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Boost Your Brainpower

Shira Yehudit Djlilmand

Can wiggling your toes make your brain more alert? How about doing yoga? Here are research-backed exercises that will sharpen your mind, improve your concentration — and even give you an excuse to do something fun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You’ve probably heard numerous times that we only use 10 percent of our brains. And if you’re anything like me, you may have imagined that if we could only tap into that other 90 percent, we would be geniuses who could perform amazing memory feats or move objects with the mere power of thought.

The 10 percent theory is so commonly espoused and exploited in the media that most people take for granted that it’s true. Well, for the record, it’s a total fallacy. In fact, “the ten percent myth is so wrong that it’s laughable,” says neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Exactly how, when, and where this myth was created, and by whom, is hard to tell, but it may have started with a misquote of Albert Einstein, or with the psychologist William James, who wrote in 1908, “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” However it began, the theory caught on.

In reality, brain imaging studies show that all parts of the brain function. Even during sleep, the brain is active. What likely started the myth is the fact that at any one point in time, such as when we’re resting, we may be using only 10 percent of our brains. But just because we’re not using the entire brain during a single moment doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get used.

Imaging technology shows that over a twenty-four-hour period, most parts of the brain are active. John Henley, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is convinced that “most parts” isn’t even accurate: “Evidence would show that over a day, you use 100 percent of the brain.”

If we’re already maxed out at 100 percent, does that mean we can’t achieve our dream of boosting our brainpower? It turns out that we’re still in luck — there are exercises that will sharpen our mind, improve concentration, enhance memory, and more. But before we get there, let’s first take a look at how the human brain works.


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