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IQ Test Labs Monthly Newsletter

Issue 1.1

In this month's issue

  1. Puzzles and Teasers
  2. Article: Do we use only 10% of our brains?
  3. Quotes and trivia
  4. Book Review
  5. Word of the month
  6. Latest news and developments

Mathematical Brain Teaser

You begin reading a book 240 pages long. If you read half of the remaining book each day how long would it take you to finish the book?

Logic Brain Teaser

You are at a game show and there are three closed doors. There is a prize hidden behind one of the doors and the game show host knows where it is. You are asked to choose a door. The game show host then opens one of the other two doors showing that it is empty and asks you if you would like to change your selection. Should you stick to your original selection?

Lateral Brain Teaser

There is a barrel with no lid and some beer in it. "This barrel is more than half full," said Chuck. "No it's not," say Joe. "It's less than half full." Without any measuring implements and without removing any beer from the barrel, how can they easily determine who is correct?


What do these words have in common: age, blame, curb, dance, evidence, fence, gleam, harm, interest, jam, kiss, latch, motion, nest, order, part, quiz, rest, signal, trust, use, view, win, x-ray, yield, zone?


What has no content yet you can see it?

Do we only use 10% of our brains? by Dr. Eric H. Chudler

Let me state this very clearly:

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that we use only 10% of our brains.

In other words, the statement, "We use only 10% of our brains" is false; it's a myth. We use all of our brain. Let's look at the possible origins of this myth and the evidence that we use all of our brain.

Where Did the 10% Myth Begin?

The 10% statement may have been started with a misquote of Albert Einstein or the misinterpretation of the work of Pierre Flourens in the 1800s. It may have been William James who wrote in 1908: "We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources" (from The Energies of Men, p. 12). Perhaps it was the work of Karl Lashley in the 1920s and 1930s that started it. Lashley removed large areas of the cerebral cortex in rats and found that these animals could still relearn specific tasks. We now know that destruction of even small areas of the human brain can have devastating effects on behavior. That is one reason why neurosurgeons must carefully map the brain before removing brain tissue during operations for epilepsy or brain tumors: they want to make sure that essential areas of the brain are not damaged.

Why Does the Myth Continue?

Somehow, somewhere, someone started this myth and the popular media keep on repeating this false statement. For example one advertisement for an airline states: "It's been said that we use a mere 10% of our brain capacity. If, however, you're flying **** from **** Airlines, you're using considerably more." Soon, everyone believes the statement regardless of the evidence. I have not been able to track down the exact source of this myth, and I have never seen any scientific data to support it. According to the believers of this myth, if we used more of our brain, then we could perform super memory feats and have other fantastic mental abilities - maybe we could even move objects with a single thought. Again, I do not know of any data that would support any of this.

What Does it Mean to Use Only 10% of Your Brain?

What data were used to come up with the number - 10%? Does this mean that you would be just fine if 90% of your brain was removed? If the average human brain weighs 1,400 grams (about 3 lb) and 90% of it was removed, that would leave 140 grams (about 0.3 lb) of brain tissue. That's about the size of a sheep's brain. It is well known that damage to a relatively small area of the brain, such as that caused by a stroke, may cause devastating disabilities. Certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson's Disease, also affect only specific areas of the brain. The damage caused by these conditions is far less than damage to 90% of the brain.

The Evidence (or lack of it)

Perhaps when people use the 10% brain statement, they mean that only one out of every ten nerve cells is essential or used at any one time? How would such a measurement be made? Even if neurons are not firing action potentials, they may still be receiving signals from other neurons. Furthermore, from an evolutionary point of view, it is unlikely that larger brains would have developed if there was not an advantage. Certainly there are several pathways that serve similar functions. For example, there are several central pathways that are used for vision. This concept is called "redundancy" and is found throughout the nervous system. Multiple pathways for the same function may be a type of safety mechanism should one of the pathways fail. Still, functional brain imaging studies show that all parts of the brain function. Even during sleep, the brain is active. The brain is still being "used," it is just in a different active state. Finally, the saying "Use it or Lose It" seems to apply to the nervous system. During development many new synapses are formed. In fact, some synapses are eliminated later on in development. This period of synaptic development and elimination goes on to "fine tune" the wiring of the nervous system. Many studies have shown that if the input to a particular neural system is eliminated, then neurons in this system will not function properly. This has been shown quite dramatically in the visual system: complete loss of vision will occur if visual information is prevented from stimulating the eyes (and brain) early in development. It seems reasonable to suggest that if 90% of the brain was not used, then many neural pathways would degenerate. However, this does not seem to be the case. On the other hand, the brains of young children are quite adaptable. The function of a damaged brain area in a young brain can be taken over by remaining brain tissue. There are incredible examples of such recovery in young children who have had large portions of their brains removed to control seizures. Such miraculous recovery after extensive brain surgery is very unusual in adults.

So next time you hear someone say that they only use 10% of their brain, you can set them straight. Tell them,

"NOT TRUE; We use 100% of our brains."

If you find any news articles or advertisements using the 10% myth, please send them to: Dr. Eric H. Chudler; Dept. Anesthesiology, BOX 356540; University of Washington; Seattle, WA 98195-6540

Quotes and Trivia

A jellyfish has no brain.

Studies show that IQ is modestly related to the speed at which you do some pretty simple things such as comparing two lines to see which is longer.

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.--William Butler Yeats

Book Review - Match wits with mensa

Match wits with the 70,000 certified geniuses of Mensa, the high-IQ society! Here are more than 800 fun mindbenders to exercise every part of your brain - word games, trivia, logic riddles, number challenges, visual puzzles-plus tips on how to improve your thinking skills. All the puzzles have been tested by members of American Mensa, Ltd., and include the percentage of Mensa testers who could solve each one, so that you can score yourself against some of the nation's fittest mental athletes.

Word of the month

ailurophile (eye-LOOR--uh-fyle, ay-LOOR-) noun One who loves cats. [Greek ailouros, cat + -phile.]

Word in context: "It's said in publishing that no cat book ever loses money. Maybe it's true: bibliophiles tend to be ailurophiles, and both are tenacious breeds." Toth, Emily, Meow mix, Women's Review of Books, 1 Jul 1995.

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