what's inappropriate about the analogy of brain as a muscle


The analogy of the brain as a muscle, while popular, has significant limitations that can lead to misunderstandings about how learning and mental growth work. points out several key reasons why this comparison falls short:

  1. Immediate Feedback: In physical fitness, particularly with resistance training, increased blood flow to muscles used during exercise often provides immediate feedback (a “pump”) hinting at potential growth. This direct feedback is lacking when engaging in mental activities, where improvement is not immediately observable and usually occurs over time 1.

  2. Learning Strain: The process of learning is often marked by difficulty and strain without immediate rewards or any hint of success. For example, while learning a new language or skill, one doesn't experience temporary fluency during the learning session, unlike a physical session where you might feel stronger right after exercise 1.

  3. Stress and Recovery: Another key difference noted is the nature of stress and recovery. Physically, muscles temporarily seem more capable during and right after exercise. However, with mental tasks, stress might actually make one feel worse before any improvement is perceived. suggests that a more fitting analogy might be that learning causes the mind to feel weaker before it rebounds and strengthens, much unlike muscle training where the potential growth is visible and motivating 1.

These insights from the illustrate why the simplistic 'brain as muscle' analogy might mislead individuals about the nature of mental efforts and growth, emphasizing a need for a more nuanced understanding of mental processes and how they differ significantly from physical ones.

The Mind's Growth Process

Andrew Huberman discusses the analogy of the mind as a muscle and how it falls short in understanding the growth process. He explains the importance of embracing the strain and stress of learning and how it triggers the neural conditions for effective learning. Adopting a growth mindset and understanding the power of mindsets can lead to improved performance.

Huberman Lab

How to Enhance Performance & Learning by Applying a Growth Mindset | Huberman Lab Podcast