Is it True or False that vision rules the brain?


Graphic Recording: Demonstrating Active Listening and Visual Note Taking
What percentage of the brain is used for vision?

At ImageThink, we know firsthand the power that visuals have when it comes to boosting cognitive power. Since 2009, we have used graphic facilitation and live illustration to empower strategy sessions, clarify complexity, and spark creative problem solving for Fortune 50 companies the world over.

But don’t take our word for it. In this series of posts, we’re exploring the scientific data behind often-quoted stats regarding visual thinking, visual learning, and the power of images in cognitive development. You can read more about it   

A pretty strong case has been made for visuals as learning and teaching tools. Let’s look at the actual makeup of our brain tissues and find out what percentage of the brain is used for vision.

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True or false? 90% of information entering the brain is visual.


We couldn’t verify this, even though it seems to be all over the web. The only source that mentions this visual thinking fact is a book by Eric Jensen called Brain-Based Learning: The New Science of Teaching & Learning, and we haven’t been able to access the footnotes to see where the citation comes from.

We do know that when our eyes our open, our vision accounts for two-thirds of the electrical activity of the brain – a full 2 billion of the 3 billion firings per second – which was the finding of neuroanatomist R.S. Fixot in a paper published in 1957.

True or False? 40% of all nerve fibers connected to the brain are linked to the retina.


In fact, half of all neural tissue deals with vision in some way.

The nerve fibers statistic is also cited by Eric Jensen in his book on visual learning titled Brain-Based Learning. In that same paper from 1957 that R.S. Fixot published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, 50% of our neural tissue is directly or indirectly related to vision, which assists in visual learning.

True or False? More of our neurons are dedicated to vision than the other four senses combined.


In fact, we may be out-evolving our sense of smell.

According to John Medina in his book Brain Rules, in the fight for more neural real estate that’s going on between our olfactory cortex and the visual cortex, vision is winning. He writes: “about 60 percent of our smell-related genes have been permanently damaged in this neural arbitrage, and they are marching toward obsolescence at a rate fourfold faster than any other species sampled.” Why? “In the crowded, zero-sum world of the sub-scalp,” Medina said, “something has to give.” So smell those rosebuds while ye may.

Check out our recent post on the Science of Live Scribing to learn more visual thinking factoids.

Want to learn more ways graphic facilitation can unleash innovate thinking at your next big meeting? Get in touch with ImageThink today for custom quotes on meeting support, team trainings, and more. We also share 100-plus graphic recording exercises in our book, Draw Your Big Idea to help with brainstorming and refining ideas.


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