We Only Use 10% of Brain? That's a Myth
Scientists say we actually use the whole brain
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2014 3:00 PM CDT
This functional magnetic resonance imaging of a brain, provided courtesy of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, shows activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA).    (AP Photo/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Lucy Brown)

(Newser) – Reading this, you're probably using, what ... 10% of your brain? Funny how that notion took hold—that we use a tenth of our brain at any given time—because there's no actual evidence for it, the Conversation reports. The idea may date back to psychologist William James, who wrote in 1907 that we use "only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources," and a foreword to Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People that loosely quoted James as saying that "the average person develops only 10% of his latent mental ability." Now, products exist to "unlock the other 90%" and a new thriller, Lucy, shows Scarlett Johansson taking drugs that enable her to use all 100% of her brain.

But, as the Atlantic reports, scientists point out that the brain is an organ packed with living neurons that are always up to something. Brain scans that show only a small active portion of gray matter "lighting up" may confuse people, one neuroscience professor points out, because they show only the brain's major activities, not all of them. Yet "those kinds of ideas self-perpetuate," he says. One possible basis for the 10% notion: The brain has almost 100 billion neurons, which are outnumbered roughly 10:1 by "glial" cells that keep the brain working. "In other words," the Conversation notes, "neurons are only 10% of our entire brain." (See how lack of sleep can fry brain cells.)

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Showing 3 of 36 comments
Miguel Lahunken
Nov 11, 2015 5:56 PM CST
Misleading articles have been published denying the ability to increase percentages of brain use. Of course 90% of the brain doesn't stay unused. Conscious brain use is traced by an MRI by showing volumes of light in the active parts of the brain. It was even suggested to be used as a lie detector. It was written that when the truth is told there would be only one region of light. When a lie is told there would be two regions of light. I spread that by memorizing tables of analogous correspondences there would be multiple areas of light truth or lie. That put an end to that form of lie detector. With normal people, the total volume of these volumes of light is not over 10% brain use at any one instant. LSD blocks seratonin the neurotransmitter of the inhibitory neurons of the brain which keep brain use down to 10% brain use. By LSD blocking seratonin the brain wakes up to more than 10% brain use, depending upon the amount of LSD ingested. Parasympathetic nervous system stimulation also wakes up the brain, to more than 10% brain use, by over riding the inhibitory neurons. The largest nerves of the parasympathetic nervous system are the vagus nerves, which emerge from the brain by the vagus trunk through the nasopharynx, which branches down as right and left vagus nerves down into the body, not through the spine, so that they are easily stimulated. Vagal stimulation is as effective as LSD. The psychiatric profession secretly calls more than 10% brain use "psychosis". Why secretly? This secret, today easily expressed medically, "Vagal stimulation is as effective as LSD", has been the most suppressed knowledge in history. But, it too is being spread, just like the knowledge of the futility of the MRI lie detector.
KDickley
Jul 24, 2014 12:10 AM CDT
Demwits use much less of their brain, look who they elected.
robert
Jul 22, 2014 3:46 AM CDT
I believe when a person becomes a politician they use less than 1 % and it doesnt matter which party they belong to.