Well sometimes the best perspectives in lives come to you at unusual situations. I was down with fever last couple of days and as I lay there my mind full of medicines, anguish at falling ill for the nth time, and anti-biotics frying my neural pathways a strange thought came to me. How much of my brain am I using at this moment?
Now conventional thinking for the last 100 years is that we at best use 10 % of our brain. Many self-improvement Gurus have made a lot of money on books and workshops trying to help people use more of their brains. Imagine the scenario if you can use more than 10 % of your brain. You could do anything, create a product that takes the market by storm, get the much awaited promotion, crack the IIT’s or enroll into MIT as per Secretary John Kerry’s suggestion, win awards, dominate the Olympics and the list is endless.
In my quest to find the mantra for this medical miracle, I started looking for sources that will tell me how to achieve it. But blame the gloomy Bangalore weather or my physician for the strong anti biotics, I ended up on a page with a quote from the book “Don’t swallow your gum and other medical myths debunked” by Dr Aaron Carroll and Dr Rachel Vreeman. The quote goes like this “People have believed that we use only 10 % of our brain for over 100 years. Unfortunately, all that means is that people have been wrong for over 100 years” The book goes on to say “Some people even claim that Albert Einstein, first said that most people use only 10 % of their brains, or that he was a genius because he used more of his brain than the rest of us. Neither of these claims is true! There is no official record or Einstein saying such a thing.”
So the book clearly says that the 10 % theory does not hold true. Now I am looking as we speaking for verified quotes from Einstein stating this fact and I am unable to find a simple source that validates that he actually said it. If you find something do let me know.
But I was miserable at this point and needed hope, so I kept searching. Unfortunately, I found an article by Prof Barry L Beyerstein of the Brain Behavior Laboratory at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver in the Scientific American.
Prof Beyerstein says that the theory of the 10 % brain usage is untrue. He supports it by two facts
- The human brain has evolved through natural selection. That means parts of the brain and functions they control have evolved over thousands of years based on principles of what helps the human race make decisions to enable survival. Natural selection as a principle would not have allowed an organ to grow and flourish where only 10 % of it was available for use. It is not how we have evolved all these years
- The second theory is something that is supplemented by data from head accidents. According to this data, an injury to less than 10 % of the brain dramatically alters brain functions. As a matter of fact, even a 1% brain damage leaves its mark on some aspects of the body function.
I look at these two statements and I a start to do some calculations. Despite the fever the brain is working at a higher level so clearly I am maxed out at 10 % currently. So the human brain is a vital organ that weights 1300 grams. It also consumes almost 20 % of the body’s energy. So clearly as the good Prof says evolution would have never allowed an organ that consumes 20 % of our resources at all times to be built to have only 10 % utilization under normal circumstances.
On point 2, I cannot argue as I know a head injury can be dangerous and data om any ER would show how lethal a 1 % brain injury can be.
Now Prof Beyerstein attributes this 10 % myth to psychologist William James, who in this late 19th century and early 20th often has been credited with some of the most pioneering work in the field of psychology. He also used to respond to letters from people seeking advice and in one such letter he has attributed the lack of success as a direct result of not exploring one’s potential fully.
Now according to the article, adventurer and author Lowell Thomas used this statement in the preface of one of the most bestselling books of all” How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. And the rest as you know is history.
But they were wrong as well.
I feel there is no substitute for practice and hard work. I remember my time as a dental surgeon. When I started my career, I was unsure of how to use the high speed drill while preparing teeth for fixed dentures (Bridges). At this stage all I could think of was more practice on tooth preparation, but the medical laws in India don’t allow us to practice on live patients. So I had to find a way to get better to deliver the best to the patients. I used to mount extracted teeth onto ‘Plater of Paris’ casts and practice on them. It took me many days and months pf practice before I could replicate it on a patient. In my 5 years as a dental surgeon, I may have made many fixed bridges, but the key was hard work and practice. So there is no way to use more of your brain as you are already using most of it.
So in conclusion, you are using almost 100 % of your brain. As a result, you are going to like it on the blog page and share it on social media. For those planning to go above and beyond 100 % do send in your comments.