Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The 10 Percent Brain

I could not resist commenting on this one. An editorial in the Times of India (Sept. 16 2005) discussed some new findings of genes related to brain functions and the possibility that the timing of their spread in human populations coincided with the explosion of art and more recently the invention of agriculture. This research by Bruce Lahn, a geneticist at the University of Chicago, has proven to be controversial with other geneticists unable to reproduce his results. As they say, more data is needed...

But that is not what caught my eye in this article. It was this:

"What we do know is that so far, we only use one-tenth of our brain in conscious thought. In time, will we be able to harness the brainpower of the nine-tenths of our consciousness that is dormant? "

Suckers!! Falling for the one of the most enduring urban myths of all. This line is a standard way in which psychics and people who dabble in the paranormal fool their clients into tapping the undiscovered 90% of their abilities! Evolution has no foresight. Evolution does not invest in the future. The brain is an expensive organ to maintain and utilizes a large supply of the body's energy resources. It is unlikely that a brain that is 90% useless or dormant would ever develop. In brain scans it is seen that around 5% - 10% of neurons are firing during any one specific function. Which is probably how the 10% figure made it in popular imagination. However, during the course of the day, different tasks consume the functionality of the entire brain. If 100% of our neurons fired simultaneously, we would not become any smarter, but instead suffer an epileptic seizure. So next time you see an ad by a quack or Reike master promising to take you to a place no one has gone before, don't reach for the checkbook.

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