Neuroscience News

Neuromyth: We only use 10% of our brain

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From The Guardian:

The recent film Lucy is based on the most classic brain misconception: that we only use 10% of our brain. But it’s had a considerable amount of flack for this already, suggesting that many people are wise to this myth. We also saw the recent release of Susan Greenfield’s new book Mind Change, all about how technology is changing (damaging?) our brains. This is a worryingly evidence-free but very common claim by Greenfield. Depressingly common, as this blog has pointed out many times. But now even the non-neuroscientist reviewers aren’t buying her claims.

Really? Some out there are beginning to get wise to all the nonsense marketed as science? Where will this end?

The rest of Dean Burnett’s column is an entertaining sendup of crackpot neuroscience by going it just slightly one better. See, for example, “The Nimoy nucleus.”

See also: Man born without connection between two halves of brain functions normally—at 88 (So another lecture hall neuroscience myth bites the dust)

Watch for my upcoming series at Evolution News & Views on what happens when we try naturalizing the mind. A toad in ballet slippers never looked as weird as what happens then.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

5 Replies to “Neuromyth: We only use 10% of our brain

  1. 1
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Some out there are beginning to get wise to all the nonsense marketed as science?

    When was this ever marketed as science? (I’m sure that BA77 will provide a link blast to answer me).

    This has only ever been a myth.

  2. 2
    computerist says:

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  3. 3
    Axel says:

    It was clearly marketed as basket weaving. How anyone could think otherwise beggars belief, doesn’t it, Humph?

  4. 4
    leodp says:

    Though an alluring idea, the “10 percent myth” is so wrong it is almost laughable, says neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Although there’s no definitive culprit to pin the blame on for starting this legend, the notion has been linked to the American psychologist and author William James, who argued in The Energies of Men that “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” It’s also been associated with Albert Einstein, who supposedly used it to explain his cosmic towering intellect.– SciAM

    I’m good with this but… why do people with similar sized brains have such a wide range of differing IQ’s? IQ /= brain size. And how can some people have a significant chunk of their brains removed (due to cancer or trauma) apparently recover completely? (Both these questions simply must be due to 90% of my brain idling.)

  5. 5
    Langalf says:

    I was taught back in college decades ago, that this myth arose from early studies of brain function. The researchers worked on a conscious human subject, electrically stimulating different areas of the brain. They looked for motor responses, or asked the subject what he was sensing or remembering. Since their rather crude methods did not produce a measurable response for 90% of the brain, the conclusion was only 10% of the brain was used. (I cannot site a reference to this research, this was a long time ago 🙂 )

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