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"Humans only use a fraction of their brain"

Didier A. Depireux didier at rai.isr.umd.edu
Wed May 16 08:17:44 EST 2001

Karl Self <karl.self at gmx.net> wrote:
>     There is a popular conception, AFAIK spawned by a Church of Scientology
> ad quoting Albert Einstein, that humans only use a fraction of their brain
> (10% or one third, I do not remember).

I posted an extensive answer to that urban legend a few years ago, on this
very newsgroup. Part of my answer was:

>From William Calvin's book, "Conversation with Neil's brain" [1], there is
a quote that explains where this urban legend might come from:

        Indeed, this is the origin of that dubious factoid: "You use only
        20 percent of your brain anyway." This is true, but only in a very
        limited sense. Before the hand starts acting weak or paralyzed, a
        slowly growing tumor has to kill about 80 percent of the cells in
        the hand region of the motor strip. Yet that is a very crude test
        of function. A pianist or mechanic would probably notice problems
        long before then. And a stroke that suddenly killed perhaps 30
        percent of the neurons in the motor strip would also cause

[1] http://faculty.washington.edu/wcalvin/bk7/bk7ch1.htm

The book has some elaborations on the subject, and you should definitely
read it if you are truly interested in the question you are asking.


Didier A Depireux                              didier at isr.umd.edu
Neural Systems Lab                 http://www.isr.umd.edu/~didier
Institute for Systems Research          Phone: 301-405-6557 (off)
University of Maryland                                -6596 (lab)
College Park MD 20742 USA                     Fax: 1-301-314-9920

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