March 8, 2017

Could Ben Carson really stimulate your brain into reciting verbatim a book you read sixty years ago?


“Carson’s public opinions have not always aligned with his famous credentials in medicine,” writes a beautifully deadpan Ben Guarino in the Washington Post.

Speaking to employees earlier this week, Ben Carson, the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said some pretty crazy and offensive things. You’ve probably heard the worst of them (um, no, slaves were really not immigrants). But maybe, since he’s a neurosurgeon, you thought this tidbit was true?

[The brain] remembers everything you’ve ever seen. Everything you’ve ever heard. I could take the oldest person here, make a hole right here on the side of the head, and put some depth electrodes into their hippocampus and stimulate, and they would be able to recite back to you verbatim a book they read 60 years ago. It’s all there; it doesn’t go away. You just have to learn how to recall it. But that’s what your brain is capable of. It can process more than 2 million bits of information per second. You can’t overload it. Have you ever heard people say, “Don’t do all that, you’ll overload your brain.” You can’t overload the human brain. If you learned one new fact every second, it would take you more than 3 million years to challenge the capacity of your brain.

It’s not.



Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.