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We use 10% of our brain…At least that’s what we’re made to think! Let’s explore the flip side

A Hollywood movie was inspired by the idea of a woman, who by an accident, begun to have access to 100% of her brain. Yes, I’m referring to ‘Lucy’. The movie wasn’t much to talk about, so I’m just going to go ahead, save 90 minutes of your lives (Go watch a football match instead) and explain the story in brief…

A young college student studying abroad (Johansson) gets abducted by a gang in Taipei and is forced to carry a bag of drugs that they implant in her abdomen. When the bag starts leaking its contents, CPH4 (based on a real molecule that pregnant woman produce), it ramps up the production of new connections between neurons giving ‘Lucy’ access to the unexplored 90% of her brain that apparently, most of us never knew existed. Now I know that when most of us think about the percentage of ‘brain’ that we use, Mr. Albert Einstein is THE first person who comes to our minds and the fact that he had access to more…more grey matter…more clarity and more speed for calculations. This is in fact, not true…Well, at least not all of it.

It’s true that increased connectivity between neurons is associated with greater ability to do things, which is why we have ‘super human abilities’ based on true stories, on NatGeo. Studies too, have shown that musicians, who play stringed instruments, have a larger area of their brains dedicated to their active hands. Brain scans of taxi drivers have revealed that the more years a driver has under his belt, correlates to a larger portion of his brain being recruited to store spatial information. However, unless you have a traumatic brain injury or other neurological disorders, you already have access to 100 percent of your brain! Your brain is available all the time, even when you’re sleeping. Even the most basic functions of your brain use more than 10 percent—your hind brain and cerebellum, which control automatic bodily functions like breathing and balance, make up 12 percent of your brain, and you definitely need those just to stay alive, buddy!

Basic biology also tells us that it’s unlikely we’re leaving 90 percent of the brain unused. Unused cells tend to atrophy. For instance, muscle atrophy occurs in people who have a broken arm in a caste (plaster) for several weeks. Parts of the brain we aren’t using would also atrophy—and this is actually what happens when our brains are deprived of blood flow or oxygen, as happens during a stroke or heart attack, not an everyday occurrence thankfully!

Although, not all the 86 billion neurons (human average)  are firing at once, but they do exist in a constant state of resting potential, electrically charged, ready to act whenever required. You have a use it or lose it kind of brain. Any unused connections go dormant to free up resources needed to strengthen those connections that are most often used. Neuroplasticity is competitive, and functioning areas of the brain not receiving any stimuli will be quickly taken over. That’s why people are different and have different aptitudes in different activities! We Indians can train our brain of course, to increase our aptitudes 3 odd months before our CAT exam, it’s in our blood! For others though, science prevails.

So to sum up, human beings are ever evolving creatures like all others, and any part of the body that isn’t being used will, over time, be removed all together from our biological systems. Imagine that! So, the next time you’re having a discussion on how much brain power you’re actually using, hold your chest up high, because it’s a full 100!

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