Human Brain Science: Do You Lose Brain Cells When You Sneeze?

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This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Adriana Heguy.

This posting is obviously false. But it offers a good opportunity for a little lesson in skepticism and critical thinking:

  1. Consider the source: The cited website is labeled as an entertainment website, not a science website; it's not even a serious journalism website. That alone is reason enough to be highly suspicious of its content.
  2. Are there any citations of real scientific literature, like a link to a scientific article or to a university or medical site? Nope. None. One wonders why.
  3. Is the author a reputable journalist or scientist or MD? Nope. Didn't think so.
  4. Read the article critically. This one is not written even in proper English and I know 3rd graders with a better command of vocabulary and greater sophistication in their sentences. This is so poorly written, it does not even have the hallmark of pseudoscience; there isn't even an attempt to use scientific jargon.
  5. Use common sense. Do people with allergies become mentally impaired progressively? Do people who as children experience a lot of yearly rhinovirus infections become dumb and can't graduate from high school? What could be the possible mechanism to avoid the loss of neurons by holding your nose and avoiding a sneeze? That the neurons can't escape through your nostrils? So if you plug your nose and sneeze, the neurons just go back to their designated places in your brain, happy that they were not discharged with a bit of snot?

Seriously.

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