MadSci Network: Neuroscience

Re: Where can I find documentation that supports that we use 100% of our brains

Date: Thu Apr 20 17:13:53 2000
Posted By: Peter Simpson, Staff, Neuroscience, Merck Sharp & Dohme
Area of science: Neuroscience
ID: 956087185.Ns

This myth that "nine-tenths of your mental potential lies unused" is peddled by
advertisers, not by mainstream scientists. It's a tempting thought that some
new learning technique or mind-altering substance could unlock our potential
to be superbeings. Sadly, there is no evidence to support it from
neuroscience, rather the reverse. Neurological disorders, like Parkinson's
Disease, affect only specific areas of the brain. The damage caused by such
conditions is far less than damage to 90% of the brain. Yet, their effects
are devastating and in time fatal. It is true that at any one time some
parts of the brain are much more active than others, as can be shown using
brain imaging techniques. When we speak a foreign language, certain language
centres become highly active, or when we are making fine movements with our
hands such as watchmaking, other movement control centres are highly active.
However the rest of the brain is not sitting around pointlessly - it is
either involved in background activities to maintain posture, attention,
visual attentiveness, speech, etc that are needed for these activities, or
regions of the brain with other 'jobs' such as the auditory and olfactory
cortex regions (specialised brain regions involved in hearing and smell
functions respectively) are ready for an input. The visual cortex for
example is highly specialised and if we have our eyes closed we are not 
'using' this part of the brain much, but becase it is specialized it cannot
be immediately employed for other functions. Remodelling of brain structures
to meet new needs is possible, particularly in the young who have more
'plastic' nervous systems than adults. But while not all the brain need be
actively involved in every task at all times, we certainly do not have a big
black hole of a brain with little spots of light that are all that is ever
used. As for references, online sources of information on this topic include
the following.

  • Dr. Eric Chudler wrote two of these and makes the arguments more succinctly than I can. I hope they are helpful in winning your argument! Regards, Peter.

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