Are we only using 10% of our brain?

Photo Source: MANGTRE Team

If you are someone who watches movies or simply knows concepts in the current pop culture, you would probably have heard of the concept that us humans only utilize 10% of our total brain capacity. To give a context to how popular this concept is, a survey from 2013 found that around 65 percent of Americans believe that we only use 10 percent of our brain.

Believers of this concept argue that through the years of evolution, our brain has the capacity to work much more efficiently than we are currently using and hence in the future humanity will one day harness our full mental capability. By this logic, if using only 10% of our brain can land us on the Moon then a fully utilized brain with strong mental capability must mean that we can practically outdone everything we have been doing and more in the future, right?

Well, the idea does seem mental (pun intended), but what does science say about this concept?

For a start, the brain is truly an impressive organ that contains about 100 billion neurons carrying information constantly both while we’re awake and while we’re sleeping. In terms of its function, the brain not only allow us to think, it also practically the organ that brings us consciousness and determine how we experience the world around us. In other words, the brain is one important machine that undoubtedly is the most complex organ in the human body.

But what about its capability, and are we utilizing it to the fullest?

As fun as it may sound, the whole concept is a myth according to neurologist Barry Gordon in Scientific American. In fact, the opposite is true: the majority of our brain is almost always active.

This is debunked through the usage of a brain imaging technique known as the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which measures the activity of the brain while a person is performing different tasks. Using this technique, researchers were able to pinpoint that most of our brain is in use very frequently and even when we are doing very simple actions (including when we’re resting or sleeping). While how much of the brain we use at a time depends on the task that we’re doing (for instance thinking about a complicated topics tend to make our brain work harder than easier one), it is concluded that we are definitely using more than 10% of our brain most of the time and using a lot of our brain every day.

But if there is one thing that is true about this myth is that our brain can definitely decrease in capability over time if we do not live a healthy lifestyle.

To ensure that your brain is sharp and healthy, aim for eating a high amount of fruits and vegetables that have “dark” skins such as spinach, broccoli, blueberries, red peppers and sweet potatoes. These fruits are often rich in vitamin E and beta carotene, which promote brain health and function. Other obvious means such as regular exercising and using the brain often in everyday life (such as reading or doing tasks that require high mental participation) have also shown to greatly improve brain health.