Research Myth 6: You Only Use 10% of Your Brain

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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How much of your brain do you use?

10% apparently. This myth has been revived in the film Lucy and plenty of people believe it. Says who?

The 10% idea is 100% false.

This neuromyth is one of the most prevalent and its one we’ve all heard of and continue to hear doing the rounds. Attributed incorrectly to super-brain Albert Einstein, you’ll see it on posters in classrooms!

Neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore says that though an alluring idea, the 10% myth is so wrong it is almost laughable.

Brain imaging research techniques such as PET scans (positron emission tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) clearly show that the vast bulk of the brain does not lie unused. Although not all parts are used at once, over the course of a whole day, just about all of the brain is used.

Does 90% of our brain get unused?

Of course not, “Brain activity scans show that even the most menial tasks activate many parts of it.”

As Dr Eric Chudler says, “It appears that there is no hidden storehouse of untapped brain power. We use all of our brain.”


Read the full Research Myths series.

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