We all know that the brain is the command center of our body’s systems. It is the center of our nervous system and it is in charge of a number of functions — learning, remembering, and even controlling motor skills.
Over time, scientists and researchers have taken an interest in exploring the capacity and potentials of the brain. Along with scientific studies, a number of myths and theories have also been developed. And because some of these myths are very popular, there are lots of people who believe in these theories.
What is the 10% Brain Myth?
One of the most popular theories holds that humans use only 10% of their brains. It is so popular that it has in fact been used as a common theme for a number of movies, such as Limitless, and more recently, Lucy.
In the 10% brain myth, it is assumed that the brain is divided into smaller sub-parts or fractions, and of these smaller fractions, we use only 10%. Therefore, the myth further goes on to say that the human brain’s potential is endless and that there are portions of the brain to be unlocked.
Surveys have continuously shown that many people still believe in this theory even though they do not really understand how it came to be. Most have simply accepted it as a fact.
Even its origin is unknown. Some say the myth dates back to the Victorian era, while some say the myth began with the reserve energy theories of Harvard psychologists William James and Boris Sidis during the late 1890s. Since then, a number of books and publications on self-help and motivation have included the false information that an average man develops and uses only ten percent of his mental abilities.
This theory is hyped up because it opens the door to a wide array of opportunities — that we people could do so much more if we were just able to unlock the full capacity of our brains. Though beautiful and inspiring, this myth is just that — a myth. And now, thanks to science, this popular myth has been debunked.
5 Reasons Why The 10% Brain Myth Is Not True
- Your brain’s different parts and functions all work together.
Contrary to the 10% brain myth, the brain does not work as a single form. It is divided into regions with different functions.
The cerebrum is the largest portion of the brain, and it is responsible for higher cognitive functions like memory and reasoning. The cerebellum, on the other hand, controls our motor functions like our balance or coordination. Finally, the brain stem is in charge of our involuntary functions.
Even though they have different specializations, the different parts of the brain work together in perfect synergy.
Over the years, a number of studies have already been conducted to match functions to each smaller sub-portion of the brain, and there remains much to learn.
- Your brain is always active, even when you are asleep.
Thanks to imaging technology and brain scans, researchers have found out that the brain’s sub-regions do not stop working; the neurons and supporting cells never rest. Yes, even when we are sleeping and not really doing anything, our brain continues to work.
The 10% brain theory may sound credible to those who believe that the only function of the brain is to learn and think, but the truth is, the brain is involved in everything that we do, no matter how simple or complex.
For example, when you brush your teeth every morning: You walk toward the bathroom, you open the door, and then you reach for your toothbrush. You get the toothpaste and you squeeze out just the right amount.
Now this activity may seem normal for you and is nowhere extraordinary. But the fact remains, different parts of your brain have already been activated and were working with each other at lightning speed from the moment you decided to brush your teeth, leading up to squeezing out the right amount of toothpaste.
- Humans have big, hungry brains.
We weren’t given big brains for nothing. Evolution has shown that the human brain has greatly increased in size while the brain of the chimp has yet to meet the same fate.
Aside from being big, it’s also very hungry because it uses up more energy compared to any other organ in the human body. The brain consumes more than 20% of our resources, such as oxygen supply and blood flow. Meanwhile, other primates only consume around 7-8%.
This energy is used as fuel for the neurons to signal each other and communicate properly. Energy is also used to maintain the health of the brain cells.
Even though the brain uses more energy, our body burns the same amount of calories as other primates that are close to our size.
- Your memories are stored in your brain.
Aside from acting as a control center, our brain also acts as a storage bin. The billions of neurons in our brain make up lots of connections that take up space, much like how files take up space in your external hard disk.
It has often been said that we can improve our memory and thinking skills by practicing or learning new skills. This is true since the brain is also a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger it will be.
However, when we learn new skills, we are not opening an unused fraction of the brain. We have up to ten billion cells, and each cell can make hundreds of connections. What happens is that our brain forms new or stronger connections between already existing nerve cells.
- Your brain is a multi-tasker.
Aside from being continuously active and at work, the brain is an avid multi-tasker, able to juggle lots of tasks at the same time. For a simple task, like brushing your teeth, several portions of your brain are working — not just one. While brushing your teeth, you are also standing up or you may be looking at yourself in the mirror. These simple activities also drive more than one part of your brain to work.
Avid believers of the 10% brain myth may be disappointed to learn that brain functions are in fact already maxed out. We don’t have any untapped portions of the brain left to activate.
You Are More Than Just A Tenth Of Your Brain
Even with all the scientific proof pointing to the fact that we are already using 100% of our brains, there are still lots of people who choose to believe the myth, and it is easy to see why.
The appeal of the myth lies in the fact that people believe they have potentials that they have yet to unlock. Many believe that we can be so much more — that we can learn all languages, play all sports, and memorize all songs — if only we put our minds to it.
This myth has motivated lots of people to focus on self-improvement and additional learning. When you think of it, believing in the myth does not really harm people. It’s just misleading.
However, this should not stop us from striving to learn new things and skills. As mentioned above, whenever we focus on learning something new, our brain forms new connections and strengthens other connections as well.
Evidence from scientific research implies that we, as humans, are already using 100% of our brains. We are not wasting 90%. We just may not be fully aware of all the functions of our brain.
Exercising your brain and being motivated to learn something new every day is not all that bad, even if some may be disappointed to realize that they will not learn how to read minds or that they will not be able to unlock telekinesis or other super powers.
The cross between science and fiction can be held responsible for our fascination with developing inhuman abilities. And while this hope has been debunked, what really matters is knowing what our brain is fully capable of and accepting that we are already using 100% of it.
We are more than just a tenth of our brain. And though we are already reaping 100% of its efforts, there’s no denying that it’s capable of so much more. What remains is not unlocking what we think it can do but what it can help us achieve when we set our minds and energies to it.
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