Using Only Ten Percent of Our Brain? Try One-Hundred
The 10% Myth
This kernel of knowledge is heard everywhere. Go to any party, sit in a classroom, or stand near an office water-cooler where employees congregate; you’re eventually going to hear the statement: “You know, human only use 10% of their brains.”
It’s a philosophical quip that has made its round in many social circles for generations. Whenever someone wants to point out some truly amazing fact, comment on humanity’s lack of cerebral skills, or get some allegorical or symbolic message across to an audience, somebody is bound to use this nifty piece of intelligence.
The Reality: Think a Higher Number
There’s a “slight” problem with this saying: There’s no proof that this statement is true. In fact, it's scientifically impossible.
This myth may make you sound smart when you say it; however (and please excuse the pun) your not really using your head by regurgitating this bit of information
Just think for a moment on how the brain works. It controls our body's movements and functions. We think, feel, create memorize, and store memory. In a sense, we continually learn and get smarter, thanks to that thing between our ears.
Not convinced? Simply check out the research from those who know a thing or two about the brain and how it works. Many in the field of neuroscience have discovered that 100% of the brain is being used for various activities such as motor skills or critical thinking.
Still, the brain is extremely complex and the understanding of it is far from complete
Still, in many cases, it appears the brain merely reorders its functions, instead of transferring many of it to “unused” portions of the brain.
Our Flexible Brain
Our brain, it turns out is very flexible, too. If damaged, in some cases, it can rewire itself. It’s often reported that patients have had portion of their brain removed, but managed to keep most, if not all, of their cerebral functions.
Often, these cases involve those who had been lobotomized as a means to control epileptic seizures. Possibly the brain's wiring circumvented the damaged tissues, thus shutting down any brain function in this area. In all likelihood, removal of this part of the brain was needed. Still these are exceptional cases.
In many cases, damage to the brain can have irreversible effects and the loss of brain function can lead to major health problems. It is known that damages to the brain – even a small portion of it - can have devastating effects on the person.
Strokes can affect the part of the brain that controls motor function. Even drug abuse can affect impairment, cognitive thinking or memory. People labeled as having traumatic brain injury (TBI) - which are caused by any blow to the head – will have permanent brain damage affecting a series of functions.
In this situation, having 10% of brain function, would mean the person would be in a vegetative state ( and that would possibly the best-case scenario).
Lashley “removed large areas of the cerebral cortex in rats and found these animals could still re-learn specific tasks.”
Origin of the saying
Is it possible the statement came at a time when only 10% of the brain’s function was understood by researcher? That’s impossible to answer. Then again, the origin of this saying is impossible to pinpoint and has remained elusive over the years.
“Neuroscience for Kids” a website created by The University of Washington, detailed several likely sources:
- A possible misquote from one of Albert Einstein’s speech.
- A misinterpretation of 19th century French physiologist Pierre Flourens’s research.
The work of scientist Karl Lashley in the 1920s and 1930s has been suggested as a starting point to figuring out this myth’s origin. According to another University of Washington website, Lashley “removed large areas of the cerebral cortex in rats and found these animals could still re-learn specific tasks.” As compelling as it sounds, there is no evidence he came up with the 10% measurement.
There’s some suggestion that the statement didn’t come from a scientist. The American writer William James may have written something closely resembling the famous saying in 1908. He wrote in the book, Energies of Men: “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” Again, how this may have lead to the saying with its exact numerical finding is a mystery.
Whatever the case may be, this statement managed to catch on with many people, including those in the media and in the educational field. There are dozens of advertisements espousing this myth to the populous, as well.
The statement sounds nifty and has an “intellectual” ring to it. Ironically, it’s not scientifically supported. Thus, if you hear it at a party or around the water cooler, use all 100 percent of your brain, and realize the statement is false.
10 Percent or 100. You Decide
Do you believe we only use 10% of our brain?
More Information on the myth (from TED Talk)
Learning More About the Brain
© 2014 Dean Traylor