October 11, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Your Brain Hums While Idling

Your brain is 100% occupied when watching and concentrating on things, and still processing at 80% in the dark when idle, say researchers at University of Rochester.  Opening your eyes only adds 20% more brain activity to the 80% while in neutral.  The amount of neural processing going on in idle mode surprised the researchers.  They suggest that the adult brain may be reprocessing our initial thoughts and experiences, because young subjects do not show this amount of activity.
    The researchers monitored the brains of ferrets while in the dark versus watching TV static or the movie The Matrix.  “There’s an old myth that we only use 10 percent of our brains,” begins the press release, “but researchers at the University of Rochester have found in reality that roughly 80 percent of our cognitive power may be cranking away on tasks completely unknown to us.”

They didn’t ask the ferrets how they liked the movie.  Sounds like good material for a cartoon here.  Seriously, the brain is a marvel hopelessly beyond our measuring instruments or our comprehension (and think about the conundrum of using the very thing you are trying to comprehend to do the work of comprehending).  Imagine the subconscious, like an unseen processing center, doing all the background research while your eyes are focusing on the immediate situation.  Some of the brain’s most vital activity is filtering out useless information which would overwhelm us, like the feel of your socks or the hum of an electronic device nearby, but any one of those sensory inputs must be able to trigger the conscious mind if it becomes important, like if the device catches fire or a spider crawls into your sock.  The storage and retrieval of information in the brain is also staggering.  Have you ever tried to remember something, only to recall it later after thinking about something else?  It seems your brain was running its search engine in the background, ferreting out (sorry) the desired information from a vast array of interconnected memories.  All this takes place continuously in a little three-pound, jelly-like mass that is the most complex organization of matter in the universe.  “And it runs on potatoes!” as Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith used to exclaim.  So don’t pass on the myth about only using 10% of our brains.  Some of us use more, some less, particularly members of the [insert name of political party here].

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Categories: Human Body, Mammals

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