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WATCH: Here's How Thinking Hard CAN Make You Burn Calories

29 APR 2015

The idea that just thinking really hard can burn calories sounds pretty ridiculous, but there's some pretty interesting science to back up the claim. Sure, you're never gonna right the wrongs of your horrible diet by sitting in a room and nutting out the intricacies of theoretical physics, but you will shed a calorie here and there, says the latest episode of SciShow above.


According to Hank Green, about 10 to 20 percent of the calories your body uses at rest is actually consumed by your brain. This is because your brain needs energy to produce and release chemical signals called neurotransmitters to facilitate your many brain processes. And scientists have found that at rest, your brain uses about one fifth of a calorie every minute to get this done. But what about when your brain isn't at rest? What about when it's thinking so hard, you know you're gonna need a big, hot bath afterwards?

SciShow discusses a couple of experiments carried out in the UK that measured the glucose levels in the brains of two groups of volunteers - those asked to perform simple tasks, like pushing a button over and over; and those asked to think really, really hard to solve a puzzle or a tough maths question. The researchers found that the glucose levels of the people thinking hard actually dropped as a result. And in another experiment, brain scans of people performing tricky maths problems in their heads showed a direct uptake of glucose in the brain.

"But it wasn't a TONNE of difference," says Hank. "Research suggests that when you're consciously chugging along as hard as you can, your brain might consume 1.5 calories per minute." Which isn't that impressive if your goal is thinking your way to a healthier weight, but it does at least show how economical our wonderful little brains are.

Watch the latest episode of SciShow above to find out exactly how many calories per day you can lose from thinking. Maybe you can work off a single piece of popcorn. You're welcome.