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The Useless Brain Myth

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I keep hearing and reading that we use only about 10% of our brain, so we must buy these brain exercises and supplements. The idea that we use only 10% of our brain is a 100% myth.

Brain scans of various kinds have shown we regularly use all of the brain. Dr. Robert H. Shmerling of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass, states that "some parts of the brain are more active at any given time or during a particular activity. Some parts may be less critical for important functions, such as breathing, speaking, understanding, or walking. And the brain is remarkably adaptable, so one part can take over, or compensate, for another. But there is no part of the brain that is known to be unused or completely unnecessary."

This myth must have started way before researchers had reliable ways of measuring brain activity with MRI and PET scans, which can detect brain acitivity in the different parts of the brain.

There may be some redundancy across some parts of the brain, which would explain why one part of the brain can sometimes take over, or compensate, for another part when there is some brain damage.

Studies of human evolution has found that the human brain has slowly increased in size over the course of thouands of years. If 90% of the brain was regularly not used, the size of the brain would have decreased.

Be wary of sales pitches for expensive products that will increase brain activity above their claims that we use only 10% of our brain. You can keep the brain healthy and vibrant with good nutrition, cardiovascular exercise, and lots of brain stimulation. So, come to the Y for your favorite exercise, eat healthy food, and learn something new every day.