Erin Chawla: The Kiducation Learning Curve


6 Popular Brain Myths: Deflated

Will Less Internet and More Mozart Make My Kid Smarter?

I was just sitting enjoying some downtime from motherhood, when Morgan Freeman flashed across my TV screen saying "Most people only use 10% of our brain.” Now, with his wise, sincere voice, Mr. Freeman can convince me of many things (especially when it comes to penguins), but not this time. I know the 10% brain quote was only part of a movie trailer, but it got me thinking, does anyone still believe this and other often spouted brain myths?

Most of us moms are all working hard to keep our kids’ brains safe, healthy and developing, so I thought I’d expose some myths about the human mind that may be getting in your way.


Myth 1: You Only Use 10% of Your Brain

Nope. We use it all. I mean, our brains aren’t 100% engaged in every task that we perform, but researchers have identified 5 major areas of brains. And, all those areas perform various functions, multiple times throughout the day. Scientists can see brain activity through PET scans, and even while we perform the simplest of tasks, such as changing our 1000th diaper, our brain zones light up all over the place.

We also know that damage to even a small part of the brain, in any area, can have a profound effect on one’s ability to function. Don’t fall for any gimmicks that claim to help tap into the other 90%, because you are already using all you’ve got.


Myth 2: The Internet Is Making Us Dumber

Not true. Actually, in many instances, the internet is making us more knowledgeable. Any time we have a question we can seek out an answer in an instant, although we clearly have to be aware of the sources and verify our information.

What is true in this cyber-world of ours is that technological advances are making us less self-reliant. Our GPS navigates for us, our calendar reminds us of important dates, Google helps us find the article that we’ve forgotten all the details of. Our computers have become stand-in moms at times, reminding us the way to Grandma’s house and telling us how to treat the sniffles. However, research is not showing that this reliance on technological support has had a negative impact on the average brain power.  

Perhaps, by not cluttering up our minds with all those minute details, we create space to remember more important things — like when the next season of Orange is the New Black will start.


Myth 3: Listening to Classical Music Turns Babies into Geniuses

Sorry, Baby Einstein, although an initial, preliminary study once noted an increase in the cognitive skills of young adults after listening to Mozart, no further studies have been able to replicate this result. Despite countless “educational” toys that claim to advance your child’s brain development, there is very little research to back these claims up.  In fact, current understanding in education believe that open-ended toys that inspire creativity (Lego, blocks, art supplies) are the best kind to support growing minds.  You can’t make your child a genius just by loading up a carefully selected playlist to pump through the nursery while they slumber.   

Although, I’ve noticed that classical music has a calming effect on many kids, so maybe hold on to that playlist as you navigate your child’s preschool years.


Myth 4: Alcohol Kills Brain Cells

This one is just for the parents. Now, let me pour myself a glass of wine before I write this bit. Alcohol does impact your brain, temporarily, while you are drinking and for the time it takes your body to process alcohol. It has an effect on how your brain receives messages. This effect compounds the more you drink, as anyone who has ever attended a college party can attest to. Yet, the effects are temporary and no permanent cell loss or brain damage occurs.

In fact, a recent study showed that people who moderately consumed flavonoid-rich wine (along with chocolate, I might add) had significantly better scores on cognitive tests. Well, cheers to that!


Myth 5: People are either "right-brained" or "left-brained.

Have you observed your kids and tried to slot them into the left (logical) or right (emotional) categories? Have you taken one of those online quizzes that determine if you are left or right brained? Don’t place too much stock in the results.

Although it is true that different areas of the brain perform different functions, your brain works together and communication between all parts is important. Brain researchers (and education bloggers) now know that its unlikely for someone to be dominant on just one side of their brain. And, doing well at a certain activity, such as mathematics, is achieved when both sides of the brain are engaged together.  


Myth 6: Your IQ Is Fixed and Stays the Same Throughout Your Life

First of all, Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests are just one measure of cognitive ability and should never be given too much credit. There are so many ways for people to be smart, warm and wonderful that are not noticed by these tests and IQ results are not direct predictors of future success.  

Secondly, as your tiny newborn looks up at you, all wrinkly faced and scrunchy fisted, they are not already hiding their entire capacity for intelligence behind those beautiful eyes. Intelligence simply is not fixed at birth. Although many people’s IQs remain around the same area in relation to others throughout their lives — if you test in the middle of the pact in childhood, you are likely to test in the middle of the pack in adulthood — the actual number is fluid and subject to constant change. Plus, there are many cases in which there has been a dramatic increase of IQ after several years. Like so many other things, there is room for improvement and nuture plays an important role.

Don’t fall for the myths, even if Morgan Freeman is spouting them. There will always be lots of advice telling you how to make your kids smarter (or kinder, or better behaved) but keep your wits about you as you slog through this endless advice. Nothing can replace your instinct when it comes to great parenting of your little brains.


Parenting is quite a ride.  As always, enjoy the journey.