It’s still a commonly held belief amongst many people that human beings only use 10 per cent of their brains. This myth has been perpetuated by modern movies like Limitless and Lucy, which depict characters as having superhuman abilities because of their amazing capacity to use more than 10 per cent of their brain function.
This is total nonsense. Human beings use their brains to their full potential all the time. Yes, that’s a complete 100 per cent.
Brain imaging scans show that even when we carry out simple tasks like walking, speaking, and listening to music, almost all regions of the brain are active. Nerve cells in occipital, parietal, and frontal lobes are all active at some point in these acts.
If the 10 per cent myth was true, then victims of brain trauma and strokes would experience minimal to no damage. In fact, under normal circumstances, damaging even a small portion of the brain can result in severe consequences. There’s no region of the brain that can be damaged without affecting the way the body functions, because the brain is basically in control of almost all our activities—including cognitive function and the ability to feel emotion.
Also, in terms of evolution, our brains would not have evolved to be so big and complex if we used such small portions of them. If we have only been using 10 per cent of our brains since the dawn of time, we would never have been able to climb our way to the top of the food chain.
So, besides misinformed blockbuster movies, how has this myth managed to masquerade as scientific fact for so long? Research suggests it may be the result of a misinterpretation of neurological research during the 19th and 20th centuries.
For example, glial cells in the brain are 10 to 50 times more numerous than neurons. It was originally thought that they do not communicate with each other, thus leading to this “10 per cent brain” belief.
Even William James, considered to be one of the leading thinkers of the late 19th century, fell victim to this idea, writing in his book, The Energies of Men, that “we are making use of only a small part of our mental and physical resources.” Furthermore, in the 1970s, psychologist and educator Georgi Lozanov preached the teaching method of suggestopedia, which re-enforced the idea that we may be using only five to 10 per cent of our brains.
Due to influences from the media and antiquated science, a large portion of the population still believes in this ridiculous myth. Moreover, some people believe that by simply transcending this 10 per cent threshold they will be able to learn kung fu and telekinesis, just like in the movies.
Get a grip people. You should be grateful that your fully functioning brain allows you to walk and chew gum at the same time.