True or False?

True or False? You only use 10% of your brain. This is a popular myth that has been proven false by brain imaging. While not all of the brain is active at the same time, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) shows widespread activation of the brain for even simple tasks. Take a moment to admire the connectivity of our brain in the image, made by a type of MRI called diffusion spectrum imaging.

Brain Awareness Week: Today kicks off a global campaign to focus attention on the field of neuroscience, improve public health and outreach by informing on brain research and brain disorders, and to inspire the next generation of scientists. Look for more brain posts and cool neuroscience research all this week!

Sponsored by The Dana Foundation ( and partnered with the Society for Neuroscience (

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82 Responses to True or False?

  1. Trev W says:

    That 10% thing is a rough number meaning the conscious part I thought that you control yourself. You use it all, but most of it is hard wired and automatic. Oh and of course the point of you controlling it yourself is also disputed with the free will argument.

  2. true but our intelligence may be it’s juste 1% because the most intelligent person anchtayin use only 2% lol that’s what i heard hhhhhhhhhh lol

  3. Rajini Rao says:

    This is one of the top ten myths relating to the brain 🙂 Basically, the myth is thought to have arisen from a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of neurological research done in the late 19th/early 20th century. There is even a Wiki page devoted to this:

  4. Rajini Rao says:

    Oh sorry, Gnotic Pasta ! Now you have more to ponder in the shower 🙂

  5. jouini snounou proving the point;)

  6. Rajini Rao says:

    Marc Ponomareff , attempting (and failing) to decipher that comment to which you refer took more than 10% of my brain 🙂

  7. Here’s an appropriate link for Brain Awareness Week: The “Critiques” half-way down the blog’s right-hand column are well worth checking out…

  8. Jon Thrasher says:

    Well, my dear, if YOU had taken 250 to 20,000 microgram doses of LSD an average of every 4 days or so, from 1968 to 1977′ as did I during my time with the MKUltra Program tests starting my first year at UC Berkeley, you MGHT have actually made it to the Poisition of 7th Circuit, as most researchers familiar with the theory, and I, assert .

    and then your onerclocked synapses, like mine, might look the picture posted here

  9. superb picture and information

  10. Rajini Rao says:

    Thanks, Marc Ponomareff ! Are the comments to be found in the facebook link on the right side of the blog (sorry, my brain connections and visual connections are not synchronizing)!

  11. Pawan Kumar says:

    THIS IS GOOD ………..

  12. Rajini Rao, there are some panels midway down on the right which contain ‘Critiques’ of mirror-neuron-theory and similar topics… Lots of interesting things there 🙂

  13. “The Mythbusters” busted this myth: ‘For a more representative image, the Build Team visited UCSF to do a magnetoencephalogram study. Tory took the tests this time, resulting in an overall activity of 35%. In a second test, this one involving a functional MRI scan, Tory registered 15% while at rest, but 30% as he told a story with the intent of activating as many areas of his brain as possible. Based on these totals, the team declared the myth busted.’

  14. Issac Newton? and that was measured using what?

  15. Rajini Rao says:

    That HAS to be false, Vrinda Avhad ! There was no technique advanced enough to measure brain usage of Isaac Newton (1642-1727) back then! 😀

  16. Matt Tracy says:

    The great thing about evolution is that it evolved the human brain to leave 90% of the brain sitting idle… (this is a sarcastic statement)

  17. Now that Rajini Rao you posted this and invoked curiosity in a bio-sciences challenged person (that is me) 🙂

    Now you must answer this question-

    What is the minimum part of brain needs to be transferred to another person’s skull to make the second person think he/she is the first person?

    How and where is identity stored in a brain…..?

  18. Rajini Rao says:

    Anagh Agarwal , sorry, but that myth is also not true as it implies that we have huge potential for improvement by tapping “unused” portions of our brains. This is a concept peddled by self help gurus but has been refuted by scientists many times. Do a quick google search on it, thanks! 🙂

  19. Rajini Rao says:

    mandar khadilkar , as far as I am aware, no “brain transplant” has been accomplished (unlike heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs)! A look at the connectivity in the image offers at least one explanation. Your second question is a great one! The study of dissociative identity disorders and multiple personality disorders may point to damaged or altered areas of the brain to which identity maps.

  20. Ed Ellis says:

    When you get right down to it, we really don’t know much about the old Knowledge Box. No ?

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Ed Ellis , we are learning more about that old Knowledge Box in amazing leaps and bounds. That image would never have been possible a decade ago. But of course, I agree with you in that we still have a lot to discover! It is going to be an exciting time ahead for Brain Science.

  22. pavan kumar says:

    i only kwow that by yoga/paranyam a person able to use his brain more than10%or 20% or more.

  23. Rajini Rao , let us do a thought experiment…if we take two individuals ‘A’ and ‘B’ and swap “A-left” and “B-left” of each-

    1. Who will think -I am ‘A’?

    2. Who will think-I am ‘B’?

    3. Or they just loose the identity?

  24. Sam Ley says:

    Interesting how a post specifically discussing the “10% myth” comes up, with tons of interesting information, and people continue to pop in and say, “Sure, but the POINT of the 10% thing is…”. People – NO – the 10% thing was a misunderstanding and is not true. Sure you can improve yourself through practice, but not because you have “untapped chunks of your brain.”

    For a very interesting read on some of the social science behind myths like this, and why they become so entrenched (and some techniques for dealing with them), check out the Debunking Handbook by the Skeptical Science climate team. It refers primarily to climate science issues, but the overall reasons behind myth-resiliance apply to many situations:

  25. Rajini Rao says:

    THANK YOU for your informative comment, Sam Ley !

    mandar khadilkar , you simply rephrased the same question 🙂 Check out this site on brain maps:

    There are probably much better informative sites, I’ll let you know if I find a good one.

  26. Believe it or not that its 10% because we have about 1 billion tb of memory in our brain. Can you remember 30% of what you exactly done in your life then? 10% is the most we or someone has done, you may remember many things but then theres the depth of it so you wouldnt know how much brain usage your using because the DSI will show from multiple areas, cant really explain well in words but better in person

  27. Manu Yadav says:

    you onlinr this time

  28. Rajini Rao says:

    Manu Yadav , you may be an exception to the 10% brain use rule as you seem to be undeterred by my deletion of your multiple inane comments. Please keep your comments to the content of this post or you will find yourself blocked. Thanks.

  29. Rajini Rao Thanks in advance! Great post.

  30. Sam Ley says:

    Robert Nguyen Believe it or not – that isn’t how our brains work. Human memory is not stored linearly like a computer – the analogy to TB of storage is misleading.

    Why are you hanging onto the 10% number? It doesn’t fit any of the research being done – it just sounds good.

  31. Matt Tracy says:


    Crackpot Comments May Be Found Above ^^^^^^^^^^^

    Think Before You Post!

    (not referring to +Sam Ley)

  32. Rajini Rao Another question- Is there any study like this imaging done to show the same connectivity over a period of time (say 6 months) for the same individual?

    What I am getting at is the testing for dynamic (or is it?) nature of the connections.

  33. Okay but minus the “tb” i said do you comprehend what i said. Research shows the area of the brain not the depth of potention of it, for hell all my brain can show that its working at once but how much is it actually using(thereotically) it wont show the accumalitive amount

  34. Sam Ley says:

    Matt Tracy LOL – good warning.

  35. Chad Haney says:

    Thanks Rajini Rao for introducing me (the imaging person) to a new MRI method. At a quick glance it might be something I know and they are just using a new name. It looks like DTI in q-space.

    Never-the-less, I think there have been several fMRI (BOLD, DTI, etc.) and positron emission tomography (PET) studies to dispel the 10% myth. It all depends on what you are measuring too. I think some are getting confused between cognitive function, anatomical structure, memory, etc. AFAIK, magnetoencephalogram is notoriously susceptible to outside influences; you really have to shield the room/equipment.

  36. fred bobohn says:

    want you sleep you use already approximately 15% of your brain so …

  37. Rajini Rao says:

    Chad Haney , do you know what the false coloring in the image could be based on? Is it activity based or just tracing locations?

  38. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao I’m not familiar with DSI. I’ll have to read some of their papers. It seems more useful for the neuro guys and not oncology folks like me. I think it’s like DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) so I’d guess that the false color is just a means to “encode” directionality of diffusion. From that you can infer connectivity of various sections.

    Edit: I didn’t answer the second part. In one of their papers where they developed the method, it was an ex vivo brain. I think the method takes a long time so in vivo might be tough. Again, I don’t really know this technique.


  39. Rajini Rao says:

    That’s an excellent guess, I had not thought of directionality of diffusion. Thanks, Chad Haney .

  40. Rajini didn’t you know I was Limitless? Robert Deniro gave me these pills and now…wow!

  41. very intresting……… what to do to increse memory…….

  42. По мнению некоторых неврологов, среднее время жизни человек использует лишь 1/100 доли на 1 процент (или 0,0001), его умственные способности. Вы можете спросить: “Почему мы тогда наделен мозгом, как большой потенциал для использования, если ваша жизнь малая часть из этого”

  43. Rajini Rao says:

    Наталі Борик, which neuroscientist are you quoting? Nobody uses 1/100 of 1% of their brains, as explained in this post.

  44. “Как человек может понять работу около 50 миллиардов нейронов, синапсов квадриллион (ссылки), который посылает всем диапазоне от 10 квадриллионов импульсов в секунду?” – Спрашивает доктор Ричард М. Restak. Его ответ? “Возможности даже самые продвинутые компьютеры, работающие по принципу нейронных сетей … равна 1/10000 психического вместимости летит.”

  45. Наш мозг весит около 1,4 кг и содержит от 10 до 100 миллиардов нейронов, среди которых, как говорят, даже две такие. Каждый нейрон может обратиться 200 000 других нейронов, образующих в мозгу астрономическое количество схем или путей, которые, вместе взятые. При этом сам “каждый нейрон представляет собой сложный компьютер,” говорит “Sayentyfyk ameryken”.

  46. Rajini Rao says:

    Google translate is not helping me understand her viewpoint, Feisal Kamil . In any case, no one picked up on my fathead joke in the last line of my brain fun facts post (today). I’m so disappointed 🙂

  47. Chad Haney says:

    Feisal Kamil that’s why you need Capt Picard; to Engage.

  48. Rajini Rao Ma’am, Do we have a scientific definition of mind?

  49. Rajini Rao says:

    R Prakash Prakash , terms like creativity or the mind are too broad and ambiguous to pin down at a molecular or cellular basis (which is my area of specialty). People cannot agree on what is creative or not. Would you say that all animals have minds? Are you equating intelligence with a mind? Or is the mind simply synonymous with a brain? I like questions that are more defined and scientifically approachable 🙂

  50. Rajini Rao Thanks. Has there been a study at cellular or molecular basis, as to what makes a living being, see value and make selections? Sorry, for troubling you. But I refuse to leave this life, without getting answers:)

  51. Rajini Rao says:

    What makes a living being? Of course, all of biology is devoted to answering that question 😉 Pretty much all my science posts are devoted to one aspect of this question or another. Check them out.

    See value and make selections? Again, your question is too broad to be answered specifically. I would suggest checking out Science Daily to keep up with research done in the areas of mind and brain:

  52. Feisal Kamil Very funny. Who are you?

  53. Rajini Rao says:

    R Prakash Prakash , I suspect that Feisal Kamil is just extending some sympathy in my direction. I get a lot of questions on my stream..some good and some very strange. You would be amused at some of those questions too 🙂

  54. Rajini Rao It is too childish for me. But it was me who mentioned ‘fat head’ in one of your posts. I am not very intelligent, I don’t care to be one. But I have my questions apart from earning my bread. I look out for people like you to get answers. I can ignore arrogance too, so no big deal. I am now going thru your link, and ‘cognition’.

  55. Feisal Kamil Sorry Sir. I am humbled by your response.

  56. Rajini Rao says:

    R Prakash Prakash , online forums are difficult to fathom such qualities as “intelligence”, “arrogance” and “childish”. There is just not enough information or context in a line or two of text from a stranger half way across the world to come to a conclusion with any chance of accuracy. Feisal makes a good point about quantifiable questions, another hallmark of science, as is correlation and cause.

    Why do you say that you do not care to be intelligent? It seems from your questions, that you do care 🙂

  57. Rajini Rao says:

    Good, philosophical point, Prabat parmal ! The difficulty is in translation of a complex question into scientific language where it can be reasonably tackled.

  58. Chad Haney says:

    Too many variables!

  59. Rajini Rao says:

    Feisal Kamil , are you trying to get me into trouble? 🙂 Chad Haney , why couldn’t I come up with such a pithy answer?

  60. Chad Haney says:

    Feisal Kamil well there’s 90 comments to sift through to find the fathead comment and I didn’t help by throwing professional hockey into the fathead joke.

  61. Chad Haney says:

    Rajini Rao because I have two engineering degrees ;~). Seriously though, I switched from chemical engineering to biomedical engineering because you simply can’t control all of the variables in in vivo experiments, like you can in chemical engineering. The challenge of not being in full control of the experiment, drew me in. Now the challenge is to visualize biochemical phenomena non-invasively. Now we’re talking too many variables.

  62. Thanks to you all. This brief interaction has been a good experience for me. Even though science cannot measure ‘good’, you all have been very good. Pl. accommodate novices like me.

  63. Chad Haney says:

    Feisal Kamil what I meant to say was, you have to sift through 90+ comments in a different post. :~)

  64. Rajini Rao says:

    Okay, you lost me there Prabat parmal . My point was that questions can be vague and unanswerable until they are formulated more precisely with a quantifiable outcome..only then do they leave the world of philosophy and enter the realm of science. To learn to be a scientist is also to learn how to ask questions scientifically..propose a hypothesis, have a rationale behind the question, design an experiment to test that hypothesis, analyze the results and come to a conclusion that can be tested and pushed further.

  65. Rajini Rao says:

    I am kidding around, Feisal Kamil 🙂 What you do is to enliven my day.

  66. Chad Haney says:

    + 1k for your reply Rajini Rao. Wait + 999 because you forgot to mention that you have to formulate your hypothesis into specific aims that your “peers” deem fundable and publishable. {There should be a Herman Cain joke in there somewhere but you and Feisal Kamil are distracting me from work again :~) }

  67. Chad Haney says:

    R Prakash Prakash this is what I enjoy about G+, engaging others who have a different perspective/background. Ideally both sides can be enriched, especially when you can mix science and humor. Best wishes!

  68. Ma’am Rajini Rao I am sorry for the mayhem. I have an experience puzzling me for many years. Being a neurology specialist, you may help me. Could be a point of interest to you too.

  69. Rajini Rao Sorry that I might have troubled you a lot today. But I request you to be kind enough to give me some understanding of my experience.

  70. Roller coaster posts Rajini Rao

    1. Good original post

    2. Good comments mixed with very good replies

    3. Followed by some bad ones,

    4. Ma’aM Scientist Rajini Rao stomping some of us couple of time like bugs 🙂

    5. Some very random discussion

    So for, so good.

  71. Rajini Rao says:

    mandar khadilkar , stomping is the first step in extracting grape juice before it can be made into fine wine 😉

  72. Chad Haney says:

    I hate pop-quizzes. 😛

  73. Rajini Rao now that I have your attention 🙂

    What chemical processes you have seen at micro-level just makes you think that LIVING IS something very very different, special and that an unknown ingradiant is needed to make it living?

    I know it is not easy to say that we just like any other trash. Arn’t Living are Just very orginized to show certain interactions very profoundly?

    Even every sophisticated and advanced system looks like a black magic. If one does not know how computers work or tv works would think that a person is transported from one place to other as they hear, see and yes, interact live.

    But guess what, it is all very super organized system.

    Took probably 50000 years of research and Eng to do from early humans using many tools to what we see today.

    Now, are you motivated to address my question head-on Or just going to not do it?

    What evidence we have at micro-level that there is a fundamental difference between LIVING and everything else?

    And don’t send me to some hi-fi site to read which may take my lifetime for me to understand.

    We come here to this post for YOUR thoughts.

    Appreciate you taking us seriously!

  74. Chad Haney says:

    and don’t get all medical on us (reference from JLo on American Idol, he’s got music coming out of his cells. Sorry to get all medical on you guys).

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