How Much Of Your Brain Do You Really Use?

by Pamela J. Hobart

Modern life, with all its digital gadgets and multitasking, is more than a little taxing on the brain. It would be extremely convenient if each of us had a secret reserve of brain power lying in wait, summonable with the right supplements or enough meditation or sleep. We've all heard the rumor that humans use only 10 percent of their brains, but according to science, this is hardly the case. Though the myth won't die, neuroscience proves that you use most of your brain most of the time.

Although this "10 percent of your brain" myth has been debunked before, new research via Gizmodo shows that multiple regions of our brains are involved in completing even fairly simple tasks. Researchers from the University of Tübingen in Germany, MIT, and Princeton collaborated on a study titled "Cortical Information Flow During Flexible Sensorimotor Decisions." The results, recently published in premier academic journal Science, indicate that during a motion and color processing task, activity flowed through participants' brains all around 108 electrodes — not limiting itself to discrete regions, or just 10 percent. Though the pattern of motion changed depending on the activity, it was always widespread.

None of this is to say that certain areas of the brain aren't more implicated in some types of processing than others (there are color-processing parts of the brain, motion-processing parts of the brain, and so on). And we've known since at least Freud (and now also from the behavioral economists) that our brains do some things totally subconsciously too, sometimes including even fairly complicated decision-making.

Still, the world is a complex place, confronting us with mixed stimuli all the time, and it really doesn't make any sense that our brains would have evolved little modules working in complete isolation from one another. If you want your brain to work better, it's not effective to go searching for its non-existent dormant chunks. Instead, eat some brain food, get some sleep, and let your complicated noggin do its already interconnected thing.

Image: ra2 studio/Fotolia; Giphy