Ask mr Brain..all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 12:00am

Why do we hang stockings out for Santa Claus? It is said that the original Saint Nicholas left his very first gift of gold coins in the stockings of three poor girls who needed the money for their wedding dowries. The girls had hung their stockings by the fire to dry. That is why we hang up oversized stockings for Santa to fill them up with gifts.

Is it true that we only use 10 or 20 per cent of our brain? It is commonly - and incorrectly - said that the average person only uses about 10 to 20 per cent of his brain, often by those selling books that claim to teach people to use more of their brains.

The origin of this modern urban myth is unclear, but Albert Einstein is among among those said to be responsible for it. In answer to a journalist asking why he was smarter than everybody else, Einstein jokingly replied that he simply used more of his brain, inadvertently giving rise to the popular belief that we only use a small fraction of the brain.

While we do not use all of the brain at any given time, that does not mean we do not need all of it. Indeed, we could not function if all of our brain was being used at once. Grand mal epileptic seizures are due to all the neurons in the brain firing off at the same time, which shows that using all of the brain at once is not something to be desired.

Different areas of the brain deal with different physical and mental activities and they are all important. Occasionally we read of people who suffered large-scale damage to their brains but who were seemingly unaffected as other parts of their brains took over the functions of the areas which were damaged. This is sometimes taken as proof that we do not need most of our brain. However, it is actually proof that in some cases the brain has the ability to recover from damage, not that certain areas of the brain were not being used. Cases of people who suffer damage to their brains and make a full recovery are relatively rare. It is far more common for a person who suffers some damage to his brain to lose some intelligence or ability, whether speech, memory or control of his limbs, or to undergo a change in personality.

From an evolutionary standpoint, it would make no sense to develop a huge brain - with its vast ap petite for oxygen and nutrients - which was not needed. Equally, although we may not use all of the brain, it does not mean we are not capable of doing more with it. There does not appear to be any limit to the amount a human can learn, that is, no risk of the brain getting full.

Who invented baseball? Over the years it has been proved and disproved that the game began in the United States. Most people agree that the game evolved from the English game of Rounders, which was played with a soft ball. And oddly enough it was discovered that an English children's book, published in 1744, had 'baseball' listed under the letter B. Credit for the modern game of baseball went to Alexander Cartwright, who developed the modern game in 1845.