Saturday, October 4, 2014

Lucy & The myth of the 10%

So by now I think everyone has seen the movie of Lucy. I was actually looking forward to see it. But like a lot of people was disappointed,  and not because it was a bad movie because it wasnt, just because I was expecting more of it. If you havent seen it, It’s based on humans using only 10% of our brains. Johansson’s character is implanted with drugs that allow her to access 100% of her brain capacity. She subsequently gains the ability to learn Chinese in an instant, beat up bad guys, and throw cars with her mind (among other new talents). Morgan Freeman plays neuroscientist Professor Norman, who’s built his career around the 10% claim. “It is estimated most human beings use only 10% of the brain’s capacity,” he says, “Imagine if we could access 100%"

So the other day I was talking with one of my friends, XJ, about the new movie of Dracula, and how I hoped it didnt disappoint me, like when I got to watch Lucy. And just in that moment I learn about the myth I thought it was a Fact my whole life.

XJ started talking about how the lies in the movie entertained him, and that it wasn't that bad. How the myth of the 10% of brain was take out of proportion.  And I was like wait... myth? That's true dude. And he said no, is a Hollywood myth. And I know what you might be thinking... how the fuck didn't I knew that earlier? So, I was shocked when XJ explained to me that " all started when the neurologists though we were not using all of our brain because when they measured the brain activity with the technology back them there were parts that did not produce any signal there fore they thought those parts were not being used but with todays technology we know we use it all." So you guys know I had to do a post about it, I said well I been looking for a while now a good topic to be my post after so much time gone, so here it is.

I started looking for some info in the matter and realize I'm not the only one who thought the 10% myth was real. Apparently, a lot of people think the same. For example, in 2012, a survey of school teachers in Britain and The Netherlands found that 48% and 46%, respectively, endorsed the myth. Last year, a US survey by the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research found that 65% of people believed in the myth. So with that we know I'm not the only idiot. But don't feel bad if you were one of the fools who fell for this, is kind of logic that we might believe it. Specially when Hollywood has made this myth immortal, with movies like the 2011 hit Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper was based on the same idea, except the precise figure was placed at 20%. Cooper’s character takes a pill that lets him access the full 100 percent. Both the 1991 film Defending Your Life, and Flight of the Navigator (1986) include claims that most of us use a fraction of our brains. The myth is also invoked in the TV series Heroes, to explain why some people have special powers, and many others. So although the idea that we only use 10% of our brains is a scientific myth. Still, the brain does have billions of neurons processing a lot of data that we’re basically in the dark about. “The numbers of communication per second is absolutely phenomenal,” Besson, writer/director of Lucy, says. “And we have no access to this information. So it was very easy to me to say, ‘What happens if one day we have access to our information—if our brain suddenly makes that connection, and then we can have access to it? We could change our blood pressure; we could change everything.”

So that said, I was bummed, now I know is impossible to exercise my brain to develop telekinesis. But why is possible that so many people are able to do amazing things with their brain?, that is the question. XJ, had this fabulous brain fart that people with autism were able to do such majestic stuff due to how their brain shuts down some parts and gets obsess with a topic only. And for that I can say it surely helps. Many people with Autism develop what is called Savant talents. Savants are people who demonstrate amazing abilities like: near total recall of memories, the ability to count a large number of items simply by glancing at them (numerosity), incredible musical talent, etc. But not all savants have Autism, and not all people with Autism develop savant talents. But there’s a big correlation between the two syndromes. Other people who develop savant-like skills suffer from brain trauma, or neurologically damaging diseases. While some may dispute whether savant talents even really exist, it seems clear that there are numerous cases of people with astounding mental talents. And these talents are clustered around abnormal brain activity. Allan Snyder, believes that these abilities arise as Autism (or other phenomenon) grants the individual "privileged access" to data that would normally be overridden in the brain. Snyder has appeared in several television programs demonstrating how transcranial magnetic stimulation to the left temporal lobe can induce savant-like skills in healthy people. For example, these studies show that after TMS, a person can draw better or count the number of dots on a screen very fast. So maybe there is hope for us muggles, to have amazing abilities in the future.
Infographic by

Even if Lucy was a big dissapointed, at least for me, there are a few more true tidbits in the film for science buffs, though. Like, for example, the fact that Lucy is named after the skeleton of the Australopithecus afarensis found in 1974 that is our most famous early human ancestor. Stuff that for info-junkies like me are very interesting. But when you get down to think about it, it all comes down to how the fuck you can spend 9 years doing a movie, that just leaves you with regret, and hoping you could get back those 2 hours of you life back. 

Hope you like my messy new post! Remember to answer the poll of the week, before it gets changed, and stay tuned for next week Conversations with XJ & L4, for more geeky stuff!


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