As the new film Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman is set to be released in the cinemas this week, I feel I should attempt to dispel the unfounded premise of the film – that we only use 10% of our brains. Let me state that there is no scientific evidence that supports this statement, it is simply a myth.
The concept behind the film is that through the administration of a new cognitive enhancing drug, our female lead character, Lucy, becomes able to harness powerful mental capabilities and enhanced physical abilities. These include telekinesis, mental time travel and being able to absorb information instantaneously. Viewed as such, the human brain should be essentially capable of these feats, we just fail to push our capacity. So if we can unlock the “unused” 90% of the brain we too could be geniuses with super powers?
The beginnings of the myth
The 10% myth may have begun in the early 1900’s when the neurosurgeon Karl Lashley removed portions of the brains of rats who were trained to navigate around a maze. He found that he could damage areas of the cerebral cortex and the rats were still able to perform the task correctly, as well as behave normally. The greater the area of damage, the more impaired the rats were at the task. However, these deficits could be recovered through additional maze training and time.
Lashley proposed the principle of “equipotentiality”, meaning that different areas of the brain can carry out the same functions. He added to this the principle of “mass action” – in which the brain acts as a whole in many types of learning.
Function and dysfunction of the brain
But we know now that the brain is not a uniform structure. A small stroke can be devastating. Depending on the area damaged, different brain functions are disrupted. For instance injury to the motor cortex can lead to paralysis on one side of the body, damage to a small region of the frontal lobe known as Broca’s area results in being unable to speak. Although there is some recovery of certain functions over time due to plasticity, where alternative areas of the brain can compensate for the damaged regions, recovery is rarely complete.
For the rest of the story: http://theconversation.com/do-we-really-only-use-10-of-our-brain-30045