The power of the brain

I heard again yesterday that old adage about us using only 10% of our brains. This is not true, and apparently a misinterpretation of 1930’s neurological studies that showed only 10% of the cortex being used during certain sensory stimulations. However, recent studies show that we use much less of our brain, at least at one time. Similar to the 10% myth, another “meme” says our brain uses only 10 watts of power, a remarkably small amount. This reference indicates that this low power usage is only enough to “run” about 1% of the total cortex. So, at any given time, about 99% of the brain’s neurons are resting.

That’s OK, though. Stanford bioengineer Kwabena Boahen, says the brain is capable of performing 10 quadrillion (that’s 10 to the 16th) “calculations” per second. A computer that big would require a gigawatt of power. So, as Obi Wan might say, “Use the force, Luke.”

DadExperiments05/13/06 1 comments


Patrick • 05/16/06 8:30 PM:

This suggests to me that we’re using the wrong models to understand our brains. I have no idea how the thing works, but maybe the way to understanding our mighty minds is some combination including theology and literature in addition to physics, chemistry, electromagnetism.

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