Myths of the Mind: 20 Years After the Decade of the Brain

Did you know it has been 20 years since the decade of the brain? The Decade of the Brain, from 1990 – 1999, was an initiative by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health “to enhance public awareness of the benefits to be derived from brain research.”

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During this decade and since, understanding of the brain advanced. Before, we thought that the adult brain stopped growing and changing after its initial development. In the time since, people have come to understand the brain is much more adaptable to the environment around it and that neurons can change and grow.

Technology has grown my leaps and bounds, allowing scientists to study what was before unknown. All of this, has changed what we thought about the brain. As such, what was once common knowledge is starting to become myths of the past. Following are just a few of the myths of the brain that scientists have uncovered since the Decade of the Brain.

Brain Myth 1:

People learn best when they are taught according to their preferred learning style

Two people studying, one person pointing something out on paper

Though researchers did find that these three type of learning are located in different parts of the brain, it was assumed that they were separate. They are actually highly connected and information is passed between them. While someone may have a preference for learning either through visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (hands’ on) methods, it has not been proven that children learn better through the method they prefer.

Brain Myth 2:

We only use 10 percent of our brain

People have been wondering about the 10-percent myth for ages. What if we could unleash the power of the other 90 percent of our brain? Everything would work out just fine, right? But this one is simply not true. We know because modern technology such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans can actually track the activity in our brains. A creates a PET scan creates a 3D image of the brain’s activity that shows we use much more than 10 percent of our brains. Even those with brain disease such as Alzheimer’s use more than that.

Brain Myth 3:

Some of us are right-brained and some of us are left-brained

Head with words written on differnt parts of the brain
Photo by meo on

This myth will probably never die because even though recent science has proven that there really are no right or left-brained people, it is so familiar it has become shorthand for different types of personality. But in 2013, researchers debunked this myth, looking at more than 7,000 locations in the brains of more than 1,000 people and determined that no matter whether a person is more logical or artistic, they had similar brain activity on both sides of their brain.

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  1. Carol

    Brain research is fascinating to me. Thanks for the reminders to not believe everything you hear – you got me on one of the myths (which I had still believed)!

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