Have you ever heard the statement that humans only use 10% of their brains? This is a widespread misconception that has been circulating for decades. Many people believe that if we can unlock the unused 90% of our brains, we can achieve extraordinary abilities and transcend the limits of human potential. But this notion is entirely false.
The Origin of the 10% Myth
The 10% myth has been around since the early part of the twentieth century. William James, a psychologist and philosopher, remarked in his book The Energies of Men, that the average person lives only a small part of their potential and that they could actually use more of it. This statement, taken out of context, gave rise to the 10% myth.
Another possible origin of the myth comes from the early days of neuroimaging. Scientists studying brains could only measure the activity of neurons on the surface of the brain, which makes up approximately 10% of the brain. This measurement of surface activity, combined with William James’s philosophy, made people believe that we were only using a small portion of our brain.
There is no scientific evidence that supports the 10% myth. It is merely a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of what it means to use our entire brains.
The Truth About Brain Usage
Studies using modern neuroimaging technology, such as PET scans and fMRI, have shown that our brains are active throughout the day, even when we are sleeping. Each part of the brain has a specific role to play, and every area is used, although usage may vary depending on the activity we are engaged in.
Our brains are incredibly complex and sophisticated organs. Each area of the brain plays a critical role in various functions, such as movement, thinking, learning, memory, and emotions. The 10% myth suggests that we can increase our brain capacity or unlock hidden, undiscovered parts of our brains. However, there is no scientific support for this claim.
Debunking the Myth
Despite the lack of evidence of the 10% myth, it continues to persist. This is partly due to Hollywood’s portrayal of the myth in movies like Lucy, Limitless, and Phenomenon. These films suggest that if humans could only access more of their brains, they could achieve superhuman abilities and transcend the limits of their potential.
The misconception is also perpetuated by advertisers who sell programs or products that claim to help people unlock the potential of their brains. These include brain-training games, supplements, and special exercises that claim to improve cognition and memory. However, none of these products have scientific backing and won’t provide any significant improvement in mental capacity.
The Reality of Brain Function
The brain is an organ that works continuously. Every part of the brain is active and connected to other parts. The brain is responsible for coordinating our movements, thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It is the most complex organ in the body, and we are still discovering new things about it regularly.
Your brain has nearly 100 billion neurons, and each can connect to thousands of other cells. This complexity allows the brain to perform its many functions, including language, perception, memory, and consciousness. Your brain never rests; it is always active, even when you are sleeping.
The 10% myth about brain usage is entirely false. Our brains are continuously active and connected, and each area has a specific role to play. Although we may not be able to unlock hidden, undiscovered parts of our brain and transform ourselves into superhumans, we can improve our cognitive function through healthy behaviors such as sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits.
National Geographic’s The Brain: Our Universe Within