Remember hearing 'you only use 10% of your brain!' and thinking - 'wow, how smart might I be if I had access to all 100%?'
I have some good news for you.
First, let's dispel this myth:
You are actively and currently using 100% of your brain.
Let's explore why:
Every neuron in your skull is what neuroscientists consider to be 'equi-potentiated' and 'opportunistic', or in English: every neuron has the equivalent of neuron 'FOMO' ('fear of missing out') - it wants to be part of any neural network that is being activated in the brain at any time.
Why is this?
Simply put, because activated neural networks get all the good resources - oxygen, water, glucose, glycogen, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, lymphatic system attention etc. - every neuron wants to be part of activated neural networks. To make even more sense of this, imagine that you were a neuron: wouldn't you rather be where friends, food, water, activities, satisfying work, and excitement were all plentiful, while maids cleaned up after you, doctors repaired you quickly, teachers tutored you personally, cleaning crews came in after your parties to make everything as neat, tidy, operational as possible...instead of in the opposite situation...bunkered down somewhere equivalent to the sub-Saharan desert, all alone, isolated, starving, thirsty, lonely, wasting, and bored? I thought so...
So, what does this mean for our brain's functioning?
It is precisely because of this neuronal FOMO that we say 'neurons that fire together, wire together': neurons are so desperate to stay in the 'in-group', enjoying the fun, good, exciting life that they literally bond to one another, which means that practiced neural networks become increasingly concretized and harder and harder to dismantle (picture millions of little cells glued to each other and becoming increasingly tightly wound together, while adding new members all the while). Neurons that don't 'join the party' quickly starve, die, and get swept away - further 'survival of the fittest'!
It is because of our propensity to 'hard-wire' everything we can (I often call the brain a 'hard-wired haven') that we are in fact better at learning (though it is still a challenge), knowing, and remembering, than we are at forgetting (if you doubt that because you misplaced your keys four separate times today like I did, think of all the life occurrences you'd erase from memory if you could...yep, case closed.) Here's the thing: we are *so good* at detecting, processing, learning (assimilating new information into existing neural networks), remembering, that the VAST majority of this brainy effort is in fact subconscious - if we had to pay attention to all of it, we'd have no capacity for anything else, we'd be perpetually burned out, constantly overwhelmed, barely able to function. So, instead, your very intelligent brain keeps most detecting, processing, assimilating, learning, remembering, practicing etc. hidden from your conscious attention - quietly calculating and processing in the back-office background, while your consciousness takes centre-stage in the foreground.
Incidentally, this is where the idea of 'using 10% of your brain' came from: researchers in the 1980s reported at one point that they estimated 90% of all processing was subconscious (therefore 10% was conscious). Popular press misinterpreted the use of the word 'subconscious' as 'not in use' and this is where the only-10%-in-use myth came from. Further evidence that you're using 100% of your brain comes from this: the brain is the most exceptionally efficient organ out of necessity - every component of the human brain is so expensive to operate, if there were parts of itself that it could shut down or stop resourcing, it would, to save energy, effort, exhaustion!
All to say, rest assured - you are using 100% of your brain!
How do you use (all 100% of) your brain even better?
Well, this is neat: you just started!
Researchers in Australia recently tested for a proved that *just being told* the above information (that you are smarter than you think, using all of your brain, at max neural use on a continual basis) creates a better brain; one that performs better even on randomized tests while in an fMRI, as example.
Knowledge really is power: knowing your brain is more powerful than you originally thought makes it a better performer and you even smarter!
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