Brain Development and Undevelopment

Less than 1% – fact or folklore?

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
published in The Stream, December 2005
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It’s time to debunk the question of how much of the brain is actually used and not used. The literature hasn’t been entirely helpful in either regard, but the original study, the one that practically every workshop leader tosses off as gospel a la folklore, without ever bothering to go to source or naming source, is that by J. Z. Young, published in 1964 in his “A Model of The Brain” (London: Oxford U. Press). He did the actual sampling and counting, and concluded that somewhere between 5% and 10% of the brain was developed, based upon what proportion of the sampled brain cells showed any development at all.

Other researchers since then have quarreled with his sampling strategies but apparently did not come up with substantially different conclusions. None of these that I know of factored in the DEGREE of development. Degree can be physiologically demonstrated two ways – thickness of the myelin sheathing which insulates the nerve cell, making it easier to build up a charge difference between the insides and outsides of the cell so it can fire; and the number of dendritic connections the cell makes with other cells.

The number of dendritic connections is more easily counted as an indicator. Some cells have been counted with more than sixty thousand connections with other cells; we can mark that as a kind of potential ceiling even though we don’t know what actual ceiling exists except that it has to be that high or higher. Most brain cells that are developed at all have only a dozen or so connections with other cells.

So, factor in the DEGREE of development with the percentage of cells that actually developed and we are already looking at well under 1% development of the brain – in fact well under 1% of 1% – just in physiological terms alone.

If we turn to behavioral aspects, especially conscious and unconscious, we find similar considerations – for just the developed parts of the brain that we are using. For example, the apparent long-term permanent storage of either all, or at least an astronomical many, of our experiences dates back to infancy and even some in the womb. Yet we have conscious access to but a tiny portion of these without the use of drugs, hypnosis, or some of our non-drug, non-hypnotic, non-intrusive processes that we routinely use in Project Renaissance. Factor that together, in turn, with this —

At arm’s length distance, please hold up your index finger and stare at it fixedly. Without moving your eyes from your index finger, notice how much more of your surroundings you can see and make sense of. Your index finger is about the span of your visual focus, and it represents nicely the still larger issue of the span of your attentional focus for all ongoing sensory awarenesses and experience.

The behaviorists all the way back to Watson demonstrated that that “lateral” information coming in also registers and goes into long-term data storage and whatever processing is engaged there – either all of it, or at least a great amount of it…. Factor this focus-vs.-background factor together with the enormous beyond-conscious data storage, together with the physiological less-than-1%, and I have to conclude – –

1) The proportion of mind and brain that we have developed and are consciously using is very substantially less than that 1%, and –

2) We do have some room for improvement.

In addition, we in Project Renaissance have had a lot of experience in bringing not only data, previously beyond-conscious, on line with full verbal conscious focus, but also functions. It is, moreover, clear to us that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.

I cannot answer for Tony Buzan’s literature which, I think, has somewhat different premises. But I’m afraid I have to stick to my earlier statement that the 1% proposition was something of an understatement.

Any of you who DO teach or train workshops, in which you’ve been using that piece of 5-10% folklore, copy down my J. Z. Young reference above. I’ve done some of your homework for you.

For those of you who are currently practiced in Image Streaming, one very nice “past history” process you can do this very minute, if you care to research this topic experientially, is detailed for you in Winsights No. 44. That one is not set up specifically for retrieving deep past memories – it is set up for another purpose – but it should be utterly easy for you to use that to retrieve some of your very deep, very beyond-conscious offline memories if you should care to. Additional deep-retrieval procedures, more directly useful for that purpose, are contained in my book, Beyond O.K.

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