Do people’s brains work differently? (3 reasons)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do people’s brains work differently?” and explore the structure and functionalities of the human brain and their influence on people to help understand the answer. 

Do people’s brains work differently?

Yes, people’s brains work differently. According to a study conducted by University of Zurich experts, no two persons have the same brain architecture. This one-of-a-kindness stems from a mix of hereditary characteristics and personal life experiences.

People’s brains work differently because of the following 3 reasons – 

  • The brain is imprinted by experiences.
  • Calculations are based on magnetic resonance imaging.
  • Circumstances and genetics combined.

What are these 3 reasons why people’s brains work differently?

The brain is imprinted by experiences.

Professional musicians, golfers, and chess players, for example, have specific brain features in the areas where they utilise their skills the most. 

Shorter events, on the other hand, can leave traces in the brain: keeping the right arm immobile for two weeks, for example, reduces the thickness of the brain’s cortex in the sections responsible for regulating the immobilised arm.

“We believed that such brain-altering events interact with one’s genetic make-up over time, resulting in each person developing a completely unique brain structure,” Jäncke continues.

Calculations are based on magnetic resonance imaging.

Jäncke and his team used magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of almost 200 healthy older persons three times over the course of two years to test their theory. Over 450 brain structural parameters were evaluated, including extremely broad ones like total brain volume, cortical thickness, and grey and white matter volumes. 

The researchers were able to identify an individual combination of particular brain anatomical features for each of the 191 participants, with an identification accuracy of over 90% even for the most generic brain anatomical traits.

Circumstances and genetics combined.

“With our study, we were able to demonstrate that people’s brain structures are quite individual,” Lutz Jäncke said of the findings. “Not only does the mix of hereditary and non-genetic variables impact the functioning of the brain, but it also modifies its anatomy.” 

However, replacing fingerprint sensors with MRI scans is doubtful in the future. In comparison to the tried-and-true method of capturing fingerprints, MRIs are far too costly and time-consuming.

According to recent research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, creative people’s brains are wired differently from the average person’s. The study not only reveals unique characteristics of the creative brain, but it also debunks a widespread brain myth.

When you put a group of individuals in a room with a set of things and ask them to come up with as many inventive applications for those objects as possible, most people will come up with a minimal number of suggestions. 

However, a small group of people, possibly only one or two in the room, will come up with a variety of innovative ideas that will leave the others baffled.

A research team evaluated a group of slightly over 160 participants by scanning their brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as they tried to come up with inventive applications for a collection of everyday things like a brick, a knife, and some rope.

The researchers sought to determine if people who are consistently more creative had distinct activation patterns in their brains than other people, and if so, which brain regions are involved. 

The imaging revealed a specific pattern of activity across three brain networks in the most creative participants’ brains: the default mode network, the salience network, and the executive control network.

Each is a hub of activity for distinct skills (the default mode network, for example, kicks in while we’re daydreaming and is important for imaginative cognition), and there’s usually not much activity across their boundaries. 

They jointly contain a symphony of interactions that yield remarkable ideas in the highly creative brain, though.

“What this reveals is that the creative brain is built differently,” said Roger Beaty, the study’s first author and a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Psychology. “People who are more creative can engage brain networks that don’t normally operate together at the same time.”

Not only do those brain regions operate effectively together in the creative brain, but they also exhibit a “flexibility of thought” that contrasts with the rigidity that most brains exhibit when confronted with creative tasks.

In a press release, Beaty noted, “It appears that the synchronisation between these systems is key for creativity.” “People who think more flexibly and come up with more innovative ideas are better equipped to interact and bring online various networks that don’t normally operate together.”

The worth of any study discovery like this is determined by its ability to reliably anticipate comparable outcomes. In this case, the researchers looked at data from similar studies and discovered that evaluating the strength of the connections between the three brain networks might predict the degrees of creativity in study participants.

“We utilised predictive modelling to show that we could forecast, to a degree, how innovative people’s thoughts were (based on brain scans) that had already been published,” Beaty said.

The study also debunks the popular belief that being “left-brained” or “right-brained” influences creativity. Instead, it appears that creativity includes various brain regions in both hemispheres (based on this and earlier research).

“I hope our study dispels the idea of the left vs. right brain in creative thinking,” Beaty added. “This is a project that requires the use of the entire brain.”

The researchers were quick to point out that the findings do not indicate whether creativity is “simply something you’re born with” or can be improved via training and practice.

“It’s not something you either have or don’t have,” Beaty remarked. “We’re only scraping the surface of creativity here, so there’s a lot more work to be done.”

How does the Brain work?

Neuroscientists investigate the nervous system’s architecture, physiology, chemistry, and molecular biology, with a focus on how brain activity affects behaviour and learning. 

Neuroscientists are particularly interested in a few key questions concerning early learning. What happens to the brain as it grows? Is it true that the brain develops in stages? Is there a time when specific events must occur in order for the brain to grow normally? In developing and mature neural systems, how is information encoded? And, perhaps most importantly, how does the brain respond to experience?

A nerve cell, also known as a neuron, is a cell that receives information from other nerve cells or sensory organs and then sends it to other nerve cells, while still, other neurons send it to body components that interact with the environment, such as muscles. 

Nerve cells have a cell body, which acts as a metabolic heart, and a massive treelike structure called the dendritic field, which serves as the neuron’s input side.

Axons, or projections, bring information into the cell. The dendritic field provides the majority of excitatory information to the cell, frequently via small dendritic projections called spines. 

Synapses are the connections between neurons that allow information to travel from one to the other. Synapses can be excitatory or inhibitory in nature. The neuron’s output is determined by integrating the information it receives from all of its connections.

Synapses are formed during the development process to produce the “wiring diagram” of the brain. The human brain contains just a fraction of the billions of connections it will eventually have at birth, and it grows to around two-thirds of its mature size after birth. The remaining synapses are generated after birth, with some of this process aided by prior experience.

There are two ways to build synaptic connections to the brain. Synapses are overproduced and then selectively lost in the first method. The brain employs synapse overproduction and loss as a crucial process for incorporating information from experience. 

It usually happens in the early stages of development. At 6 months of age, a person’s visual cortex—the part of the cerebral cortex that governs vision—has far more synapses than at maturity. 

This is because, during the first few months of life, a large number of synapses are produced, followed by a large number of synapses disappearing. 

The duration of this phenomenon varies depending on which area of the brain it occurs in, ranging from 2 to 3 years in the human visual cortex to 8 to 10 years in some parts of the frontal cortex.

Synapse creation has been compared to the art of sculpture by some neuroscientists. Classical marble sculptors made a sculpture by chiselling away at the excess stone until they reached their ultimate shape.

According to animal research, the “pruning” that occurs as a result of synapse overproduction and loss is analogous to carving a sculpture. The nervous system establishes a vast number of connections; experience then manipulates this network, picking relevant connections and deleting those that aren’t. 

What’s left is a polished final shape that serves as the sensory and maybe the cognitive foundation for later stages of development.

The addition of additional synapses is the second process of synapse production, similar to how an artist constructs a sculpture by glueing items together until the shape is complete. 

Unlike synapse overproduction and loss, synapse addition occurs throughout a person’s life and is especially crucial as they get older. This process is not only sensitive to but also driven by prior experience. 

Some, if not all, kinds of memory are likely to be based on synapse addition. Cognitive scientists and education researchers are contributing to our understanding of synapse addition, as mentioned later in this chapter.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Do people’s brains work differently?” and studied the structure and functionalities of the human brain and their influence on people to help determine if people’s brains work differently. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Every person has a unique brain anatomy. University of Zurich. (2018, July 10). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180710104631.htm#:~:text=Like%20with%20fingerprints%2C%20no%20two,factors%20and%20individual%20life%20experiences.&text=FULL%20STORY-,Like%20with%20fingerprints%2C%20no%20two%20people%20have%20the%20same%20brain,University%20of%20Zurich%20has%20shown.

Solis, M. How Human Brains Are Different: It Has a Lot to Do with the Connections. (2020, July 7). Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-human-brains-are-different-it-has-a-lot-to-do-with-the-connections/

Cohut, M. How do the brains of intelligent people work? (2017, November 26). Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320152

Why does everyone have different brain patterns? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/Why-does-everyone-have-different-brain-patterns

Alkire, D. & Redcay, E. Understanding Other Minds: What Happens in Our Brains When We Interact With People? (2019, July 22). Retrieved from https://kids.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frym.2019.00101

How People Learn – Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. National Academy of Sciences. (2000). Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/9853/chapter/8

Mansvelder, H. Brains of smarter people have bigger and faster neurons. (2018, December 21). Retrieved from https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/en/follow-hbp/news/brains-of-smarter-people-have-bigger-and-faster-neurons/

Connor, S. Intelligent people’s brains wired differently to those with fewer intellectual abilities, says study. (2015, September 28). Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/intelligent-people-s-brains-wired-differently-to-those-with-fewer-intellectual-abilities-says-study-a6670441.html

Berger, S. Early birds vs. night owls: How one has an advantage at work, according to science. (2019, February 15). Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/15/study-reveals-if-night-or-morning-people-have-brain-function-advantage.html

Brain Basics: Know Your Brain. NINDS. (2021, June 9). Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Know-Your-Brain

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