What fraction of our brain do we actually use?

There is a common misperception and widespread urban legend that we only use a fraction of our brains. The part we are supposed to use is 10% or 1/10. This theory is often followed by the theory that if we were to use the remaining 90% of our unused brains, we would have incredible potential for intelligence, perhaps extrasensory perception and other sixth sense abilities.

About 10% of the brain is made up of neurons, which can be shown to be active in brain scans. 90% of the human brain is made up of glial cells, which have very different functions from neurons. Through the use of brain mapping, it has been observed that in normal thought processes, the brain is in constant activity, regardless of whether we are asleep or awake. It is important to note that we do not use the entire fraction of our brains that have neurons at the same time.

The activation of all the neurons at once would cause seizures and possibly brain death. In this sense, we are not even using all of the 10% of the supposed fraction of our brain that we do use. But we are using glial cells and neurons to think, act, feel and move. Therefore, we are using much more than 1/10 at any given time. Not everything can be mapped in the same way as neurons.

This does not mean that all human beings reach their maximum "thinking" or cognitive capacity. In this metaphorical sense, we are only using a fraction of our brains because we may not be the most intelligent, educated, or brilliant people that we can be. Several things can influence the ability to maximize cognition. These include diet, genetics, upbringing, education, and socioeconomic status. Still, some people who seem to have little in the way of nurturing appear to have genius or wise ability, which makes people wonder if we might all have genius potential. It seems that genius abilities are rare, rather than the norm, and these abilities may not be able to be cultivated or fostered.

People classified as geniuses may show a correspondingly higher level of neural activity when their brains are scanned and examined. But they still don't have full neural activity. Some diseases and illnesses also show higher levels of neuronal engagement, but the results are not uniformly positive. What can be said of the brain is that it is constantly working and active. We use much more than one part of our brains: we use the whole organ consistently.

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