YOU USE ONLY
OF YOUR BRAIN.
This is the most widely circulated myth about the brain. In the early
1900s, William James, the father of modern psychology, said that “the
average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her potential.” Somehow, his words were misinterpreted into people using only 10
percent of their brain. Famous people, including Nobel Prize-winning scientist Albert Einstein and anthropologist Margaret Mead, also have been
quoted as stating variations of it.
Researchers have discovered that only 10 percent of neurons are firing
in the brain at any point in time, but this does not mean that the brain
is operating on partial power. Functional magnetic resonance imagery
(fMRI) of the brain shows that 100 per cent of the brain is active and
aglow, even when you are asleep or anesthetized.
So, a more accurate statement is that some people operate at only 10
percent of their ability.
“This story is a nice metaphor to encourage and motivate people to do
more,” Molidor said. “If we only use 10 percent, our brains would be the
size of a sheep’s brain. And if you think—or worse, tell your audiences—that you use only 10 percent of your brain, then
you probably are.”
3 = Weight of your brain in pounds
4 to 6 = Number of minutes your brain can
survive without oxygen before it starts to die
8 to 10 = Number of seconds you have before
losing consciousness due to blood loss
10 to 23 = Number of watts of power your brain generates when
you’re awake. (It’s enough to turn on a light bulb!)
100,000 = Number of miles of blood vessels in your brain
1,000 to 10,000 = Number of synapses for each neuron in
100 billion = Number of neurons in your brain
DRINKING ALCOHOL KILLS BRAIN CELLS This myth conjures up images of frat boys chugging beers and head-butting each other at a keg party. Everyone is aware that alcohol consumption produces
slurred speech, inappropriate behavior,
impaired motor skills and judgment, with
the resulting hangover marked by headaches, nausea and general malaise. But
are a few nights of partying enough to kill
brain cells? No, but excessive drinking
can damage the ends of neurons, which
are called dendrites. This results in problems conveying messages between the
neurons. The cell itself isn’t damaged, but
the way that it communicates with others
is altered. According to researchers, this
damage is mostly reversible.
Alcoholics, however, can develop
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a neuro-
logical disorder that can result in a loss
of neurons in some parts of the brain.
It causes memory problems, confusion, paralysis of the eyes, lack of muscle
coordination and amnesia. The disorder
is the result of a thiamine deficiency—and
extreme alcohol consumption can interfere with the body’s absorption of this
essential B vitamin.
“Drinking red wine occasionally is good for the heart and soul,”
Molidor says, “But as Oscar Wilde said,
‘Everything in moderation, including