One of the most popular beliefs, under consideration.
Normally, in this type of article it is advisable not to use the first paragraph to give an answer to the question posed in the title. However, there are special cases, like this one, in which it is practically impossible to make an uncertainty that is based on the most absolute of nothing last last.
We use only 10% of the brain: one of the most popular scientific myths
No, it is not true that we use only 10% of the brain. It is a myth, in the first place, because it is based on a statement that is too ambiguous not to be (what does “use the brain” mean? How is the remaining 90% distributed?) And, secondly, because although is disguised as scientific knowledge when posed as a matter of percentages, it is not supported by empirical evidence (in fact, the origin of this idea is attributed to Albert Einstein, one of the maximum scientific references who, despite his merits, he was not specialized in the functioning of the brain ).
However, despite the imprecision of this belief, it is possible to refute it on several fronts. Precisely because, in addition to being ambiguous, it is wrong.
10% of the brain means low efficiency
First of all, it should be noted that brain tissue that is not used is probably brain tissue that is dead. Our body works by responding to the strictest criteria of efficiency, and many parts of the body that are not being wasted tend to be converted into something more useful.
Neurons, in particular, are subject to a type of ordered and programmed cell death, called apoptosis , which serves to improve the overall functioning of the brain. In this way the materials with which these cells were made are reused and space is left for other connections. At the individual level, in addition, neurons need to receive electric shocks with a certain frequency in order not to die.
A drag on evolution
Furthermore, a large and useless brain, such as one might suppose we would have if the myth of 10% of the brain were true, is an evolutionary drag . No animal is interested in having an overdeveloped organ that does not use everything it should: more than a potentiality, it is a problem. The human brain, in particular, tops the ranking of the organs that consume the most energy, and therefore it does not make sense to keep a part that is useless. It would be useless if that remaining 90% could be “unlocked” and used in the future: if it were not used by default, evolution would have smoothed it out over the millennia until it practically disappeared.
Turn on and off
Imagine for a moment that this hidden part of the brain was not located in a fixed place, but was constantly changing, and that it could not be located in a specific place in the brain, but was distributed by the neural networks that live in us. Would the belief that we only use 10% of the brain make sense? Well no, neither.
Functionally, the fact that neurons are “turned off” at certain times does not mean that they are not used. Like good nerve cells, part of the process by which neurons communicate with each other is based on the firing rate of electricity. For this reason, since the information they work with is, at certain times, the firing frequency, there must be times when there is no electrical surge traveling through the neuron. In the same way, for the brain to be useful, it is necessary that there are areas of tissue that are more active than others: when we are listening to a piece of music it is not essential to have the language centers very activated, and when we try to recognize someone’s face it is not It is necessary to mentally rehearse the sequence of tai chi positions. Having all areas of the brain intensely activated would be impractical and also have disastrous consequences for health and the maintenance of consciousness.
The unfathomable realm of the unconscious
The concept of consciousness also provides a clue as to why it is not wrong to believe that we only use 10% of the brain. The brain is basically an organ that is dedicated to maintaining unconscious processes. Consciousness is dwarfed by the huge amount of unconscious tasks we perform every day: from directing most of the facial gestures, to maintaining balance, involuntarily remembering a past experience, or associating a word we have read with a piece of music in a magazine.
The unconscious governs almost all our actions, and not because it is discreet does it cease to exist. It is possible that the myth of the 10% of the brain is based on the will to master all those processes that we cannot control and that, nevertheless, show incredible power and versatility. Unrealistic aspirations, of course, if we take into account that consciousness hardly gives us to mentally divide and multiply relatively short figures. The boundaries of consciousness may be narrow, but they do not constrain our potential.