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The Amazing Evolving Human Brain

Updated on April 4, 2015

Human Head Cross-Section Showing Brain

"public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the National Institutes of Health." see:
"public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the National Institutes of Health." see: | Source

Brain Usage - Past and Present

Brain size and usage ~ a fascinating subject.

The human brain, that is.

I have often heard it said that we each only use a small percentage of our brain. This set me thinking; nothing seems to evolve that we don't, or didn't, need. So, if we don't use much of our brains, now, then we must have used more, before.

When, in our developing past, could we humans have needed to use our brains more than we do now?

I didn't know much about brain anatomy or history, so I decided to look into this.

Do we really use only 10% ~ or even less ~ of our brains?

Or is this a myth?


Apparently it is a myth!!!

We each use our entire brain, but not all of it may be fully active all of the time, of course.

I found this information here:

~ 'The Ten Percent Myth' by Benjamin Radford

~ 'How Much of the Brain Do We Really Use?' ~ By Robert H. Shmerling, M.D.


Benjamin Radford, who, I read, has a degree in Psychology, is managing editor of the science magazine: "Skeptical Inquirer".

Ten Percent?

'The Ten Percent Myth' by Benjamin Radford


'How Much of the Brain Do We Really Use?' by Robert H. Shmerling, M.D.

The latter item recounts a story, which tells how we can live with only a portion of our brains, and which might explain why people have believed that we, therefore, don't use our entire brain:

In the year 1848, a young Vermont man lost part of his brain's frontal lobe when 'an accidental explosion propelled a 3½-foot metal rod through Phineas Gage's head' . He seemed reasonably well immediately after the accident and made a good recovery. Or did he? ~ His personality changed, he 'developed seizures, and died 12 years after the accident'.

So, just because we can survive a brain injury, does not mean that we do not fully use our brains.

Books on the Brain

Homo Erectus / Ergaster

As far as I can gather, the 10% story seems to be some kind of ‘new age’ myth, based upon incorrect early teaching.(I would be interested to learn more, if anyone has evidence of its truth.)

The item in question also says: '... as language and complex reasoning skills evolved in humans over time, brain size increased dramatically' .

This makes sense.

But then I found a BBC article which set me wondering again:

'Human ancestors born big brained' ~ 14 November 2008

'A new Homo erectus fossil suggests that females had large, wide pelvises in order to deliver large-brained babies.'

'Having a larger brain size meant the young hominid was dependent on its mother for less time than a modern human baby, a useful survival adaptation in the African savannah where they lived.'

'The researchers say the erectus brain probably grew quickly before birth; but after birth, growth-rate then slowed ...'

The 10% Myth

In the book '50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Nature' the authors examine 50 of the most popular myths concerning psychology.

Here is one myth, as described on Amazon:


Myth # 1: Most people use only 10% of their brain power
'There are several reasons to doubt that 90% of our brains lie silent. At a mere 2-3% of our body weight, our brain consumes over 20% of the oxygen we breathe. It’s implausible that evolution would have permitted the squandering of resources on a scale necessary to build and maintain such a massively underutilized organ. Moreover, losing far less than 90% of the brain to accident or disease almost always has catastrophic consequences'

(Kolb & Whishaw, 2003).


'How did the 10% myth get started? One clue leads back about a century to psychologist William James, who once wrote that he doubted that average persons achieve more than about 10% of their intellectual potential. Although James talked in terms of underdeveloped potential, a slew of positive thinking gurus transformed “10% of our capacity” into “10% of our brain”.'

(Beyerstein, 1999).

Front Cover
Front Cover

We do use our large brains

So it seems that we do use our large brains ~ pretty much in their entirety, and, though homo erectus babies may have been born with larger brains than our babies are born with, today, that was only to allow them to become more independent, earlier. The brains did not remain relatively larger.

For a bit more info, here's the Wikipedia page on the 'Human Brain':

I am no scientist, but I have no doubt that I shall be looking into this complex, but very interesting, subject a lot more in the future. And I haven't even started to consider, here, the relationship between brain and mind!


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    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Yes, wait and see. That's all we can do, really :)

    • Highvoltagewriter profile image

      William Benner 

      7 years ago from Savannah GA.

      We will wait and see...I always thought they would find water, but now the latest reports are interesting and yet inconclusive, for the "evidence" seems to have been destroyed!

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi, I've been interested in the life on Mars issue for a long time. I wonder if they will discover anything really amazing? :)

    • Highvoltagewriter profile image

      William Benner 

      7 years ago from Savannah GA.

      I have revised my hub, because form what I have researched I now agree that the 10% theory is all wet! Now I want to know what you think about the latest findings about scientist thinking there is life on mars! Have read about this yet?

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello Highvoltagewriter :)

      Thank you!

      Yes, I was surprised by what I discovered.

      Interesting :)

    • Highvoltagewriter profile image

      William Benner 

      7 years ago from Savannah GA.

      Great article that I am glad that I read before I published a hub that stated that we only use 10% of are brains! I was going to link it to your hub but then I decided that I better read your hub first! I will research this more before I publish my own...I also like the fact that this hub is much shorter than lot your hubs! I like this because I myself have the tendency to write long hubs and it is good to know that someone who shares the same disease can recover!;)

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Thank you, Niallmarkey ~ it's a fascinating subject :)

    • niallmarkey profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Very interesting and well written hub.

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      8 years ago from The English Midlands

      Yes, that seems to have been what happened, Learn Things Web :)

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      J Jahan 

      8 years ago from California

      Interesting hub. It seems to me that brain scans prove that we use far more than 10% of our brains. But it's one of those things where a myth gets repeated so often that most people end up believing it anyway.

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      8 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello Shahid

      This item is about the myth that humans use only 4% - 10% of their brain. It is about humans in general ~ not just the British.

      British colonialism ~ or colonialism and conquest by other nations ~ may be a suitable subject for another hub, but I don't think that it is particularly relevant here.

      Yes, Piltdown Man was, indeed, a hoax, but, again, it did not concern the 10% myth ~ and, as a hoax, anyway, it did not throw any light on the subject.

      I am not a biologist, but most items that I have read indicate that there is a correlation between brain size and intelligence. I would be interested to know about any evidence, which indicates that this is not the case.

    • Shahid Bukhari profile image

      Shahid Bukhari 

      8 years ago from My Awareness in Being.

      Perhaps in the 19th Century, British Isles resounded with Celebrations, something had been discovered, which justified British Conquests related atrocities, and the Empire ... it was the discovery of a Larger than normal human skull ... of a Briton !

      Later on it turned out to be, the hoax of the century ... when it was established at some British University in early 20th Century, when such cause celebre, were not required, that it was a contraption ... made up of an human Jaw fitted to an animal Skull ... or the other way round.

      Anyway, the human Brain's size has nothing to do with human Intelligence. The Brain, is just one of the Paired Physical Organs, like the Heart, and the Stomach ... it "Processes" our Sensory and Ideal Perceptions, like our Stomachs Processes the Food we eat.

      Bio-Electrical Neural Activity, is an indicator or the Processes, involved in the Brain, Processing the Mind's Dictates ... and this 4% theory is like the Defining, of your love for your hubby at around 4 Kilograms.

    • Trish_M profile imageAUTHOR

      Tricia Mason 

      9 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hello i scribble :)

      Thank you for your comment.

      Yes, I do agree that many of us could use our brains a lot more than we so ~ probably to everyone's advantage :)

    • i scribble profile image

      i scribble 

      9 years ago

      Interesting issue. The 10%(or whatever the estimated percentage), I believe, refers to using only 10% of the brain's capacity for learning and remembering. The point is, I think, that the average person, especially an adult, could make much better use of his/her potential by pursuing new learning and knowledge, instead of watching so much TV, for instance.

      The part about homo eructus was interesting. Never heard that before. This hub could spark a good discussion, if we could get people here to read it!


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