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"We only use 10% of the brain": myth or reality?

May 19, 2024

Normally, in this type of articles it is advisable not to use the first paragraph to give an answer to the question posed in the title. However, there are special cases, like this one, in which it is practically impossible to make an uncertainty last that is based on the most absolute of the nadas.

We use only 10% of the brain: one of the most popular scientific myths

Do not, it is not true that we use only 10% of the brain . It is a myth, firstly, because it is based on a statement that is too ambiguous not to be (what does it mean to "use the brain"? How is the remaining 90% distributed?) And, secondly, because although is disguised as scientific knowledge when posed as a subject of percentages, is not supported by empirical evidence (in fact, the origin of this idea is attributed to Albert Einstein , one of the maximum scientific references that, in spite of its merits, was not specialized in the functioning of the brain).


However, despite the vagueness of this belief, it is possible to refute it on several fronts. Precisely because, as well as ambiguous, it is wrong.

10% of the brain means little efficiency

First of all, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that the brain tissue that is not used is probably a brain tissue that is dead. Our body works by responding to the strictest criteria of efficiency, and many parts of the body that are not wasted tend to be converted into something more useful .

Neurons, specifically, are subject to a type of ordered and programmed cell death, the so-called apoptosis , which serves to improve the overall functioning of the brain. In this way the materials with which these cells were made are reused and space is left for other connections. At the individual level, moreover, neurons need to receive electric shocks with certain frequency in order not to die.


A burden for evolution

In addition, a large and useless brain, like the one that we would suppose we would have in the case of being true the myth of 10% of the brain, is a ballast from the evolutionary point of view . No animal is interested in having an overdeveloped organ that does not use everything it should: more than a potentiality, it is a problem. The human brain, in particular, heads the ranking of the organs that consume more energy, and therefore it does not make sense to keep a part that is useless. It would be useless if the remaining 90% could be "unlocked" and used in the future: if by default it was not used, evolution would have been smoothed over the millennia until it practically disappeared.

Turn on and off

Imagine for a moment that this hidden part of the brain was not located in a fixed place, but constantly changed, and could not be located in a specific place of the brain, but was distributed by the neural networks that live in us. Would the belief that we only use 10% of the brain make sense? Well, no, either.


Functionally, the fact that at certain times there are neurons "off" does not mean that they are not used. Like good nerve cells, part of the process by which neurons communicate with each other is based on the rate of firing of electricity. For that reason, as the information with which they work is, at certain moments, the firing frequency, it is necessary that there are moments when there is not an electrical surge going through the neuron. In the same way, for the brain to be useful, it is necessary to have tissue areas more active than others: when we are listening to a piece of music it is not essential to have the language centers very activated, and when we try to recognize someone's face it is not It is necessary to mentally rehearse the sequence of tai chi positions. Having all areas of the brain strongly activated would be impractical and, in addition, would disastrous consequences for health and the maintenance of consciousness.

The boundless realm of the unconscious

The concept of consciousness it also allows us to obtain a clue as to why it is not wrong to believe that we only use 10% of the brain. The encephalon is basically an organ that is dedicated to maintaining unconscious processes. The conscience dwarfs the enormous amount of unconscious tasks we perform every day: from directing most of the gestures of the face, to maintaining balance, involuntarily remembering a past experience, or associating a word we have read with a piece of music in a magazine.

The unconscious governs almost all our acts, and not because it is discrete ceases to exist.It is possible that the myth of 10% of the brain is based on the will to dominate all those processes that we can not control and that, however, show incredible power and versatility. Unrealistic aspirations, of course, if we take into account that conscience barely gives us to divide and mentally multiply relatively short figures. The boundaries of consciousness may be small, but they do not constrain our potential.


Do I Only Use 10% of My Brain? (May 2024).


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