Do You Really Use Only 10% Of Your Brain?: 9 Things You Thought You Knew About Your Brain
Over the last couple of centuries scientists have invested billions of dollars to better understand some of life’s silly mysteries such as deja vu, bizarre dreams and senior moments—but has it paid off?
Tales and theories of how the brain works have superseded science and logic for centuries. The brain is one of the most fascinating organs in the human body, and yet, as irony would have it, it remains one of the most mysterious. But that hasn’t stopped mankind from trying to learn as much about our noggins as possible. And while we’ve come a long way in our understanding of the human brain, there are a few long-standing myths that remain in circulation—so let’s lay all the myths to rest, once and for all.
Brain Fact or Myth?—Take the quiz!
1. Your brain creates new wrinkles until the age of 18, the age by which your brain is fully formed.
Myth: The ridges of your brain, the gyri, and the crevices of your brain, the sulci, are there formed in the womb. The brain wrinkles you’re born with are the brain wrinkles you have for life. There is a phenomenon known as brain plasticity that studies the ways in which the brain may change its physical state throughout life, but researchers are still in the midst of exploring.
But that’s not to say your brain never changes…
2. Your neurons get bigger and stronger when you learn something new.
Fact: New research indicates that the synapses that allow neurons to transfer information via electrical or chemicals transfers, as well as the blood cells that support neurons, do grow and increase in number as we learn. It is thought that this new phenomenon, known as brain plasticity, supports the notion that while neurons aren’t muscles, we’d all do ourselves a service to think of them as such: the more you use them, the stronger and more efficient they become.
3. As you age, you’re not capable of taking in as much information as you could when you were younger.
Myth: To the contrary, as you age, your brain is capable of taking in significantly more information—it’s just less capable of filtering out irrelevant information. In 2010, Canadian researchers found that when it came to overall memory of both relevant and irrelevant information, older adults had a 30 percent advantage over their younger counterparts. Researchers concluded that “older brains are not only less likely to suppress irrelevant information than younger brains, but they can link the relevant and irrelevant pieces of information together and implicitly transfer this knowledge to subsequent memory tasks.”
So, we have that going for us.
4. Your personality displays a right-brain or left-brain dominance.
Myth: It is thought that this myth gained steam in the 1800s when it was discovered that injury to one side of the brain caused changes in specific brain functions. More recent studies, however, confirm that both hemispheres are engaged in many different types of activities. For example, while it’s true that the left side of the brain is primarily responsible for processing grammar and pronunciation, the right side of the brain processes intonation. The two hemispheres are quite complimentary, and neither side dominates to exhibit personality traits.
5. Things like alcohol and marijuana kill brain cells that will never grow back.
Myth: Alcohol and marijuana don’t kill brain cells, however, they do alter the the dendrites found at the end of neurons. While this can temporarily sever communication between brain cells, many researchers, such as Roberta J. Pentney, professor of anatomy and cell biology at the University at Buffalo, say this is reversible.
6. You only use 10% of your brain.
Myth: Wise as he was, Albert Einstein was incorrect on this one. It is thought that this myth rose in response to a misunderstanding of neurological research in the late 19th century or early 20th century. Now we know that while various parts of the brain control different functions, emotions and senses, almost every part of the brain is engaged in any given activity.
7. You use your brain 24 hours a day.
Fact: Brain scans show that no matter what we are doing, our brains are always active. Unless brain damage occurs, every part of the brain is engaged in either a primary, secondary or tertiary manner — even during sleep.
8. Brain damage, whether mild or severe, is always permanent.
Myth: As powerful and incredible as it is, the brain is still a fragile organ. But is brain damage really permanent? It depends on the type of brain injury, according to the experts at howstuffworks.com. They explain that if neurons are damaged or lost, they cannot grow back. The synapses, or connections between neurons, however, can. Essentially, the brain is capable of creating new pathways between neurons.
9. Classical music makes you smarter
Part Fact, Part Myth: In the 1950s, a doctor claimed that classical music helped people with speech and auditory disorders. Forty years later 36 students participated in a study at the University of California at Irvine which indicated that 10 minutes of classical music could actually improve one’s IQ by up to eight points. The problem is that since this study took place, no other research team has been able to replicate the results. Additionally, one of the researchers involved in the study, Dr. Frances Rauscher, later came forward to state that they never claimed it actually made anyone smarter; it just increased performance on certain spatial-temporal tasks.