I have looked at all of the information I could find regarding this
presumption and have come to the following personal conclusion.
My reasoning may not satisfy those bent on empirical data, (for
none exists) but it is the best my research can offer. I concur
with the concept that we use only a fraction of our potential brain
capacity and the following is my evidence.
have there been any definitive surgical studies on the human brain
that test all physical aspects of the brain with the intention of
mapping total brain usage? No! Nor could such tests exist, nor would
they prove the point. It has been guestimated that there are approximately
100 billion brain cells. Even if you attempted to take a random
sampling of perhaps 100 people, test every portion of their brain
against their cognitive usage, this data would be heavily biased
towards culture, age and educational background. Thus the statistical
norm of even this sampling of 100 would carry such heavy inherent
biases that no definitive conclusion could be drawn.
we can do is look at the work of those neuroscientists such as Dr.
Karl Lashley and Dr. Wilder Penfield who have actually performed
brain surgery on conscious subjects. Their work revolved around
finding what parts of the brain may house memory. Much was learned
by actually stimulating certain portions of the brain while asking
the conscious subject questions. Though certain areas of the brain
such as the hippocampus were discovered to play a large part in
memory retention, more questions were left unanswered than information
ascertained. Dr. Karl Pribram, having worked with Lashley, continued
this work and came to the conclusion that the brain operates holographically,
and that memory isn't stored in any one particular place but perhaps
throughout the brain.
has come to some definitive conclusions on what certain portions
of the brain are used for, i.e. the occipital lobes, temporal lobes,
frontal lobes, etc. Yet, there are vast areas of the brain that
are still a mystery to science, i.e. the pineal gland, the full
potential of the pituitary gland, and portions of the midbrain limbic
system to name a few. Thus to evaluate how much of our brain's capacity
we are using when we are still unclear as to what vast areas are
capable of is purely speculative.
example of mapping brain usage compared to the norm was done in
studying Einstein's brain. The one definitive difference they found
in his brain compared to the norm was that he had an unusually high
number of glial cells in his parietal lobe. Glial cells are the
supporting architecture for neurons. High counts of glial cells
could indicate that he was using this portion of brain cognitively
and extensively. The parietal lobe is thought to facilitate abstract
thought. We do know that whenever anything is learned there are
new dendrite connections made between neurons. Greater usage of
the brain through learning and stimulation creates greater dendrite
connectivity. Einstein's brain indicated extensive dendrite connectivity.
has yet to have the opportunity to study under a microscope any
brain whose entire neuronal and synaptic connection potentials were
totally used. All potentially 100 billion. Yet this consideration
itself is one reason to speculate that we are using only a small
portion of our brains, since those brains that have undergone microscopic
study show vast areas of the brain where there is little dendrite
factor to weigh in is that of idiot savants, i.e. The Rainman. Rainman
was the character played by Dustin Hoffman who was able to calculate
dates in lightning speed, though otherwise appearing mentally retarded.
These individuals have one unusual talent such as the ability to
calculate incredible numerical equations instantaneously in their
mind (a feat few humans possess) or incredible musical dexterity.
The fact that there are humans who have demonstrated this ability
show that the human brain is capable of such achievements.
else to consider is the incredible demonstrations of biological
control exhibited by eastern Yogis and Tibetan monks over their
autonomic nervous system. They can, for example, slow their heart
rate to almost nil, or sit in freezing weather with no clothing
and dry wet towels on their back because they are generating such
intense heat within their bodies purely by mental concentration
(this is called Tahumo). Science isn't clear what portions of their
brain they are accessing to accomplish these feats, but they have
been rigorously tested with the latest in technology and found to
be able to exhibit what ordinary humans cannot.
next area to consider is that of extra-sensory perception. There
is a vast degree of mounting evidence that certain individuals have
great capacity in this regard. Stanford University alone has many
studies, as well as the Cognitive Research Institute. Yet what is
not thoroughly understood is exactly what portions of the brain
(though it is presumed the mid-brain limbic areas) are involved
in perception beyond the five senses. Since most people don't exhibit
great testable acuity in this area, it can be assumed that certain
portions of the brain used to accomplish this phenomena are simply
not functional in most people.
in any area, be it artistic, musical, mathematical, scientific,
linguistic, intellectual, etc. is more evidence that certain individuals
are using portions of their brain that the majority are not. No
thought can be processed without the use of the brain. Therefore,
if demonstrable feats of extraordinary mental, artistic or psychic
functioning exist in even a small group of people, it indicates
that the human brain has capacities not tapped by the majority.
The determination that less than 10% is the actual amount used may
be an arbitrary number. Yet, it certainly appears plausible from
those who have demonstrated exceptional abilities that we are not
using anywhere near the total capacity of the brain in our ordinary
daily thinking processes.
who chose to believe that they are using close to their full potential
are welcome to do so. Yet I feel that the evidence thus far is overwhelming
that we are only tapping a small portion of what the human brain
can do. If each of us were operating with fully functional brains,
meaning that we had all the capacities of any genius, we had total
psychic functioning and complete control over our autonomic nervous
system at will, we could be said to operating at full capacity.
I find it heartening to realize that there is a great deal of potential
that I have yet to realize, rather than to assume my present state
of mind is nearly the best it gets. I delight in the notion that
there is a great deal of room left for improvement, new experience
and the flowering of genius. Accepting this I never expect to see
the end of the horizon of mindful potentials.