The human brain is regarded as the seat of intellect. The brain does not only control most body functions, but it is also the basis of intellection, creativity, and management of life’s processes at both individual and group levels. It is said to amount to just 2% of body weight, yet it consumes 20% of the energy that the body has access to. Which is as it should be, given that it is active 24/7 and controls cum directs other body functions. And, even if other parts of the body have stopped functioning, medics cannot say life has ended until the brain has stopped functioning. That is how important it is.

The brain, in its ‘mind-boggling’ power, can exercise itself in three ways: create, destroy, or remain neutral. Does ‘neutral’ imply dormancy? This should take us to the myth of only 10% of brain capacity being in use in human beings. Barry Beyerstein, professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia in an article in 1999 published by Wiley attempted to debunk the 10% myth (“Whence cometh the myth that we only use 10% of our brains”) but his argument appears to focus on the physical size and differential functions of separate parts of the brain. His central argument is that every part of the brain is assigned to something and that the entire brain works without break all through life.

If the capacity argument is to be followed, then one should consider the reasoning of Paul Reber, professor of psychology of North Western University, Evanston, Illinois, United States of America. In the Scientific American of May 1, 2010, he argued, using a down-to-earth example, that physically the brain may be small and fully occupied to handle different functions but because of the interconnectivity of neurons and their capacity for multiple functions, the brain can never run out of storage space. He submits that because the brain has about 2.5 petabytes of memory space equivalent to three million hours of television shows, “You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage” space.

I prefer to pitch my tent in the camp of William James and Boris Sidis who in the 1890s, presented the “reserve energy” theory to explain brain capacity. The two Harvard psychologists argued that only a fraction of human brain potentials are being used. This has little to do with physical brain size as was the case of a student with a small brain size who did well in mathematics. However, neuroscientists who have had access to the brain of physicist Albert Einstein note that the inferior parietal region responsible for mathematical ability is 15% wider than the brains in the control group used for study while the corpus callosum had more connections between the two hemispheres than the other brains studied which might explain greater connectivity and therefore higher performance. Meanwhile, Terence Hines of Pace University presented a poster at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society general meeting in 2014 and disagreed with the conclusion that genius Albert Einstein’s brain was physically extraordinary; he argued that the brain of every human being is unique and thus for proper conclusions to be drawn, the brains of several capable scientists must be studied and compared with that of Professor Einstein. The size of the entire brain or parts thereof might not be the last word in high intelligence or the reverse after all.

The reserve energy theory should, therefore, be the area of focus mainly because it would jell with the need for education and training; education expands the mental capacity of human beings. Training expands the operational capacities of human beings and animals. If there is no education or at least exposure to new knowledge, the entire brain continues to function but at a lower capacity. After exposure to new knowledge which is internalized in the brain and used for daily operations, brain capacity is increased even if its physical size has not changed by a minuscule. The individual, and hopefully, the collective benefit from such engagement. The alternative is not to develop the brain which implies a loss to the individual and to the collective. These must be the critical rationale for education and training and enough reason for investment in both. There can be no argument that if Albert Einstein had not gone to school, he would have been one of the billion and-also-rans, and the world would probably not have the special and general relativity theories as well as the magic formula E = mc2 that changed the world.

That Albert Einstein’s work led to the development of the nuclear bomb and Alfred Nobel’s work led to the development of the dynamite both of which have caused so much damage in the world do not nullify the argument for the development of the human brain. The penchant to destroy is a baby of the mind which the brain represents; so is the predilection for altruism. No wonder one of the most fascinating assemblages of words can be found in the Preamble to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defences of peace must be constructed.” What a genius!

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