We’ve reported that ancient legends probably have an origin in fact. But what about those proverbs we’ve been hearing all our lives??Like “an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Scientists want to understand why we get so much meaning from these deceptively simple statements.

They had to start by finding out what part of the brain comprehends them. Researcher V. S. Ramachandran discovered that a region of the brain known as the angular gyrus is responsible for the human ability to understand metaphors.

He tested four right-handed patients with damage to their left angular gyrus. Although their brains still worked fine otherwise, they had big problems understanding ordinary proverbs such as “the grass is always greener on the other side” and tried to give them a literal interpretation. All the patients spoke fluent English. Ramachandran says, “The patients often came up with elaborate, even ingenious interpretations?that were completely off the mark.”

Patient S.J., for example, explained “all that glitters is not gold” by saying you had to be careful when buying jewelry because you might get robbed. Ramachandran says that while neuroscientists don’t yet know if they’ve found the metaphor center of the brain, they do feel that the ability to understand proverbs is one thing that separates us from lower primates. “Any monkey can reach for a peanut,” he says, “but only a human can reach for the stars or even understand what that means.”

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

One writer who understands proverbs is William Henry, one of the guest hosts of Dreamland. He digs deeper and often finds that ancient legends are describing real events. Don’t miss his subscriber interview about his amazing experiences in Rennes-le-Chateau. Subscribe today and you can listen to ALL of William’s wonderful shows.

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