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Great Myths of the Brain by Christian Jarrett

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4The Immortal Myths

Some myths run out of steam, go out of fashion, or exist only on the fringes of popular belief. But others show remarkable zombie-like endurance, managing to march on through mounting contradictory evidence. It's these stubborn and popular beliefs that are often picked up by self-appointed gurus or evangelists looking to bolster their quack courses or misguided campaigns. The staying power of some of these classic myths is also helped along by their seductive appeal – they extol facts that would be great news if only they were true. This chapter is about 10 Teflon brain myths (or themes), from the old chestnut that we only use 10 percent of our brains, to the fallacy that pregnant women's brains go haywire just when they need to be at their most prepared.

Myth #11 We only use ten percent of Our Brains

This is the immortal idea that most of us get by using just a small fraction of our brains, leaving the bulk of our cerebral potential massively untapped. The supposed amount of our gray matter that we squander has gone up and down over the decades, but 90 percent is the most popular claim.

It's easy to see the appeal. Who wouldn't want to believe that they have vast reserves of latent brain power just waiting to be unlocked? “You know how they say that we can only access twenty percent of our brains,” says a character in the 2011 hit movie Limitless “this [pill] lets you access all of it.” With the help of the magic drug, the film's protagonist played by Bradley Cooper ...

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