There is no scientific evidence to suggest that we only use ten percent of our brain. However, this urban legend is often talked about, and popular culture has taken it as scientific fact. Media has often cited it, with the most recent being in the 2014 film Lucy. In this blog post we will be looking at why it is not true!
Where does the myth come from? Why does it continue?
It has been misattributed to many people, including Albert Einstein. William James in 1908 also said: 'We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources'. After this, self-improvement 'experts' in the early 1900s may have used it to convince people that they had not yet reached their full potential. It has been suggested that a person may harness this unused potential and increase their intelligence.
Why is it not true?
We now know that we use almost every part of our brain, and that (most of) the brain is active all the time. Evidence for this includes:
- Brain damage: If the myth was true, damage to 90% of the brain would not impair performance, but it does.
- Brain imaging/scanning (neuroimaging), e.g. magnetoencephalography (MEG): These have shown that all areas of the brain are active (some more than others though), apart from in brain damaged individuals. Metabolic studies of how brain cells process chemicals show no nonfunctioning areas.
- Evolution: It is unlikely that large brains would have developed if it was not an advantage.
- Conditions such as Parkinson's disease or stroke that damage relatively small areas of the brain may cause devastating disabilities.
How much of it do we use then?
The next time that you hear someone say that you only use ten percent of your brain, set them straight! We use 100 percent of our brain.
- Magnetoencephalography: A neruroimaging device that measures magnetic fields produced by the brain's magnetic field.