10% of Our Brains? Oh, Come on Lucy!

By Anupum Pant

Have you ever heard people say that we use just 10% of our brains and 90% of it is lying dormant waiting to get awakened? I’ve heard this all the time, from parents, teachers and “self-help” gurus. And that what I believed  too, until a couple of years back when I read it on the internet that it was so not true! Later, I came across an informative science video (shared below) which explained otherwise. Of course it came from someone whose authority we can trust in – TED education.

The 10% thing is a myth has already hit most well-informed people, and yet I’ve heard it once again now. This is coming from an upcoming Hollywood movie trailer. I just watched it and it made me uneasy that people are still propagating it. This was the reason I wanted to make it clear to every one who reads my blog that “we use just 10% of our brains” is a pure myth.

Well, if you haven’t heard people say that, you will, in a couple of days, when the sci-fi movie Lucy will hit the theatres. Or you probably have already seen its trailer. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it below. I was totally flabbergasted by the concept, I think this movie is based on. Pay attention at the 1:11 mark.

But, then it’s only a movie. When other sci-fi movies can show reverberating explosions in space making huge sounds, and people talking in space, it is only normal for Morgan Freeman, a neuroscientist in the movie, to say:

It is estimated most human beings only use 10 percent of the brain’s capacity. Imagine if we could access 100 percent. Interesting things begin to happen.


The myth that humans are only capable of using around 10% of their brain capacity has floated around for a very long time. So much that more than 65% of the people believe that it’s true! There are a number of levels on how this statement is wrong, I cannot even begin to explain. TED makes it easier for me to put across the argument…

Some time ago, a MythBuster Tory Belleci, hooked himself up to a neuroimaging device (magnetoencephalogram) which is able to measure the feeble magnetic fields generated by the brain’s electrical activity. During this time, he involved himself in some memory drills, math calculations, word associations and image comparisons. 35% of his brain showed activity. But again, in order to prove the 10% myth wrong (which they did), it meant that only a certain percentage of the brain was lighting up.

35% might mean to someone that removing 65% of the unused brain shouldn’t make a difference in our cognition. But we know how even tiny lesions can impair normal function. So, myth busters didn’t mean that.

35% in only what we can measure. There’s a lot that happens in there without us having figured it out (yet). Or like the video puts forward a solid argument – “by now evolution would have gotten rid of 90% of the parts which the myth says we don’t use.”

However, not completely relying on what the myth busters “proved”, you might want to have a look at this insightful answer by a computational neuroscientist, Paul King. Turns out myth busters were not totally right. Again, that doesn’t make the 10% myth true.

We do not use all of the different areas of the brain at the same time because they have different functions.  The closest the brain gets to being completely active is during a seizure. At any time there is only a percentage of the brain active. – [Source]

Bad news for people looking to unlock the full potential of their brain by some mystical methods, one thing is for sure, the following is definitely not true.
we use only a certain percentage of our brain at one time, meaning we are not using it to its full potential. No!

Alex The Genius Parrot – A Touching Tale

By Anupum Pant

Alex was a random African grey parrot that Irene Pepperberg, an animal cognition scientist, picked up from a pet store. She had a point to prove. There wasn’t anything different about this particular parrot. And yet, for 30 years, both the parrot and the researcher worked together for hours everyday and proved something no one had ever proved before.

Irene demonstrated that a “bird brained” creature was able to demonstrate excellent language, communication and intelligence. After the 30-year long experiment, Irene had clearly shown that it doesn’t take a primate sized brain to display intelligent behaviour – or the kind of behaviour we humans label as intelligent.

In fact she says, animals display extremely intelligent behaviour all the time in nature, it’s just that we humans have a different definition of the word intelligent.

Alex knew more than 100 english words, a couple of one liners, shapes and colours. More importantly, unlike what all the parrots usually do, Alex actually understood what he said. He displayed a remarkable ability to combine 2 different words from his vocabulary to say something meaningful. It wasn’t just repetition of sounds he did.

In these 30 years, Irene had become extremely attached to Alex, had started moving on to teach him more complex tasks and treated him like a child. But suddenly on September 6th, 2007 at the age of 31, Alex died. This event left a hole in the researcher’s heart. It made headlines the next day. Economist even published an obituary like they do for famous human deaths. It was indeed a huge loss for Irene, and science. Its last words were –

You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.

Intelligent Men Look Different – Says Science

By Anupum Pant


I know, I’m not a very big fan of intelligence scores or IQ points measured using the standard IQ tests available today. And even if this study does rely on those scores, I still find it pretty interesting. You will too…

Judging a book by its cover isn’t unwise after all. A recent study published by researchers from the Czech Republic proves that all of us humans have a natural ability to estimate how intelligent a man really is, by just looking at his facial features. That said, the study also mentions that you can’t judge a woman’s intelligence by observing her facial features. It works for only men. However, both men and women have this ability to estimate the intelligence of a man by looking at his face.

The study finds no solid correlation between the features of a woman’s face and their intelligence. That means, to find out about how intelligent a woman is, you’ll have to dig deeper than just the facial features.

People can accurately judge intelligence by looking at faces of men, but not women.

The study did not use a very huge sample – Still pictures of 40 men and 40 women were used. Nevertheless even 80 pictures contribute a significant amount to science. No experiment is a bad one. We’ll probably see more such studies and know more about the phenomenon in the near future.

They also measured the intelligence of these 80 people using standard IQ tests and asked people to rate their intelligence. It was found that people were able to almost accurately tell the IQ of a man by looking at his picture!

How do we do it?

We have an inbuilt ability to spot the shape and features of intelligent men. This could be a pretty logical evolutionary trait.

Faces of intelligent men: According to the researchers, longer faces with greater distance between the eyes, pointy chins, larger noses, slightly smiley lips are the features of highly intelligent men.

Faces of not so intelligent men: Whereas broader and rounded faces with eyes closer to each other, shorter faces, sad lips and bigger chins are the signs which tell us that a man is not so intelligent.

Here see the difference yourself. What do you think? Could you spot it? Which one of these faces is the closest to your face? Tell me in the comments below. Tell me about mine too.

intelligent face

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