in the visual cortex," says Dr. Finkel, and each has a slightly different task. There's one area that handles color vision, one that handles motion, one that handles depth, one that handles texture, and so on.

Everybody has these same areas, says Dr. Finkel, but in one person the color area is larger while in another it's the texture area that's superior. And each area is so different from one person to another that, in essence, our brains are as individual as our fingerprints. (Boost Your Brain Power, by Ellen Michaud, Russell Wild and the editors of Prevention Magazine)