What percentage of the human brain is used?

Tuesday 5th July 2011
Submitted by Louise Ridley
ANON

All of it! Every neuron in the brain is continually active, even if firing only slowly. Neurons that stop responding die. Even so, many people seem to believe that we use only part of our brain. It is extraordinary that such a myth can persist when it has so often been refuted. There are many stories about the origin of this myth – that early electroencephalograms could detect only a small percentage of the brain’s activity, or that early 20th-century researchers could find the functions for only about 10 per cent of the brain. Alternatively it might have come from the more sensible speculation that we use only some of our brain’s potential. Potential is hard to measure or even to conceptualise. What might each of us potentially do if given every possible stimulation, training, superfood and so on? All we can safely say is that each of us probably ‘could do better’, but not because we need to find unused bits of brain. They don’t exist.

 

GOT A QUESTION?

Scratching your head over a burning scientific conundrum? Submit your question and we'll get our esteemed panel of experts to answer it for you.

 

Do men need sex more than women?
previous qanda Article
Why does your iris have a colour?
next qanda Article
Q&A Tabs

Phlegm is the mucous secretion of the respiratory passages. The cilia cells that line these passages are continually driving the phlegm upward to the throat, where it triggers the swallow reflex...

Bulletproof vests are designed to disperse the round’s energy and deform the slug to minimise blunt force trauma. Hard body armour is made of strengthened steel plates. It is strong and...

The function of the iris is to limit the amount of light that passes through the lens to the retina. To make the iris opaque, it is coated with the pigment melanin, in varying degrees for each of...

When you enter a search in Google, you aren’t actually searching the web, you are searching Google’s index. This is compiled and continuously updated by automatic programs, called...

Beard hair is quite different to head hair; it is coarser, curlier and doesn't fall out as we get older. Comparatively little work has been done on the genetics of human hair colour, but it is...

All female mammals have a clitoris, the sole purpose of which is to react to sexual stimulation, and presumably this stimulation has evolved to be pleasurable for most species. But establishing...

To create a sound, we have to set matter - whether it's a gas like air, a liquid or even a solid material - in regular motion, creating a wave of specific frequencies, which we hear as a sound of...

Mirrors don’t reverse left and right either – that’s just our interpretation of what happens. Your reflection in the mirror is actually reversed front to back – if you have...

Discovered by an American student named Gary Flandro in the mid-1960s, the slingshot manoeuvre usually involves spacecraft briefly 'coat-tailing' a planet orbiting the Sun, extracting some of the...

The ice disappears because the wind blows away water molecules that have evaporated or 'sublimed' from the ice, so the ice slowly shrinks in size. The molecules that escape are those with the...