When A Person Dies They Have 7 Minutes of Brain Activity (And Other Crazy Biology Facts)

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The human body and the human mind are pretty fascinating. Psychologists, neuroscientists, biologists, and philosophers dedicate their lives to answering questions about who we are and how we operate. Along the way, these scientists find out some crazy, unbelievable, and sometimes unexplainable stuff about people.

Not all of these facts fit into a nice tweet or quick fact, so sometimes these discoveries can be twisted or miscommunicated as they are shared with the general population. Did you know that when a person dies, they have seven minutes of brain activity? That’s what you might read on Twitter, but there is actually a little more to that statement. Keep reading, and you’ll find out even more fascinating information about the human body, the human mind, and humankind. 

When A Person Dies, They Experience Seven Minutes of Brain Activity…Sometimes

A person is declared dead once the heart stops beating and cannot provide blood to the brain. But the two events don’t always happen at the same time. Scientists in 2017 studied brain activity after four patients’ hearts stopped. Every patient produced different results when it came to brain activity. One patient produced brain waves for 10 minutes after their heart stopped. 

What is happening in a person’s mind after their heart stopped? It’s hard to know for sure because the subjects whose brains were studied remained dead. You’ve probably heard stories of a person whose “life passed before their eyes” during a near-death experience, and that’s probably not far from what happens during death. The recording of gamma waves after death suggests that the brain could be undergoing memory recall. Gamma waves are typically associated with meditation, processing memory, and retrieving memories. 

What happens after death remains one of the biggest mysteries of humankind, but with today’s technology, we are getting closer to understanding what the physical brain goes through during that time. 

Earwax Is Helpful Sweat 

Earwax is one of those things that is only weird when you really think about it. What is this stuff and why does it show up in our ears constantly? It’s actually sweat…at least, it comes from sweat glands. Earwax is a combination of sebum, the kind of oil that clogs your pores, and cerumen, a waxy substance produced by the ceruminous gland. The ceruminous gland is technically a sweat gland. 

Gross, right? But earwax is also very useful. The auditory canal is very important and very sensitive. Like nose hairs, earwax prevents dust and bacteria from entering the auditory canal and causing havoc. Its sebaceous qualities also keep the skin inside the ear moisturized. 

That being said, having too much or too little earwax can cause damage or infection in the ears. Most of us only notice when we have too much earwax. In this case, don’t use cotton swabs or other small items to push around your earwax in hopes of getting it out. Talk to your doctor about ways to properly clean your ears without risking infection. 

Your Brain Is Fat 

…Well, a lot of your brain is fat. Fat makes up 60% of the human brain, which weighs, on average, about three pounds. 

Compare this size to a sperm whale, whose brain is around 18 pounds, or a cat, whose brain only weighs around one ounce! Oddly enough, the earliest humans had a heavier brain than we do now - over 10% heavier

People Are Biased To Be Overconfident About Things They Don’t Know 

How much do you know about what you don’t know? According to psychologists, a lot. In 1999, psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger conducted studies in which participants assessed their own abilities regarding certain tasks. What they found was that the people who had little knowledge or ability were more likely to overestimate how much they knew or how well they could do. This is now called “The Dunning-Kruger Effect.” 

Essentially, people think they know a lot about a subject until they start to learn a little about it, and then they realize how much they don’t know. If you are trying something new, try not to overestimate your abilities. Make decisions only after you’ve consulted with people who are knowledgeable in the subject and do some research yourself. 

Our Noses “Grow” As We Age 

Children grow as they age and seniors shrink as they age. The length and width of different body parts, however, vary depending on what they’re made of. Eyeballs grow slightly in childhood, but stay relatively the same size throughout a person’s life. Teeth don’t grow. And although a person’s nose and ears may appear to grow throughout their later years, they actually don’t. They just droop. 

The nose and ears are made out of the same material: cartilage. Cartilage is a connective tissue and a shock absorber in the body. Within cartilage is collagen, a substance that loosens and breaks down as we age. This means that it becomes less rigid and more flexible. As gravity pulls us down, the nose and ears droop. Interesting, right? 

Rollercoasters Can Make People Fall In Love 

What does it feel like to fall in love? When you think of your crush or your partner, your heart starts to race and you start to sweat. Maybe you feel butterflies in your stomach or your palms get clammy. All of these symptoms are the body’s natural response to many emotional situations: riding a rollercoaster, walking across a scary bridge, or delivering good or bad news to someone. As studies have shown, we can confuse the cause of these emotional symptoms and misattribute our “arousal” (as they call it in psychology).

One study asked male participants to walk across a suspension bridge and greet a woman at the end. Compared to men who were asked to greet a woman without walking across the scary bridge, the men who walked across the bridge were more likely to misattribute their fear of the bridge for their attraction to the woman. 

What does this mean for dating? A scary movie, trip to the amusement park or otherwise thrilling activity might be the perfect way to get your hearts racing and palms sweating! 

Babies and Adults Have A Different Number of Bones. 

When human babies are born, they have 300 bones in their bodies. By the time they’re adults, they only have 206. So what happens? Their bones fuse together. Bones start to form when a fetus is eight weeks old, but a lot of those bones are only made of cartilage by the time they leave the womb. (Yes, this is the same material that makes up your ears and nose!)

As the baby develops, the cartilage is replaced with the harder material that we know as bone. Nearby bones will also fuse together during this time. It can take up to 20 years for bones to fully form the skeleton that we see in most high school dioramas. Until this time, it’s important for children and teens to protect their bones! A high dose of calcium and Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bone development. 

Scared? Blame Your Parents. 

Phobias can disrupt a person’s life, especially if they are afraid of things that are hard to avoid. But how does a person become scared of people, or scared of failure, or scared of germs? Some research suggests that phobias can be genetic. Genetics plays a larger factor in some fears - like the fear of crowds - than other fears. And genetics isn’t the only cause of phobias. Traumatic experiences and environment may also play a role. If you experience phobias, reach out to a mental health professional for treatment options. 

Humans Glow!

Have you ever heard someone say, “you’re glowing!” They probably mean that your skin looks great or you seem happy, but they’re actually right! Humans emit visible light as a result of the interaction between free radicals and other chemicals in the body. In fact, most living creatures emit some sort of light. We can’t see it with the naked eye, however, because this light is less intense than what our eyes can pick up. If you want to see a living creature glow, you’re better off looking at fireflies or certain deep-sea fish. The light emitted by these creatures is much more intense, and likely got that way because the light is used to attract mates. 

The Brain Is Always Growing and Changing

New experiences change the shape of the brain - it’s true! Neuroplasticity is the process in which the brain changes its structure and forms new connections based on a person’s experiences. New memories, practice with skills and taking in new information change our brains in fascinating ways. 

This concept is so important because it challenges the limits of what people can and can’t do. Decades ago, if a person were paralyzed in an accident or their personality changed due to brain damage, there was little hope for their recovery. Now, we see that more is possible than we once thought. 

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2022, November). When A Person Dies They Have 7 Minutes of Brain Activity (And Other Crazy Biology Facts). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/when-a-person-dies-they-have-7-minutes/.

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