Myth busting the Brain.

The human brain is quite complex to understand and works in very mysterious ways. That can explain the existence of many brain-related myths such as brain size affecting intelligence, or babies listening to classical music ending up smarter than others, but there exists one such myth that has been popularized more than the others.

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It is the belief that humans use only 10% of their brains.

One of the reasons this myth has been propagated to such an extent is because of its use in pop culture. There have been several novels, books and movies that have based themselves on this myth. Recent movies like Limitless and Lucy show how to ‘hack’ your brain and ‘unlock’ its full potential.

The question arises if this is a myth, where did it originate?

No one knows exactly how this myth came into existence, but Lowell Thomas, a journalist, deserves the credit for mentioning this in his self-help book. In the 1890’s they tried to find out why there were increasing child prodigies. There was a digested theory that said that there are only a very few people who meet their full mental potential.

This lecture would become the foundation for this myth. In the 1920s, advertisements and self-help books started to propagate this myth. In 1936 Lowell Thomas wrote about this myth and provided a falsely precise number – 10. That made the belief more realistic and believable to the people.

Yes, Albert Einstein was also the target of misrepresentation through this myth, often attributed to his cosmic intellect.

It is considered that the ten-percent myth likely stemmed out of a misunderstanding in neurological research, in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Some parts of the brain were extremely complex to understand. But if injured, it would not cause a lot of damage. The misunderstanding of neurons and their functioning might have led to the ten-percent myth.

There is a possibility that people increasingly believe in this myth because it justifies their blind spots and shortcomings. However, this is not the case. Brain image scans show that almost all parts of the brain are always active, even when performing routine tasks such as talking, reading, walking, listening to music, etc.

We all know that minor injuries to the brain can cause a dangerous and devastating effect on any person. This would not be the case if 90% of the brain was inactive and had no use. The brain also contributes to three percent of the body weight and consumes 20% of the overall energy levels. It would not make any sense to consume this energy if not put into use.

The fascinating element of the brain is that there remain many questions about it and its functioning that are yet to be answered. Therefore, there could still possibly be a treasure trove of untapped potential waiting to be discovered.

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