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The Brain: Top 10 Questions

January 2011

Thanks to Dr. David Bettis, pediatric neurologist, St. Luke's Regional Medical Center; Dr. Mikaela Sebree, pediatric neuropsychologist, St. Luke's Regional Medical Center for the answers.

1: How many cells are there in the brain?

There are about 100 billion nerve cells in one human brain. To put that in perspective, there are 300 million people in the United States. There are 100 times more cells in the human brain. (From Connor in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

2: How big is your brain?

A full size brain weighs about three pounds. (From Tyler in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

3: Why can't the brain be located somewhere else in the body?

The brain is the information center for the body. The head is a perfect place because it is on top. We have a neck that can swivel, so we can see things in different places and the brain is well protected by the skull. (From Dakota in Mrs. Schultz's class at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

4: How does the brain help us see?

The brain helps us see through a system that is in charge of our senses. We use our eyes and sense light. The brain has pathways that go to the back part of the brain, the visual cortex, where the light signal is processed. This is where we are able to recognize what we are seeing. (From Gabriel in Mrs. Pokington's class at Sunset Falcon Elementary School)

5: How much of our brain do we actually use?

In theory, we don't use all of it, but we do need all of it. We use different parts of our brain at different times for different things. (From Hannah in Pocatello)

6: How does the brain get information to the body?

We get information to parts of our body through nerves. These nerves control many things like movement, sensation, sweating and temperature. It's a dense and complex network of nerves that goes to all parts of our body. (From Cooper at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

7: How does one side of your brain control the other side of your body?

Some time back in evolution, the right side pathway to the brain crossed over. So the right side of the brain controls the left side of your body and the left side of the brain controls the right side of your body. Why that happened, people are still trying to understand. Then there's the cerebellum, a part of the brain that controls balance and coordination. (From Megan who is homeschooled in Kuna)

8: How does the brain think of all these thoughts?

The brain is able to think fast through neurotransmitters and the brain's connections. Chemicals create our thoughts, but it's also the organization of the networks in our brain that allows us to have the thoughts that we have. (From Clara at Longfellow Elementary School in Boise)

9: How does the brain store thoughts?

Scientists are trying to figure out exactly how that process happens. There's a really important part of our brain that's in the limbic system. It helps store and create new memories. However, information is generally stored in a network. It's not like we have one part of the brain where every memory is stored. Memories are actually stored throughout the brain. This helps us create new learning and new memories. (From Randy in Mrs. Hudson's class at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

10: Why do we need wrinkles in our brain?

The brain has lots and lots of wrinkles. This has to do with the complexity of the brain. These folds allow there to be a lot more surface area. If we took a brain and flattened it out, it would be the size of a double section of a newspaper. There's a lot of surface area and it has a lot to do with the functions of the brain. If the brain does not form properly, and the wrinkles don't occur, it can really affect how the brain works. (From Korynn at Temple View Elementary School in Idaho Falls)


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