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Patrick Ellz

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Why do we (as humans) only use a small percentage of our brains?

The average homo-sapien only uses 12% of their brain, is it possible to increase the capacity if we consciously think about using more of our brain? The body has amazing ways of healing itself, and primitive communication skills could be unlocked. Is it possible to become psychic? Can you train your brain without expensive schooling, or repetition?

Topics: brain activity
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    Oct 11 2011: I agree with Christopher. We do use the whole of the brain and not all at once. Not all of it is dedicated to conscious thinking. Brain research tells us that much of it is used in maintaining the automatic functions of the body(the brain stem's job), much is used in interpreting the input from our exterior senses, much is used to store memories long term of every sensory input, and some it is used in thinking but not in a single isolated area of the brain. Brain scans have shown that when a person thinks both the left side and the right side of the brain are activated. We store memory all over the brain and some theorize that it is tied to the senses. Let me give and example. Maybe one time you smelled a scent that brought out a childhood memory. That is the olfactory area of the brain stimulating the associated memories. Taste can do the same thing. I ask my students how they get to school and they can quickly and accurately tell me the left and right turns, stops either at lights or signs and the approximate amount of time it takes them to get there. It plays out the same if they are new students or students I have had for the last couple of years. The study of the brain has been and is an ongoing research and people like Erick Jensen and Maria Wolf have done major books and pieces on how the brain works in education. It is a wonderfully complex organ that is either use it or lose it. Brain pruning starts at around age 2 when the brain sluffs off several billion brain cells that are not used. Research also shows that there are some patterns built into the brain from birth. Thinking and memorizing does help because it links the neurons together each time they fire together. The neurons that fire together more wire together more and get stronger and stronger. Think of a path across a grass area. The first time it has little impact but the 100th time it starts to become a trail. Thinking, meditation, contemplation, and learning make the trails.
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    Oct 11 2011: Hi Patrick,

    [I am copying here a response I made to a similar comment back in July]

    The idea that we only use 10% [or 12%] of our brain capacity is a "myth." We use it all.

    Do we "live up to its potential?"

    Probably not. But there are no untapped or latent bits that, if we brought them "online," would give us a cognitive boost.

    The myth is attributable to an erroneous - quantified - reference to William James' work and was cited (I think) in the introduction to Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People."
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      Oct 11 2011: Nice concise summation of the facts about brain usage
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    Oct 12 2011: This is a great conversation. Human's brain is the most valuable resource we have & importantly it is equally distributed to every person & every nation.
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    Oct 12 2011: Hi Patrick,

    Here is the quote from James that is believed to be the source of the myth. Others, such as Einstein, have said similar things.

    “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” - William James ("The Energies of Men," p. 12, (1908.))

    The "10%" entered into the myth when the phrase "small part" was quantified. As I mentioned, I think that originally occurred in the introduction to Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." After quoting James, Carnegie said, "The sole purpose of this book is to help you discover, develop and profit by those dormant and unused assets."*

    He did not use any specific number.

    * That's from my 1981 "Revised" Edition; the original was published in 1936. If he used a numerical value in earlier editions, I don't know. Not many people read James (relatively speaking) but, as of 30 years ago, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" had sold over 15 million copies.
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    Oct 11 2011: i'm glad to see that this old misconception is evolving. it was 10% back than, now it is 12. it shows that people 30 years ago swallowed any stupidity as long as it was interesting. today, you need to avoid round numbers to sound authentic.

    in fact, this 10/12 percent "usage" always lacked any observational basis. it is just a mental virus, a meme, the source of which is unknown.
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      Oct 11 2011: I like the one about the 15,000 neurons you lose every day, as soon as you're 18.
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      Oct 11 2011: Gerald, the brain neuron sluffing starts at about age 2-3 and it is billions of neurons but does eventually stop. IF you are losing 15,000 neurons a day as soon as you are 18 you must be watching way toooo much TV!!!!!!!! or listening to political candidates debate one of the two :)
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    Oct 11 2011: We use all our brain just not simultaneously,

    Just like we use all our muscles, but not while chewing our dessert.
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    Oct 13 2011: nope i think you got that one worng mate. We use different parts for different processes but it usually all lights up at different stages. However i have met a few where clearly very little seemed to be being used.
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    Oct 11 2011: Agreed with @ Christopher & @James

    May be it would be good to know what % of our brain all the time working beyond our consciousness e.g. to run the circulatory system, respiratory system etc etc....

    Thinking, analyzing , memorizing etc are just a part of brain's job.....
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      Oct 11 2011: I got this out of an article from Scientific American
      "Although it's true that at any given moment all of the brain's regions are not concurrently firing, brain researchers using imaging technology have shown that, like the body's muscles, most are continually active over a 24-hour period. "Evidence would show over a day you use 100 percent of the brain," says John Henley, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Even in sleep, areas such as the frontal cortex, which controls things like higher level thinking and self-awareness, or the somatosensory areas, which help people sense their surroundings, are active, Henley explains."
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        Oct 31 2011: Yep I was just reading about the paradoxical sleep. REM sleep when for all intense purposes if you someone was mapping your brain they might think you were awake.