10% of the brain

I am SOOO tired of hearing (mostly hollywood writers) harping on to humans using “only 10%” of our brains.  First it’s not true, most people only get down that low when meditating or unconscious.  Most people idle at 25% to 50%, and people improvising dance and music and lyrics reach 100% regularly.

Look, Here’s the truth of it.  Think of a means of transportation: car, bike, bus.  Do you EVER use 100% of it all at once?  No.  Pretty hard to get in the trunk and the glove box at the same time at highway speeds.  Only one gear at a time, and pretty hard to sit in multiple seats.  It’s possible, even likely that you’ll eventually use every single part of a car, hopefully not the airbags, but they’re part of it too.

You only use a smaller percentage of any one device than it’s capable of doing, and you only use part of your brain all at once.  But that doesn’t make the rest of it just useless junk.  Remember the brain is pretty expensive to make, biologically speaking, and harder to maintain.  If we could live without 90% of it, it would be in our best interest not to have it.  Nature is very good at trimming away such flagrant unneeded parts.

Best origin I’ve heard of for this myth was a 1960s rat study.  College sophomores were doing maze studies and would nick out a bit of the brains of trained rats until they couldn’t solve the maze.  With about 10% left, they announced that we only use 10% of our brains and the media ran with it.  Several problems with this.  First, rats are not humans, maybe they really only do use part of their brains.  Second, no one looked at how the rats were solving the mazes: some turned left a lot, some went by smell, some looked over the walls, many incorporated several techniques at once.  Upon re-doing the experiment, they discovered that nicks in certain areas cancelled certain specific techniques and once they ran out they couldn’t solve the maze anymore.  Ironically this helped lead to a greater understanding of the various parts of the brains and what they do.  In short utterly disproving the myth they had started.