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How The Left And Right Brain Works


You've probably heard the question: Are you left-brained or right-brained? For normal, healthy individuals the answer is both. However, the two halves of the brain do have some very different, specialized functions. There is also some truth in the claim that the left brain deals with logic and the right side with creative processes, but this oversimplifies matters. The human brain is an extraordinary organ and a full understanding of the secrets of its functioning is still a long way off.

Brain Lateralization

The brain is divided into two halves or cerebral hemispheres. A structure called the corpus callosum allows communication between them. Much of what we know about the specialization of the right and left hemispheres comes from studies of people who have had the corpus callosum bridge cut. This is still sometimes done to treat severe epilepsy. The behavior of patients after this operation revealed much about brain lateralization. The discovery of specialized areas in the brain involved in language and other functions has also provided insights into the two hemispheres different functioning.

If you are right-handed, then there is a strong chance that your brain processes language and speech in the left brain. This is true of 90% of right-handed people. You would think that the opposite applies to left-handed people, but that is not the case. About 20% of left-handers process language on both sides and, like right-handed people, the speech and language center of many left-handers is also in the left brain. Research has also shown that if one side of the brain is damaged, the other side can often take over those functions, even if only partially.

Left versus Right Brain

Research has shown that the right-left brain distinction is not cast in stone, even though the different sides tend to deal with different functions. The left brain is associated with retrieving and analysing information, whereas the right is strongly linked to visuo-spatial ability, perceiving faces, creative pursuits and intuition. But these right and left brain differences are no more than tendencies and these associations do not always apply.

Though the idea of right-left brain lateralization has been oversimplified, there are nevertheless other functions linked to each. The left brain is more strongly involved in creative effort and intuition, as well as retrieving factual data. The right brain is linked to visuo-spatial capacity and making sense of faces. Yet the rules do not always apply.

Without a doubt brain lateralization is real, and a fascinating phenomenon. Ongoing research is still exploring its many mysteries and its role in human behavior.

By: Deborah Lindholm