June 2007 - Do You Really Only Use 10% of Your Brain?
The idea that we only use 10% of our brains may turn out to be a myth, as roughly 80% of our cognitive power may be working on tasks we are completely unaware of.
According to scientists who have conducted studies using ferrets, this hidden activity may only exist in older brains, as they may occur due to the subconscious reprocessing of initial thoughts and experiences. In addition, studies proved that neural patterns in adult ferrets correlated well with images viewed, while in very young ferrets correlation did not exist. Thus, scientists concluded that understanding vision might be a different task for young brains as opposed to old ones.
Scientists found that when placed in a completely dark room, free of any visual stimulation, older ferrets’ brains continued to run at 80%. It was discovered that while watching the movie, ferrets’ neuron activity was increased by 20%.
This suggests that even with eyes closed, human adults’ brains are running at 80%, and in opening their eyes, including the additional 20%.
Scientists were intrigued to find that the ferrets’ brains were processing even though there was no image there to process. The research was aimed at figuring out if there was any connection between visual processing and real-word images. The experiment involved in the film, “The Matrix” and 12 ferrets. Scientists hoped to uncover whether there was indeed a relationship between the statistical motion seen in the film and the way visual neurons in the ferrets fired.
During the study, scientists recorded how the ferrets’ brains responded to the film, enlarged television static and a darkened room.
They found that:
- Each visual neuron in the brain is keyed to respond to certain visual elements (for example, a vertical line).
- The combined neurons process an image of many lines, colors, etc.
- Scientists were able to see a match between the ferrets’ response to the film and the actual visual aspects of the film.
The study showed that although the adult ferrets seemed to respond similarly to what was happening in the film, younger ferrets formed almost no relationship. Consequently, younger ferrets could not process the stimuli in a way that reflects reality.
To explain the disordered processing that occurs in the young brains, scientists refer to dyslexia as a comparison in that infants could very well see the world as a mass of dissimilar scenes and sounds.
Further, scientists were able to gain a deeper insight on the processing going on within the brain because the subjects tested were awake and conscious.
Science Daily, October 13, 2004
So there you have it. You use 100% of your brain, despite the fact that some days you may feel that your brain isn’t firing on all cylinders.