Do we only you 10% of our brain?

Do we only use 10% of our brain?

I don’t know where I first heard this, yet I know that many times I have used this argument myself when asked why I do what I do. The basic notion is that we only use 10% of our brain, and that drugs as well as other measures can increase this percentage. Additionally, we tend to believe that geniuses such as Einstein or Da Vinci used more of their brain. Yet, is this really true? Do we really only use 10% of our brain?

Measuring the brain’s activity has been done through a wide variety of different tests, from EEG (i.e.: brain wave activity as measure by electrical impulses) to fMRI (i.e.:taking pictures of hydrogen molecules resonating in the brain). fMRI allows researchers to take snap shot pictures of the brain and its activities in particular locations in the brain, and from this research it was found that all of the brain is being used. There was not one area that did not “light up”. That strongly suggests that we are using all of our brain.

The brain in relation to the entire body is quite a small organ, accounting for only 2% of the total weight. Yet, at the same time, the brain requires 20% of the blood flow of the heart and an equal amount of available oxygen. From an evolutionary point of view, is it really plausible that such a demanding organ would only work at 10% of its capacity?

Many times it is said that if one area of the brain is damaged, another part of the brain can take over its function. Surely, this must mean that there are spare parts lying around, waiting to jump into action. Well, no! This just bears witness to the brains amazing ability to rewire itself, also known as neuro plasticity.This plasticity of the brain is very high in children, and although greatly diminished, still available to adults as well.

So, now comes the point where most people say:”Wait a minute, its not 10% of the brain, it is 10% of the mind!” My question is, how do you know? How can we even claim to measure the mind and the human potential? Hence, we leave the area of scientific claims, and end up in an almost philosophical discussion that is blurred by injecting scientifically sounding claims with percentages attached to them.

I believe (sic!) that we do have untapped potential, yet not in the form proponents of the 10% myth mean. I think it is not really how much of our mind we use, but how we use it. It is not about getting more (the everlasting vicious cycle of economy), but rather learning to use what we have in as many ways as possible. The more creative we are in using what we have, the more choices suddenly open up right in front of our own eyes. So don’t aspire for more, aspire for creativity in using what is already there….

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One thought on “Do we only you 10% of our brain?

  1. Liz Morris says:

    Interesting! I came across this whilst researching for a new course I’m developing….. This myth seems as unquestionned as “red” meaning “stop” and “green” meaning “go”.

    What counts is not how much or little we use of our brains or minds but how we use it. In the same way I use my whole body- but almost rarely to its full potential. Ask me to run a marathon – well if I trained I could, but do it right now, impossible! Ask me to resit a highschool math exam, 20 years ago I’d get top marks having trained to do it, right now I’d probably fail.

    Our minds are incredible, powerful resources, we need to learn to use our brains effectively, stimulating creativity and problem solving rather than just efficiently passing exams. There is a considerable body of evidence that suggests learning how to use your brain and developing mental agility prevents the onset of diseases such as alzhimers as well as increasing life satisfaction and success in your chosen field.

    Good article, thank you!

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