Thanks to years of studying the insides of people every chance we get, we have a pretty good grasp on the functions of almost all of our body parts. The brain, however, seems to get more mysterious the more we try to study it. Because of its complexity, it’s no surprise that studying it (as well as the nervous system) is a full-fledged scientific field on its own, namely neuroscience.
As our scientific tools get better and we get a deeper insight into the inner workings of the most important part of the body, we realize that it’s capable of much more than we previously thought. Here are ten of the most mind-blowing things you had no idea the human brain can do.
1. Sense Earth’s Magnetic Field
The ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field has been extensively found and studied among animals. From birds to marine mammals to insects, many of them use the field to navigate, though this ability has always been assumed to be absent in human beings. After all, if we had that, why did we bother with the whole navigation thing in the past?
As it turns out, we might just have it, though not to the level of other animals. In a recent study, researchers put 84 participants in a Faraday cage, which is just a fancy name for a box without any electromagnetic disturbance. They created an artificial magnetic field and gradually changed its orientation and then observed the reaction in the brain. To their surprise, there was a definite reaction in the sections of the brain that deal with sensory stimuli.
The participants couldn’t consciously feel anything, and the reaction was limited to changes in magnetic orientation that would be found in nature. (The brain didn’t react when the magnetic field pointed upward.) It suggests that this possible sense only works in response to the Earth’s magnetic field and isn’t an all-purpose magnetic sensor.