Re: DSM: 10% ???

Scott Gray (
Mon, 27 Nov 2000 08:19:50 -0500 (EST)

The Myalin sheath which forms around the axons of neurons has two effects.

  1: That the signal being carried when the neuron fires can be carried
faster. (Physically, the myalin sheath develops "nodes" along it, spaced
just far enough that the electrical charge will jump from node to node
rather than having traverse the entire length of the axon in chemical
form. And, indeed, one form of physical retardation comes from the
inability of the brain to physically maintain the myalin coating on its
most used neurons.)

  2: That the connection between those neurons is more "habitual" and less
likely to be broken _or_ expanded to include other neurons.

Of course, in the modern era when celebrities are praised for good words
when they point at people engaged in childhood development and say "look,
look, they aren't learning as much as they should" it is not surprising
that these two facts are read by some as signs that children are not using
enough of their brains' potential. Naturally people whose allegiance is
to curricula would think that the habitual memorization of that curricula,
without critical consideration of it, is a sign of better use of the

Note that my information on the Myalin Sheath may be a bit outdated or
hazy, gathered about 10 years ago (mostly from a 1990 neuorpsychology
text) while I was working as a research assistant at the Boston VA

On Mon, 27 Nov 2000, Robert Swanson wrote:

> Seems like close to a year ago, I believe it was on Paul Harvey News -- a
> report that science suspected we may only use something like 3% of our
> brain, not 10% as previously believed.
> Old wives tale? Joseph Pearce claims his statements come from extensive
> research. He is very outspoken - many lectures and several books. I have not
> seen anyone knock him down (see reviews at Glancing at "Making
> Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain" I see confirmation of Pearce's
> information (though nothing on percent brain used). I don't believe it is a
> matter of whether the neurons fire, but rather, what is the extent of
> myalination occurring in the multitude of possible neural connections,
> especially during youth. Also, tension shifts function to the more primitive
> brain structures. Of course they would be more developed, perhaps to the
> exclusion of higher brain development (except perhaps at SVS).
> Anybody else looked into this? I will certainly continue - this is a vital
> issue. Isn't it strange, people soon notice whether they have a watch or if
> a clock is in the room, yet fail to notice if they are using their head to
> any extent.
> robert
> on 11/26/00 5:28 AM, Scott Gray at wrote:
> > Robert,
> > Putting on my hat as an amateur in the social sciences... Your
> > underlying premise is mistaken -- the claim that only 10% of the human
> > brain is actually used is an old wives tale. Every single neuron and
> > glial cell seems to have some direct use in making us who we are in _all_
> > people (barring a handful of persons with neurological dysfunction).
> > Believe me, if I were to surgically remove the 90% of your neurons which
> > fire least, I guarantee that someone will notice the difference -- those
> > cells are _not_ unused. By the same token, if I force those cells which
> > fire less frequently to fire often, once again someone will notice the
> > difference as you spasm and recall things and produce words without any
> > outside cause and effect!
> >
> > Putting on my hat as a person who has a long standing involvement with
> > Sudbury Valley... One of the fundamental assumptions of the school is
> > that no life is inherently better or more fulfilling than any other -- we
> > do not assume (as most schools do) that it is "better" to be an academic
> > or a political leader or a successful businessman or a well respected
> > artist, than it is to run a small shop be a gardener be an auto mechanic
> > or be a film critic for a tiny paper.
> > What _if_ there is "more"? Who is to decide what is "more?" We leave
> > that to the free market of ideas. If some people at SVS immerse
> > themselves more deeply in academia, and somehow exploit their own mind and
> > energy than others, we don't object to them doing it _or_ to others seeing
> > it and following their example. But we don't encourage it either.
> > And finally, this is why other schools are innately anti-intellectual
> > while Sudbury schools are not. Putting academia on a pedestal, and
> > assuming that it is somehow _innately_ more noble, has a very serious
> > disadvantage in other schools. Those schools are sending a message --
> > that academia _must_ be dull or why the heck would these other people feel
> > obliged to cajole us to be more involved in academic pursuits? It
> > teaches, first and foremost, that the "most important thing in life" is so
> > dull that authorities in your life feel you wouldn't pursue it without
> > being cajoled -- and thereby it teaches that everyone expects a
> > _successful_ life to be uninteresting.
> >
> > As a footnote on the question of the origin of the "10% of the brain"
> > wives tale... This is based upon some half-baked assumptions, some of
> > which are outrageous (e.g. "we can calculate how many 'things' a person
> > can remember about any given scene we show her/him, and how much room that
> > would optimally take in the human brain") and some of which are ridiculous
> > (e.g. "its obvious that the only use of the human brain is to remember
> > things"). This formulation was very common in the popular press during
> > the height of the "behaviorist" model of the brain (since pretty straight
> > out debunked) which assumes that mind is only a "black box" and not worthy
> > of study and then goes on to assume that the "black box" doesn't even
> > exist. Bear in mind that we only recently began to hesitantly catalog
> > some functions of the glial cells in the brain (formerly thought to be
> > only 'support structures') -- who is such an expert neurologist that s/he
> > can successfully say what role any given (let alone every given) neuron or
> > glial cell is playing? And why hasn't s/he been awarded the Nobel prize
> > yet? Forget it -- the brain is not just a memory bank, it is a personality
> > machine and, as near as we can tell, it works to its _full_ potential to
> > do that well!
> >
> > On Sat, 25 Nov 2000, Robert Swanson wrote:
> >
> >> on 11/22/00 6:23 AM, Rick Stansberger at wrote:
> >>> ...And that's my answer to your question about what I think goes on in
> >>> sudschools: people doing what they were designed to do. Lungs breathe,
> >>> brains
> >>> learn. And by "learn" I don't mean absorb information or record
> >>> conditioning.
> >>> I mean interact with the world on the basis of perceived truth, which is
> >>> constantly being tested, revised, refined. What do you think people do in
> >>> sudschools?
> >>> Rick
> >>>
> >>
> >>> From what I've read it seems the student's at SVS play a lot and talk a lot.
> >> Surely this goes a long way to supporting development mentally and socially,
> >> at least as compared to public schooling. I get the idea there is a
> >> tremendous inner sense of self so different from what I know. This sense
> >> seems to enable a passage through life with an ease and creativity much the
> >> opposite from my sense of hesitancy and fear.
> >>
> >> The question that remains for me asks is there more? If sudstudents knew
> >> people develop 1% of their higher brain potential maybe they too would ask
> >> is there more. If it is true that potential only develops if it is modeled
> >> then perhaps we are doing a disservice not actively exposing students to
> >> people expressing higher function.
> >>
> >> If this is true, what is holding SVS back from moving in this direction? Is
> >> the intent still there that started the school in the first place?
> >>
> >> robert
> >
> > --Scott David Gray
> > reply to:
> >
> > ============================================================
> > A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change
> > the subject.
> >
> > -- Winston Churchill
> > ============================================================
> >

--Scott David Gray
reply to:
[Some people] assume that I am a great lover of nature.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm a great lover
of the world, which is something quite different. Nature is
a figment of the romantic imagination, and a very insidious
figment at that. There simply is no such thing as nature --
in the sense of a realm of being from which humans can
distinguish themselves. It just doesn't exist.

-- Daniel Quinn

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