The human brain is an incredibly complex organ capable of doing many things even better than the world's top supercomputers.

However, our brains are far from perfect and they often trick us. Take a look at just a few of the ways our brains play mind games with us.

Semantic satiation

Have you ever said a word several times in a row and found that it started to lose meaning? This phenomenon is known as semantic satiation.

Typically, when you say a word, your brain finds the semantic information and connects them. For example, you may say "mother" and your brain connects that word to your own mom. However, repeating the word causes your brain to become satiated, making it less able to pair it with the semantic information.

Phantom limb syndrome

A phantom limb syndrome is the sensation that an amputated limb is still attached to the body and moves and experiences sensation as if it were still there. Phantom limb pain affects up to 80 percent of amputees, but the exact cause is unclear.

Previous research suggested such sensations result when the part of the brain's sensory "map" that represented the former limb is overtaken by representations of other body parts. For example, the brain may interpret touch sensations on the face as occurring on the missing limb.

However, new studies indicate that the phantom pain may stem from lingering representations of the missing limb. In one study, brain scans of hand amputees showed that amputees with phantom pain had the same brain activity as people with both hands.


If you've ever had a song, or part of a song, stuck in your head, you've experienced what's known as an earworm. When this happens, your brain is essentially stuck in a loop.

You might know only the chorus of a catchy song, so after singing it in your head, your brain tries to move on to the next verse. Because it doesn't know what comes next, your brain goes back to the beginning, replaying the part it does know.

sleeping woman with alarm clockSleep drunkenness

If you've ever turned off your alarm without realizing it or had a conversation in the middle of the night but can't recall it in the morning, you might have experienced confusional arousal, or sleep drunkenness.

This phenomenon occurs when a person wakes up and remains in a confused state for a certain period of time before either going back to sleep or fully waking up. These episodes typically happen when you're awakened during deep sleep periods known as non-rapid eye movement sleep. Some scientists have referred to sleep drunkenness as "severe sleep inertia," meaning it seems like part of the brain is still asleep even though you're interacting with your environment.

False memories

Have you ever remembered doing something — putting your glasses on the table last night, for example — only to realize you hadn't? Or perhaps you vividly recall a childhood occurrence only to learn it actually happened to your sibling?

We often think of memory as a sort of video recorder that accurately documents events, but people are remarkably susceptible to suggestion, which can create memories of events that didn't really happen.

Misinformation, misattribution and simple suggestion from others can all contribute to false memories. The reason we're easily fooled is because our minds are unable to take in everything, which leads to gaps in memory. To fill these gaps, our brains plant false memories to make sense of events based on knowledge and experience.

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Laura Moss writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

5 ways your brain plays tricks on you
Song stuck in your head? Remembering something that didn't happen? Your brain is messing with you.