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Dispelling the myth that humans only use 10% of their brain

Posted by mandyf on April 20, 2012

A long standing fallacy exists that humans only use 10% of their brain. This myth has gathered so much credence that industries have actually sprung to life and made countless millions of dollars selling the “secret” to harnessing, tapping into, or somehow unlocking the “unused” portions of our brain to realize everything from greater intelligence and memory to psychic abilities. Sadly this isn’t a possibility, there simply is no way to magically increase the percentage of the brain we use, it’s just an urban legend. Perhaps we can lay the blame for this one at the feet of none other than Albert Einstein himself who was fond of repeating some variation of the lament “If man could only use more than 10% of his brain there is no telling what could be achieved.”

More than likely however this myth was actually perpetuated by Dr. William James who was a psychologist in the early 1900’s that stated “the average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her potential.” As often happens as time goes by, like the old kids game telephone, the original message is lost in the translation and becomes something completely different than was initially spoken. What James was actually implying is that too often people fail to make the best use of the mental abilities, not that they only used a small portion of their brain. With the matter of how this myth most likely found life it is time to explain exactly why this a myth and try to figure out just how much of our brain we actually use as humans.

The normal human brain (normal being those which are not damaged from birth, injury, or abuse) consists of about 100 billion neurons. While each neuron is not firing all at one time, each does play an active role in the function of the brain and fires so often and quickly technology cannot even truly grasp the rate. However when using an MRI it can be seen that according to the stimuli provided the brain is actually fully functioning at all times. Some areas may be more active than others at a given time, but a lower activity level does not mean that a particular area is not in use. In fact too many different types of stimuli bombarding the brain at one time is a problem which actually helps demonstrate the point that increasing the demands on the brain in an abnormal fashion is counterproductive to better function. Anyone that has seen an MRI image of a healthy brain can immediately see that each area of the brain shows up in a variety of colors according to what the brain is processing. In a damaged brain, depending on the nature of the damage, the opposite is true. This is one way we know humans use more than 10% of their brain.

Recently scientists have had the opportunity to see on the cellular level what happens to a brain when it is responding to external electrical stimulation. Electronic stimulation of the brain is nothing new, however with this new look at how the brain works professor of neurobiology Clay Reid has further found compelling evidence that the brain is constantly working at full speed ahead and that no areas of it are unused which of course means there is no hidden area of the brain to somehow unlock. For decades it was believed that external electrical stimulation to the brain was localized because all that could be seen was a macrovision view of what was happening. However with new optical imaging techniques it has now been proved that external stimulation applied to the brain actually works its way through the entirety of the brain on the cellular level.

To the layman what this means is that when a charge is applied the exact opposite of what was expected happened. Rather than all the neurons in the exact and immediately surrounding area of application firing off, only some did. The rest of the activity was distributed throughout the rest of the brain. While this is going to be incredibly significant for researchers in regards to many aspects of understanding the brain on a whole new level, what it means in regards to this topic is that if we only used 10% of our brains as the old myth states, this response would be impossible.

Consider this scenario for a moment as one final demonstration of how humans can easily be seen using more than 10% of their brain in an everyday type situation. You are driving to work in your car one morning. Your feet are working the pedals, your hands the steering wheel. You are singing along with a song on the radio, and at the same time you are reaching down to the cup holder for your coffee. While all of this is going on you are still breathing, your blood is still flowing, and you are processing information regarding what you see, hear, feel, smell, and snippets of random thought occurring somewhere between the conscious and unconscious level about a host of topics. In short, almost every single area of your brain is functioning at its normal or slightly elevated levels. You simply do not realize it because it is natural and has occurred since the day your brain actively developed.

With that in mind the next time you see a new wonder potion or secret system offered for sale that is going to teach you how to tap into the unused portions of your brain, save your money. You are already using all of your brain that you are capable of. The trick is using your brains processing potential to the best of your abilities. If we truly only used 10% of our brains we would almost certainly never have evolved to the creatures we are today.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/0908261 52559.htm
http://bulletin.aarp.org/yourhealth/healthyliving/ar ticles/myth_buster__ten_percent.html
http://www.med.harvard.edu/AANLIB/home.html
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/0007 71.htm
http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/facts.html#bra in

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One Response to “Dispelling the myth that humans only use 10% of their brain”

  1. txwikinger said

    Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog and commented:
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