The myth of 10% brain usage

In the article brought to your attention, we will talk about a very topical topic that worries the minds of many people today – this is the use by a person of his brain. For quite a long time, there has been an opinion that a person uses his brain only by 10%. However, in our time, this opinion has been refuted by many researchers, due to which it has passed into the category of so-called myths.


About the myth itself and its origin

Speaking about this myth more specifically, we can say that opinions about 10% differ: some scientists tend to believe that a person uses the brain not 10%, but 7%, others say that ordinary people use the brain in general only 5%, and 10% are only geniuses, such as, for example, Albert Einstein. There is also a hypothesis that somehow a person can increase the use of his brain. But be that as it may, at present the percentage of use of the brain, according to the myth, is negligible compared to all its capabilities.

As one of the versions of the origin of this myth, the results of the work of two philosophers – William James and Boris Sidis are given. Back in 1890, they developed the theory of the accelerated development of the child. The test subject was the son of Boris Sidis, William Sidis. As a result of their work, the IQ level of the child prodigy reached a maximum of 250-300. William himself stated that people use the potential of their brain to a minimum, and Professor James said that this minimum is just 10%.

The myth of 10% brain usage

There is also a second version of the origin of the myth – this is a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of neurobiological research conducted at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. So, for example, the functions of a large number of brain regions are so difficult to study and understand that the consequences of any damage are not obvious, which made it difficult for scientists to understand their purpose. Psychology professor James Kalat notes that already in the first half of the 20th century, neuroscientists were aware of special "local" neurons, but their functions were unknown. This could also be the reason for the emergence of the myth we are considering about 10%.


Scientific debunking of the 10% brain usage myth

Even today, when technology and science have reached the highest level, and the functions of many parts of the brain have been sufficiently studied, some features of the interaction of cells that lead to disorders and complex behavior remain a mystery. The most difficult to understand is the question of how consciousness is formed due to the joint work of the brain departments. No single center of conscious activity has yet been defined, which is why scientific minds tend to believe that consciousness is the result of the joint work of all departments.

The myth of 10% brain usage

Turning to the question of the development of intelligence, it is worth noting that with the help of certain exercises it can indeed be developed, but the idea of ​​​​partially using the brain does not have serious grounds. According to the latest data, all parts of the brain are responsible for the performance of their functions, and so far not a single part has been found that would not be responsible for anything. In addition, positron emission studies and magnetic resonance imaging have shown that even in the state of sleep, all areas of the brain are active, and inactive areas can only be present in case of serious damage.

Now we can talk directly about the refutation of the myth of 10% use of the brain. So the American neuroscientist Barry Gordon said that the myth of 10% is erroneous and absurd. He gives several reasons for this.

  • Firstly, if unused parts of the brain are damaged, then its activity should not be disturbed, but even a small damage causes disruption in work.
  • Secondly, the functioning of the brain is a very energy-consuming process, which means that those 90% of the brain that are not used by a person would simply disappear over time – the brain would become smaller.
  • Thirdly, through tomography, it was possible to discover that inactive areas of the brain appear only as a result of damage to it.
  • Fourthly, each part of the brain performs its own function, and a “non-working” part was simply not found.

Neuroscientist and psychologist Barry Beyershteyen, in turn, also gives a number of arguments that refute the myth of 10%.

  • Studies of brain injuries have shown that even the slightest injury can lead to serious consequences. From this follows the conclusion that there simply cannot be inactive areas of the brain, because otherwise the damage would not affect brain activity in any way.
  • Since the brain requires a huge amount of oxygen and almost 20% of all the energy at the disposal of a person, then in the case of the "free" 90% of the brain in the process of evolution, the advantage would be on the side of those with the smallest but most efficient brain. Other individuals simply could not withstand the conditions of natural selection. And the brain itself of such a size as it is now could not have been formed, because there would be no need for it.
  • Instead of being one single mass, the brain is divided into sections, each of which is responsible for its own functions. And again it comes to the fact that for many years studying the human brain, its departments and their functions have not revealed any signs of the presence of a department that would be inactive.
  • Modern scientific developments allow scientists to record the features of the activity of individual neurons and observe how the life process of one cell occurs. And if 90% of the brain were in a state of inactivity, then the devices with which observations are made would immediately record this.
  • Brain cells have this feature: if they are not used for a long time, then their gradual degeneration occurs. This means that if a person used only 10% of their brain, then an autopsy of the brain of almost any adult could reveal a large-scale degeneration of its unused cells.
  • A large brain requires a skull to match it. And the presence of a large skull significantly increases the likelihood of death at birth. Accordingly, if 90% of the brain were not needed, then in the process of evolution, the human skull would gradually become smaller, since the brain would have to shrink in size.



Despite the large number of opponents of the myth that a person uses 10% of the potential of his brain, this topic has found and continues to be reflected in modern culture. The idea of ​​minimal use of the main organ of the central nervous system served as the basis for several feature films: The Lawnmower Man (1992), Fields of Darkness (2011), the TV series Kyle XY (2006-2009), and also formed the basis of the story Isaac Asimov Lest We Remember (1982) But the sensational film by Luc Besson, released in 2014, called "Lucy", with Scarlett Johansson in the title role, gained the greatest popularity. Thanks to the capabilities of modern computer technology, the film describes in great detail the work of the brain with an increase in the percentage of its use by a person.

The myth of 10% brain usage

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Based on the foregoing, we can conclude that there are both opponents of the myth of 10% and its supporters. Whose position you take is up to you to choose. But in any case, it is worth considering that a purely scientific approach has always been inclined to refute everything inexplicable: telepathy, telekinesis, psychokinesis and other psychic abilities; lucid dreams and exit of the astral body; shamanic journeys to the lower worlds and to other planets – all this is perceived by many scientists with a smile and skepticism on their faces.

You can, of course, evaluate everything from the standpoint of the interaction of neurons and synapses, and look for the secret of the emergence of human consciousness in chemical reactions and the structure of cell atoms. But how pleasant it still becomes from the thought that there is some kind of mystery in a human being. And let it not be possible to reveal it, but all kinds of devices and sensors speak of its impossibility. Probably, it should be so, because you can only feel it on your own experience, only having experienced it yourself. The same applies to our 10%. It is not given to us now to know how things really are. But one thing is clear for sure: if we really do not use 90% of the brain, then we have in our hands the most valuable of treasures – a huge potential for self-development and disclosure of our abilities!


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