“It is said that we use less than 15 percent of our brain.” The first time I heard this said was in elementary school, and I believed it, unconditionally. Since then I have been exposed to the idea from quotes attributed to famous scientists like Albert Einstein and referenced in countless movie plots, the latest of which being “Lucy” which is set to premier in August and will be starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman in which Johansson’s character will unlock the parts of the brain previously unused. I have also recently heard the idea in a commercial for one of Slippery Rock University’s affiliates, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM).
According to a survey by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, almost 65 percent of Americans believe that people only use 10 percent of their brains on a daily basis, just as I did as a child. The statement is, however, widely dismissed by neurologists and a complete myth.
“Evidence would show over a day you use 100 percent of the brain,” John Henley, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota was quoted in an article by Scientific American.
It is important anytime a claim like only using 10 percent of our brains arises that we really think about it and question it. Otherwise, we are living a life of ignorance and fail to understand the world around (and within) us.
“If they cut out 90 percent of my brain, would I be okay? Well, I learned in my anatomy class about different parts of the brain and how they have special functions with writing and speaking and moving…how can it be that I’m only using 10 percent? If I’m only using 10 percent of my brain, why would I have the other 90 percent?” Pondering any of these questions would result in quick skepticism of the claim, and a quick google search (though not the most scientifically sound method) will suggest that we are right to question it.
Imagine my surprise when my most recently observed perpetuation of this myth came from LECOM, an accredited school of osteopathic medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy. A school of higher education, not only that, a school of medicine, spreading a myth about how the brain works is completely unacceptable.
LECOM has a number of partnerships with Slippery Rock University in which degree programs at SRU are paired with the LECOM program. According to the SRU website, the way these programs work is a student completes an undergraduate degree at Slippery Rock (sometimes at an accelerated rate) and then continues their education in medicine at LECOM. The student finishes the program with an undergraduate degree from SRU and is certified by LECOM as a doctor of osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, or dentistry, depending on the program they pursue.
While I am not pursuing any of the LECOM programs, a good number of my friends are, and a good number of students graduated from Slippery Rock University have participated in the program. It is an affiliation whose graduates carry the reputation of Slippery Rock University with them wherever they go and one that we, as students, should have pride in no matter if we are majoring in political science, philosophy or biology and it embarrasses me to publicly see such misinformation from a program that SRU affiliates itself with. Hopefully LECOM’s educational program teaches students more correctly than its commercials teach the general public.