- Written by Steve Bratteng
- Published: 17 July 2014
The meme about our using only 10% of our brains has been debunked for quite some time, and so it is a bit disconcerting to see it come up again in the ad for a new film called “Lucy.” I am guessing that one of the stars, Morgan Freeman, probably knows better. Why, heck: he played God, and he doesn’t accept the notion that such an entity exists. But it’s a pay check.
I have to admit that at times it would appear that some folks are using not even 10%; however, it’s really a nonsense notion that has no support.
There is no clear understanding of how this myth originated. It may be partly due to studies of about a hundred years ago that seemed to show that damage to some parts of the brain often had only minor effects; this may have led some to assume that a lot of the brain was not being used. Another possible contributor might be the understanding that a large portion of the brain consists of glial cells which do not have neural functioning, serving instead as scaffolding that supports neurons and creates a brain architecture capable of complex interactions. Unlike neurons these glial cells have only minimal capacity to conduct impulses. Nevertheless these cells are absolutely vital to brain function.
Recent studies show that every part of the brain has a defined function and is somewhat active essentially all of the time. This does not mean that we are not capable of using our brains more effectively, but to do so does not involve using more of the brain.
Much of modern brain science no longer is concerned with finding functions of various parts of the brain, but rather in finding how the various parts interact with one another to produce behaviors or thought patterns.
We are learning an amazing amount about how the brain works, but there remain vast areas (i.e. topics) to be explored. The University of Texas has a fairly recently-created research unit called the Center For Learning and Memory. About every other year they have a public outreach called Memory Matters at which some of the scientists present interesting aspects of their research. The CLM has a web page with links to presentations from past Memory Matters events. [link: http://clm.utexas.edu/] Under News and Events click on Memory Matters to get access to the earlier presentations. In addition to the talks, researchers from the various labs set up fascinating demonstrations of some of their work. The next event will likely be in 2016; it might be worthwhile to get on their email list so you get a reminder.
All this came up because the Austin American-Statesman sent me a chance to win tickets to see the film that comes out July 25. I have nothing to say about the quality of this movie.