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Good Question: How Much Of Our Brain's Power Do We Really Use?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - We all feel a little guilty.

If we could only use more of our brain power, we'd be able to really conquer the world. After all, we only use about 10 percent of our brain's potential, right?

Dr. Michael Howell, a University of Minnesota neurologist who works at Fairview's Sleep Center, breaks us the bad news.

"This is a myth that does not go away," said Dr. Howell. "You're using far more than that. Maybe not all of it, but the vast majority of it," he said.

In fact, neurologists have been trying to spread the word that this myth is a myth for years.

Doctors aren't sure where the 10 percent statistic came from.

Some blame psychologist William James and his 1908 book "The Energies of Men".

James wrote: "We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources."

"Your brain is anywhere from 7 to 15 billion neurons and all of them are important to some degree," said Dr. Howell. "Of those cells trillions of connections are constantly going back with electrochemical signals. That is what lets us be aware of the world we live in."

In fact, our brain is aware of 200 different things at any moment.

We are only conscious of 8 or 9 of them.

"There's a lot going on in our brain that we are not aware of," said Dr. Howell.

That may be why the 10 percent explanation is so appealing. If 90 percent of our brain was truly inactive, we'd probably be in a coma.

"To some degree this is an appreciation for the incredible complexity that our brain does," said Dr. Howell. "Even though we can't, maybe understand, even in neurological science, we are just at the surface of understanding how the brain works."

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