Even after all of these years, and the advances of medical science, the human body still holds many mysteries.
The brain is one of those organs with a level of complexity that we can’t fully decipher with our current science. But even without a deep understanding of complex biology, we are constantly amazed by the human body.
This is an interesting list about 11 facts you probably didn’t know about your own body:
Your body can literally glow
Stars glow, and there are creatures under the sea that emit an impressive glow, too. Many different animals in nature have this quality, and it would be very useful for us to improve our ability to see in the dark. But in a strict sense, light behaves sometimes like a particle or waves (depending on your point of view), and we can’t perceive the majority of wavelengths.
The human body completes millions of chemical reactions every second, and some of them emit visible light. However, it is very subtle and impossible to perceive with the human eye. Still, we can measure light emissions, and they are tied to a circadian rhythm that becomes more intense between 10am and 4pm.
Blinking sharpens your attention
The body has many reflex and involuntary movements we can´t control. We can partially control others, like blinking. Every minute, we blink around 15 to 20 times, and in most cases we don’t even realize. At first, we thought that blinking was only a reflex to maintain moisture in your eyes. It is actually very useful to keep away microscopic particles and dust.
However, recent understanding about brain behavior and blinking suggest that it might contribute to sharpen your attention. When you close your eyes for a few seconds, you can experience how it helps you focus. Blinking can actually do the same for a fraction of a second and contribute to improve your cognitive functions.
Your earwax is actually trying to protect you
Earwax can be an annoying problem, and removing it with Q-tips is sometimes an impulse we have every morning after taking a shower. However, it might not be as good an idea as you may think. Your earwax provides lubrication and protection to your ears from bacterial infections and debris. It is coating the surface of your ears and catching dust and other particles.
So, think twice before using several Q-tips to clean your ears thoroughly. Even if you produce a lot of earwax, the solution can be worse than the problems. Q-tips may push earwax deeper, and continued use causes impacted earwax plugs that compromise your hearing and causes infections.
The glutes are the largest muscles in your body
We have very large muscle groups in the body. The largest muscle groups include those in the back, our pectoral muscles, the quadriceps and the hamstrings. But what about the glutes? Even in a person with prominent glutes, they don’t look as big as the back or legs. But the gluteus maximus is one single muscle, not a muscle group.
Yes, your legs and back have very large muscles, but they are composed of several smaller muscles. In your glutes, you don’t have as many, and they are very small in comparison to the gluteus maximus. So, think about that next time you’re lifting stairs or moving your hips to the rhythm.
Your body has hidden senses, and you use them every day
We usually think about the five senses, which include your sight, touch, hearing, taste, and smell. But we have many other hidden senses you’re not taught about in Biology 101. Some of them are branches of the five senses, such as nociception, which is the perception of pain.
Others are very complex and only useful for your body to be aware of its position and place, such as equilibrioception and proprioception. The former helps you maintain your balance and the latter gives your body cues about where you can find your body parts, even when your eyes are closed.
There’s a second brain in your gut
There are neurons all over your body, but the majority of them only send impulses and have no autonomous function. In your gut there’s one of the biggest networks of neurons, which receives the name of enteric nervous system. We formerly thought these neurons were only controlling your gut movements, which are independent from the brain. But now we know there’s much more behind this complex structure.
In the gut we can synthesize a lot of neurotransmitters, and this organ regulates many functions of the brain. The enteric nervous system is connected to the vagus nerve, which travels back to the brain and maintains the communication between the brain and the gut. That’s partly why you can feel emotions in your gut, and sometimes they have a positive or negative impact in your gastrointestinal function.
Why you can’t tickle yourself
Tickling is a very complex perception, and each one of us respond to it differently. The brain itself translates tickling into different behaviors and responses. When the initial signal travels to your brain, it passes through a series of complex structures. The hypothalamus, for example, helps you connect a given sensation with an emotional response, memories, and much more.
But when you try to tickle yourself, even in the same area and with the same movements, other brain structures are involved in the process. It’s no longer perception only. Your brain is moving your body and sending signals, not only to the muscles but also to other brain areas. The cerebellum, for example, measures your movement and your brain will be worried about making a precise motion instead of receiving and interpreting a tickling sensation.
Your stomach acid can wear down a razor blade
Even after swallowing foods without chewing properly, your stomach can do a lot to wear down or dissolve different materials. The gastric juice plays an important part, along with the movements your stomach makes in the presence of food. But the effectiveness of stomach acid to dissolve food can be impressive, and it may even wear down metal.
If you place a razor blade in stomach juice, for example, it will take a lot of time to wear down, but after 24 hours you will see that the razor blade has lost more than half of its original weight. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to chew food properly, though, because there are enzymes in your oral cavity, and the digestive process would be incomplete without proper chewing before swallowing.
Your taste changes as you age
As we age, many things change. We usually think about our vision or athletic capacity. But we also have a change in taste. We all have a unique taste bud pattern, but the regeneration of these taste buds works differently as the years go by. They start regenerating slowly and sometimes do not fully recover after injury in seniors. Women are actually more affected than men in this regard, because they start losing their taste capacity at age 50 years old! On the contrary, men usually start experiencing these changes after the sixth decade of life.
You don’t have muscles in your fingers
If you ever heard anyone boasting about opening jars and having a stronger grip than you, you can be sure there’s nothing different in his finger muscles because none of us have such a thing. There are no muscles in your fingers.
What we have, and what actually moves your fingers, are long strings called tendons, which move your hands from a strategic position in your forearms. Place your hands with the palms in front of you and move your fingers around. Now you know why your forearm moves at the same rhythm.
Your liver can regrow after surgery
You have probably seen a lizard regrow its tail or at least know about Dr. Curtis in Spiderman, and how he got the experiment wrong and became The Lizard by trying to replicate the same thing in the human body. But there’s actually one organ in your body that’s able to achieve that fantastic regrowth function. It is the liver.
After taking out the liver in a surgery, it will grow back to normal, even if we take out 75% of its size. In around one month we would have a completely new liver. However, there are limits to this ability, and if the totality of the liver is affected by the same disease (as in cirrhosis), the injury probably goes beyond its capacity to regenerate.