Myth of the Month
States that average person uses only 10 percent of her or his brain. Comments of several neuroscientists about the 10 percent figure.
By May 1, 1997 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016published
You may have heard the oft-quoted statistic that the average person uses only10 percent of his or her brain. In fact, a recent article in the Chicago Tribune confidently declared that even Albert Einstein made use of a mere 11 percent of his gray matter. While these stats might make lively cocktail party chatter, they do lack one essential element of a good factoid: a basis in reality. That's what PSYCHOLOGY TODAY confirmed when we asked several prominent neuroscientists about the 10 percent figure. Some of their comments:
Dale Purves, M.D., professor of neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center: "The statement is complete and utter nonsense. Whoever made this claim had little or no knowledge of brain physiology. Individual brain cells may be quiet for a time, but there are no silent brain regions."
Clifford Saper, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology, Harvard Medical School: "I have been looking for the source of this absurd assertion for a long time, but I have never been able to track it down. To my knowledge, there is not a single scientific observation in the last hundred years that supports it. Studies show that virtually all the nerve cells in the nervous system are `on' nearly all the time--including during sleep."
PHOTO (COLOR): Never a dull moment: ever-vigilant brain cells at work.