What percent of our brain are we really using? Hollywood vs. Science

Assumption College Undergraduate

bachelors in psychology professor talks about brain mythWe’ve all heard the claim that: “Humans only use 10 percent of their brains.”  Hollywood has tapped into this idea in a number of films.  In the recently released film, Lucy, it’s the entire plotline of the movie: A woman taps into that other 90 percent of her mental capacity by taking an experimental drug, giving her heightened perception and learning ability… she becomes super human.

Morgan Freeman, depicting the scientist in Lucy, can make any myth sound pretty convincing, but taking a closer look at the facts reveals this long-standing idea is nothing more than that – a myth.

Nobody knows where the idea came from. It started to appear in popular culture, and even academic texts, as early as the late 19th century.

Assumption College Psychology Professor Sarah Cavanagh, Ph.D., and Biology Professor Michele Lemons, Ph.D., appeared on Higher Education Today  to discuss topics like brain activity and what happens when certain parts of the brain are activated.

Dr. Cavanagh explains new technology such as neuroimaging scanners that identify brain activity and demonstrate how much of the brain is working together to perform specific tasks. She describes what happens in the brain while watching a sad movie (or an emotionally intense one like Lucy) and she highlights the number of areas that show activity on these scans when performing different tasks (well over 10 percent).

Moreover, popular Discovery Channel show Mythbusters debunked the myth by connecting Tory Belleci to a neuroimaging device that measured brain activity.

Students interested in brain research can learn more about this exciting field by pursuing either a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Brain, Behavior and Cognition or a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience and Behavior at Assumption College.  These programs focus on learning through research projects, internships and independent study.  Students in these majors take a number of neuroscience-related psychology and biology courses and have the opportunity to engage in hands-on research with professors like Drs. Cavanagh and Lemons.


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