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Do we really use only 10% of our Brains?

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I just watched a mini-documentary on 'medical myths' like the 'fact' that we only use 10% of our brain. They say that is totally untrue and we use 100% of our brain. CAT scans certainly show a lot of activity...

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only 10% of the neurons are firing at any time. this is an average. sometimes more will be firing, sometimes less. this in no way affects the processing capacity of the brain nor is it ameasure of it.

 

if all the neurons in your brain fired at once you'd probably die quite violently from muscle spasms.

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if all the neurons in your brain fired at once you'd probably die quite violently from muscle spasms.

That's essentially what a seizure is.

 

Sure, we might not use all of our brain at any one time, but humans do use most of it for different tasks.

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If we didn't use our whole brain, what purpose would the those unuseful parts have? Besides, we are the most intelligent species so I would hesitate to believe that we only use 10%! I have learned that that statement is a myth. Our consciousness may only be a small part of our brain, but we use everything else for involuntary things and storing information.

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We use only aproximately 10% of our brain at the same time, though we use all of our brain somehow, some time. Look at it this way: Can you talk to a person, read a book, jump up and down and drink orange juice at the same time? No, you can't, not at the same time, but you can do all of those things.

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Sure, we might not use all of our brain at any one time, but humans do use most of it for different tasks.

 

yes agreed.. does that mean people who can do multitask use more % of the brain?.

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That's a really good question! I think they use more % of the brain, although they might not use quite as much % of the specific areas of the brain that they're using as a person who focuses on only one task. Good question.

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I just watched a mini-documentary on 'medical myths' like the 'fact' that we only use 10% of our brain. They say that is totally untrue and we use 100% of our brain. CAT scans certainly show a lot of activity...

 

The myth that humans only use 10% of their brain comes from a century ago, long before anyone could measure precise brain activity. It is perpetuated by people who want to argue that humans could do much more, particularly much more paranormal things (mental telepathy, ESP, telekinesis are favorites). Modern medical techniques conclusively show that normal brains use all parts. So, some people who want to salvage the idea that we could have paranormal powers now say that people with those powers use more of their brain at a given time. But, that is like saying that a pianist only uses 1% of a piano keyboard at a time, and if he used more, he would make better music. The true power of the brain can only be harnessed by accurately coordinating the activity of each part in its proper turn, not by turning on more of the brain at one time.

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yes agreed.. does that mean people who can do multitask use more % of the brain?.
The idea that some humans can multitask is a myth. Humans have one focus of attention. They may be able to switch that focus quickly between tasks (some better than others), but nobody can split it between two tasks in parallel.

 

To test this, take a book and turn on the radio to a talk show. Try to read a paragraph and listen to the chat at the same time. You'll find that if you are successfully reading (i.e. reading and understanding), then you won't be hearing the conversation (i.e. you won't know what has been said for the time you were reading). If you are hearing the conversation, then you won't be able to follow the text.

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I think some motor skills can be "multi tasked" though, I can be pouring a coffee with one hand and stirring soup with another, or pulling the clutch in with my left and braking with my right hand and foot whilst dropping down the gears with my left foot.

I mean look at a drummer they have loads of stuff going on at once, or even a keyboard player.

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I think Glider's point applies there as well. You are NOT doing both things (motor skills) in parallel, you are very very quickly switching between them (in terms of your focus).

 

Attention is a fascinating topic... Perhaps we can take this thread in that direction since the whole "only use 10%" thing has been debunked.

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That's the difference between focusing on multiple things at once and performing multiple tasks at once. The latter is possible, but only when those tasks have become familiar enough so as to be automatic and not require our conscious attention. That's why you can, for example, walk and talk at the same time.

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I agree with Sisyphus, you can't do two demanding tasks simultaneously, but you can do a few non-demanding tasks simultaneously. =)

 

And the "we only use 10% of our brains" is definitely a myth.

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only 10% of the neurons are firing at any time

 

Not true, the percentage of neurons active at any given time fluctuates wildly. Putting any fixed number like "10%" on it is silly.

 

I think Glider's point applies there as well. You are NOT doing both things (motor skills) in parallel, you are very very quickly switching between them (in terms of your focus).

 

Also not true, the neocortical hierarchy is constantly processing vast quantities of both sensory and state information in a highly parallel manner.

 

The interesting part about neocortical behavior is that only unexpected patterns move up the hierarchy. Patterns which were predicted at lower levels are handled at that level.

 

There's also a multitude of feedback loops between sense processing and motor control (i.e. the cerebellum) that can bypass the neocortex entirely.

 

Think of the multitude of movements that must be accomplished in unison in order to accomplish any given task.

 

I like to think of Marvin Minsky's example of walking through a coffee shop talking to your friend while balancing a coffee cup on a saucer...

 

You are not constantly switching your attention between moving your feet and processing sense data from them as well as the entirety of your body (kinesthesia) to ensure you don't fall, ensuring the coffee cup remains balanced on the saucer, and processing your friend's speech while formulating your response.

 

Instead different sense areas are processing all of this information in parallel. For your average adult, the act of walking and balancing the saucer is effectively "unconscious" until the lower levels of your neocortical hierarchy sense something is amiss.

 

The speech processing is also unconscious.

 

Your conscious attention is devoted to processing the meaning of your friend's speech, and formulating your response. The rest of it is being handled concurrently in an unconscious manner by several different brain systems working in unison. There's no "task switching" involved (although you can be sure the higher levels of your neocortex will come into play as soon as you realize you tripped and/or spilled your coffee)

 

Bottom line: your brain isn't a von Neumann architecture. It's massively concurrent and fully asynchronous.

 

I think Glider's point was more along the lines of Dennett's "Joycean Machine" (as described in Consciousness Explained): consciousness operates by rerepresenting a single series of symbols to itself.

 

That's why you can't have two inner monologues that talk over each other (unless you're schizophrenic)

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The interesting part about neocortical behavior is that only unexpected patterns move up the hierarchy. Patterns which were predicted at lower levels are handled at that level.

 

Thank you for that. :)

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I think some motor skills can be "multi tasked" though, I can be pouring a coffee with one hand and stirring soup with another, or pulling the clutch in with my left and braking with my right hand and foot whilst dropping down the gears with my left foot.

I mean look at a drummer they have loads of stuff going on at once, or even a keyboard player.

Basically, what Bascule said. Learned motor skiils (e.g. playing a guitar, riding a bike, driving a car etc.) are known as automaticities. These are ballistic patterns of motor function that are cpontrolled by the cerebellum and, once initiated, can be carried out to completion without any conscious input from the individual. Conscious input is only required to modulate the action.

 

I think Glider's point was more along the lines of Dennett's "Joycean Machine" (as described in Consciousness Explained): consciousness operates by rerepresenting a single series of symbols to itself.

 

That's why you can't have two inner monologues that talk over each other (unless you're schizophrenic)

Exactly. The brain processes huge amounts of information in parallel, but can only deal with novel incoming information consciously in a linear way.

 

I'm not sure about the schizophenic thing though. Whilst a person with schizophrenia may not recognise the 'inner voice' as their own, and that inner voice may even even take two opposing positions (as in a debate), I think the situation where two separate voices overlapped (i.e. 'spoke' at the same time) would require a fundamental rewiring of neural architecture. In the same way as when drunk or after suffering a blow to the head, a person might see double (as the eyes lose ocularmotor coordination with each other), but the TV/Hollywood 'comedy' depiction of a person seeing three or more of the same image is not possible as we have only two eyes. To see more than two images would require more than two eyes.

 

But, as I say, I'm not sure. I don't know enough about the condition.

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several of you have already explained what was my hunch about that claim. The purpose of the claim is obviously to say that there are parts of our brain which lay completely dormant and inactive. That if were activated would result in magical supernatural abilities and perceptions. The claim was either deliberately designed to be misleading, or ignorantly snatched and popularized by some dope trying to justify unscientific beliefs. And apparently most people dont give much thought to it when they hear it.

 

The claim is absolutely true, but neglects crucial elements that compose the whole fact. It simply isnt specific enough. Yes we only use around ten percent at a time, but we use every part at some time. There are no 'untapped' areas of the physical brain. Anyone who gave a moments thought to it would realize that if the entire brain were active it would simply be a huge electrical error, most certainly resulting in death.

 

Would it even be theroetically possible to activate the entire brain? how much energy would that use, and would it be possible to direct that magnitude of energy into that particular skull encased pink organ?

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I think there are approximately 2 billion neurons, and as IA said, only about 10% are firing at the same time!

This fact surprises a lot of people, and once a friend of my asked why can't we use 100% of the brain.

 

Imagine a big field with 2 billion people on it, and each person knows 10000 other people. And imagine each one of them talking to other 10000 people at the same time! Sound quite absurd doesn't it!! Well, that 100% of brain usage.

 

Cheers,

Shade

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Basically, what Bascule said. Learned motor skiils (e.g. playing a guitar, riding a bike, driving a car etc.) are known as automaticities. These are ballistic patterns of motor function that are cpontrolled by the cerebellum and, once initiated, can be carried out to completion without any conscious input from the individual. Conscious input is only required to modulate the action.

 

SNIP

 

Even better, the moment you actually start thinking about those actions, you dont know what you need to do anymore

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dammit you just made me think about my breathing...

 

one mistake above is the idea that no one can read two pages simultaneously, or listen to two things at the same time.

 

there are a couple autistic individuals who regularly read two pages at the same time and can then proceed to quote word for word every page and paragraph in the book. If the brain can handle certian things in parrallel why not others?

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Anyone who gave a moments thought to it would realize that if the entire brain were active it would simply be a huge electrical error, most certainly resulting in death.

 

Would it even be theroetically possible to activate the entire brain? how much energy would that use, and would it be possible to direct that magnitude of energy into that particular skull encased pink organ?

 

Like you said, activating every neuron at the same time would be completely useless and would interfere with your vital functions. It would be like epilepsy but much worse. As to whether that would be possible, I imagine it could be induced for a while, but would very rapidly become unsustainable due to oxygen demand and heating. It would be useless and fatal in several ways.

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dammit you just made me think about my breathing...

 

one mistake above is the idea that no one can read two pages simultaneously, or listen to two things at the same time.

 

there are a couple autistic individuals who regularly read two pages at the same time and can then proceed to quote word for word every page and paragraph in the book. If the brain can handle certian things in parrallel why not others?

Well, to test that idea, take a page of text, pick a word and focus on the centre letter of that word so you can read the word. Do not move your eyes from that letter and see if you can read the words to either side of it. As long as you don't move your eyes, you'll find that you won't be able to read the words to either side of that word if they are longer than about 3 letters.

 

This is because although we think we have fairly acute vision, our visual acuity is limited to the centre of our visual field; the tiny focal point on the retina (the fovea) with the highest concentration of cone cells. Outside of that point, there are fewer cone cells and more rod cells. There are many rod cells to each retinal ganglion cell and so peripheral vision lacks the acuity required to read text. It can't detect enough detail.

 

So, given that human eyes can detect enough detail to read, only in a point large enough to allow us to read one average length word at a time, I doubt that any human, autistic or otherwise, can read two whole pages simultaneously. So the assertion that these individuals can read two whole pages simultaneously contradicts the basic physiology of the human eye.

 

What they might be able to do however, is to scan across pages, encoding text to memory as they go.

 

As for listening to two different things simultaneously, the same thing applies in priciple. We can hear two monologues at the same time, but we cannot listen to both at the same time (i.e. focus sufficiently to discern the full meaning of both). What we may be able to do (with practice) is to switch quickly from one to the other, picking up a sufficient number of words in each to allow us to 'fill in the blanks' to make each monologue seem contiguous and make sense.

 

This essentially is the same thing speed readers do. They scan lines of text, working on the 'shapes' of sentences and relying on their brain to fill in the detail (as it tends to do). They only need to detect sufficient detail to reduce the probability of error to whatever they consider an acceptable level.

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