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Do people only use 10% of their brain?
Question Date: 2019-09-19
Answer 1:

Nope. That’s a common misconception. We use all of our brains every day, though we use certain parts more for certain things. For example, lots other areas help with speech, but there’s a region that is vital for speech. If it gets damaged, one can’t speak. Generally, if a small part of our brain is damaged, other parts of the brain can take over some of the work. That’s particularly true in young people.

We can tell what parts of the brain are active by using brain scans. You can see what they look like at: brain scans

When you think about it, it makes no sense that we would have evolved a brain that we only use 10% of. Brain cells use a lot of energy because every time a brain cell (or any nerve cell) fires, it takes energy to re-set it so that it’s ready to fire again. Cells also need to do a lot of other work just to stay alive. Our brains use about 20% of our entire body’s energy budget.

Because brains are so expensive, animals tend to have only as much as they need. Individuals with excess brains would be wasting energy on something they weren’t using and would be out-competed by individuals who weren’t wasting energy. There’s evidence that species living in groups that interact in complicated ways have larger brains. Species that do complex problem solving have larger brains than those that depend on instinct.

So why is this 10% myth so common? It appears in lots of books, movies, and TV shows. That’s why it’s important to find good scientific sources for information, and not just depend entertainment for facts. I think another reason is that it’s tempting to think we could just unleash all that power if we just tried hard enough. The 10% myth usually comes up when the story calls for people to be able to use their brains to do all sorts of things that humans can’t really do. We know so little about the brain that it can be convincing. After all, if someone said that you could just sprout wings and fly if you tried hard enough, you’d never believe them. But if they said you could move objects with your brain or see the future if you just tried hard enough, you might think, “sounds good, tell me more.”

What kinds of animals do you think need big or small brains?

Thanks for checking this myth out,

Answer 2:

Short answer- no.

Long answer- This is a long standing myth, but it is certainly not true in one way or another. If this is meant to mean "humans only use 10% of their brain ever," then this is very easy to disprove- could you cut out 90% of your brain and still function the same? Certainly not. If this were true, then on average 90% of brain injuries (assuming a random distribution of the injury locations) would have no effect on the person. We know this is not the case, as even minor concussions can have serious consequences, so removing 90% of the brain would likely be much worse.

The other scenario would be "humans only use 10% of their brain at a given time, but which 10% changes depending on the task." This is harder to prove, as it would require monitoring the firing of specific neurons, but it is still generally accepted that we use more than 10% of our brain. In any case- you certainly should not get rid of 90% of your brain.


Answer 3:

No. This is a long-standing myth which may have come about through misinterpretation or a misquote. As described here and here, the past 100+ years have supplied ample evidence that humans use far more than 10%, and practically the entire, brain. Many psychological functions have even been mapped to specific parts of the brain. There is also evidence that "spare" brain tissue is retrained if it becomes otherwise useless. If a limb is lost (about halfway down page), the part of the brain which used it (and now has no function) takes on functions of surrounding tissue; the body does not waste brain function.

Answer 4:

Thanks for the very important question!

No one is really sure where this idea that we only use 10% of our brains comes from, but scientists know that this claim is simply not true. It turns out that most of the brain is active at all times, even when you’re not thinking of anything in particular and even while you are asleep. In fact, the brain is only 3% of the body’s weight, but consumes 20% of the body’s energy -- it’s a very active brain!

The “10% myth” might be common because we cannot be aware of all the things the brain is doing. For example, the brainstem is hard at work regulating your heart-rate, something you don’t have to think about at all. As another example, the visual cortex is performing tons of complicated calculations to transform the light that makes it to your eye into our sense of sight, but you don’t sweat it. Lots of processes like these are occurring all the time without us being aware of them. So it might feel like we only have 10% of our brainpower, but a lot of things are happening beneath our conscious awareness all the time in addition to all the things you consciously think about.

Thanks again for the great question.


Answer 5:

Unfortunately, people only using ten percent of brain is a myth.

If only ten percent of the brain is used, physical trauma to the brain should have done much less damage than what we observe since there would be reserved area of brain.

Radiological imaging has also shown that the entire brain is always active regardless of what a person is doing. Only in the cases of serious brain damage would a part of the brain become complete silent.

Answer 6:

The concept that we only use 10% of our brain is not accurate. We use most of our brain all the time. Scientific studies have shown that damage to any part of the brain leads to loss of body functions. If we only use 10% of our brain, then damage to the 90% of our brain that we do not use should not result in any loss of body functions. Furthermore, brain scans have shown that no matter what we do, all areas of our brains are always active, even though they're not all highly active all the time. Some areas are more active than others, depending on the activity.

Answer 7:

neuroscience for kids

Answer 8:

No, we use more than 10% of our brains. We do probably have more ability to remember things than we ever use in our lives, however.

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