Myth: We only use 10% of our brain

Picture of a brain where only 10% is lit up.

10% of brain

This is a common myth you will hear frequently– we only use 10% of our brain at a given time. Take a look at the picture above– imagine only using that small portion of your brain for literally everything  you do in your day? Here are some of reasons that debunk this myth:

Broca and Wernicke's area of the brain

 Broca and Wernicke’s area of the brain

1. If we only use 10% of our brains, that means 90% of our brain is inactive, is   useless. Now, think of brain damage. There is almost no area of your brain that will not dramatically effect you if it’s damaged. Take Broca and Wernicke’s area of the brain (see picture to your right), for example. They’re relatively small compared to the rest. If you damage Broca’s area you’ll have difficulty producing speech and writing. If you damage Wernicke’s area you’ll difficulty comprehending  speech (AMA). And to think– these areas are small, yet the influence so large.

2. Brain scans shine a light on the truth as well. Scans of the brain show that our brains are always active — no matter what we are doing. Even when we are sleeping all parts of our brain show some level activity. MythBusters even tested this out too. They used an fMRI to scan the brain of someone attempting a complicated mental task. Their findings: well of 10% of the brain was active at once (Wikipedia). There is no such thing as one part of our brain temporarily not functioning.

“Brain scans have shown that no matter what we’re doing, our brains are always active. Some areas are more active at any one time than others, but unless we have brain damage, there is no one part of the brain that is absolutely not functioning. Here’s an example. If you’re sitting at a table and eating a sandwich, you’re not actively using your feet. You’re concentrating on bringing the sandwich to your mouth, chewing and swallowing it. But that doesn’t mean that your feet aren’t working — there’s still activity in them, such as blood flow, even when you’re not actually moving them.” –How Stuff Works

3. If we don’t use it, we loose it. In other words, if brain cells are continually not being used, they will degenerate. If 90% of the brain is inactive, there would be a whole lot of degeneration- which is not the case.

So, as it turns out, we do not use 10% of our brains – we use all of it! This also means there isn’t some percentage of unused brain space that we can tap into to increase our intelligence. We’ll have to find another way to take over the world.


Posted on October 10, 2013, in Myths. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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