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Scientists have described a way to convert human skin cells directly into a specific type of brain cell affected by Huntington's disease, an ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disorder. Unlike other techniques that turn one cell type into another, this new process does not pass through a stem cell phase, avoiding the production of multiple cell types, the study's authors report.
The researchers, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, demonstrated that these converted cells survived at least six months after injection into the brains of mice and behaved similarly to native cells in the brain.
"Not only did these transplanted cells survive in the mouse brain, they showed functional properties similar to those of native cells," said senior author Andrew S. Yoo, PhD, assistant professor of developmental biology. "These cells are known to extend projections into certain brain regions. And we found the human transplanted cells also connected to these distant targets in the mouse brain. That's a landmark point about this paper."
The 10% of brain myth is the widely perpetuated urban legend that most or all humans only make use of 10% (or some other small percentage) of their brains. It has been misattributed to many people, including Albert Einstein. By extrapolation, it is suggested that a person may harness this unused potential and increase intelligence.
Changes in grey and white matter following new experiences and learning have been shown, however it is way too premature to establish what the changes are. The popular notion that large parts of the brain remain unused, and could subsequently be "activated", rests more in popular folklore than scientific theory. Though mysteries regarding brain function remain—e.g. memory, consciousness—the physiology of brain mapping suggests that all areas of the brain have a function.
One possible origin is the reserve energy theories by Harvard psychologists William James and Boris Sidis in the 1890s who tested the theory in the accelerated raising of child prodigy William Sidis to effect an adulthood IQ of 250–300; thus, William James told audiences that people only meet a fraction of their full mental potential, which is a plausible claim