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The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy", written by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson, has rekindled the popular notion that humans only use a small portion of their available brain power. In the film, that portion is a meager 10%. So when Johansson's character awakens the remaining 90%, she begins learning languages in a day, speed reading, and moving objects with her mind. "The myth's durability, says neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, stems from people's conceptions about their own brains: they see their own shortcomings as evidence of the existence of untapped gray matter. This is a false assumption."

What's the Big Idea?

Just as we use specific muscles to accomplish specific tasks, the brain is divided into regions that have different capabilities, from regulating motor skills to storing memories. Over the the course of the day, we typically use 100% of our brain, just as we would use all our muscles. "Even in sleep, areas such as the frontal cortex, which controls things like higher level thinking and self-awareness, or the somatosensory areas, which help people sense their surroundings, are active." Consciousness, however, remains somewhat mysterious in the sense that scientists have not located it's specific region. "Ultimately, it's not that we use 10 percent of our brains, merely that we only understand about 10 percent of how it functions."

Read more at Scientific American

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