The idea that people only use 10% of their brains has been circulating in public awareness for a long time. But how true is this claim? And why is the spread of this belief dangerous?
Many of us have heard the conviction that we only utilize 10% of our brain’s daily activities, leaving the rest somehow inactive. It’s as if our brain is just waiting for us to tap into its hidden potential. However, let’s clarify that this notion is incorrect and has always been. Despite several scientists pointing this out over the years, it’s actually a myth.
The persistence of this myth highlights the pitfalls of drawing conclusions from outdated research. Various brain functions fully utilize the brain, but the 10% utilization is an overestimation. Due to its resource-demanding nature, the brain can only activate about 3% of its capacity at any given moment. This myth also provides room for pseudoscientific claims to thrive, as those who propagate it exploit the misconception. Behind the belief lie unsubstantiated statements that hinder the accurate understanding and application of neuroscience.
The origin of the myth remains unclear; some attribute it to early brain staining methods that highlighted only a small percentage of neurons. Another possible origin is the misunderstanding that neurons make up only 10% of brain cells, with the rest being glial cells. However, research has shown that these assertions overly simplify matters.
One thing we can state for sure is that this misconception has been around for over a century. It might have even been echoed in the 19th century. Based on this, we can say that this neurological myth has been spreading for more than a hundred years, and it persists in our modern culture.
This myth also highlights how inadvisable it is to draw conclusions based on very old research. No matter how educated, competent, and intelligent the 19th-century scientists were, they didn’t have access to the tools available today.
It’s important to note that the brain is an extremely resource-demanding and dense organ, which means there isn’t much room for vital blood vessels. Some studies suggest that this limits our ability to immediately redirect essential resources from one part of the brain to another. As a result, we can only activate, or “use,” about 3% of our brain at once.
Furthermore, the brain is an energy-intensive organ. It makes up just 2% of our body weight, but it consumes about 20% of our body’s energy simply by being active.
It’s similar to having a busy restaurant with 100 tables but only three waitstaff. The restaurant is fully utilized or utilizable, but only three tables can be attended to simultaneously.
So, with myths like this one, it’s better to view them with a critical eye.