Left brain vs. Right brain Myth

by Tony Wake

The theory is that people are either “left-brained” or “right-
brained”, meaning that one side of their brain is dominant. If you’re mostly analytical and methodical in your thinking, the theory states that you’re “left-brained”. If you tend to be more creative and artistic, you’re thought of as being “right-brained”.

The origin of this theory is based on the fact that the brain’s two hemispheres function differently. This first came to light in the 1960s, thanks to the research of psycho-biologist and Nobel Prize winner Roger W. Sperry.

The “left brain” is thought of as more verbal, analytical, and orderly than the “right brain”. It’s sometimes called the digital brain and is better at things like reading, writing, and computations.

 According to Sperry’s (admittedly dated) research, the left brain helps you with:
• facts
• logic
• sequencing
• mathematics
• linear thinking
• linguistic interpretation

The “right brain” is considered to be more visual and intuitive. People sometimes refer to it as the analogue brain. It has a more creative and less organised way of thinking.

Sperry’s (dated) research suggests the right brain helps people with:
• imagination
• intuition
• arts
• rhythm
• nonverbal cues
• emotional interpretation

 We know the two sides of our brain are
different, but this does not necessarily mean that we have a “dominant brain”, in the same manner that we have a
dominant hand?

Although the two sides of your brain look very much alike, there’s a huge difference in how they process information. Despite their contrasting styles, the two halves of your brain don’t work independently of each other. 

In 2013, a team of neuroscientists found that the human brain doesn’t actually favour one side over the other. Contrast to popular belief, the networks on one side aren’t generally stronger than the networks on the other side.

Bundles of nerve fibres tie the two hemispheres together, creating an information highway. Although the two sides function differently, they work together and complement each other. Which means you don’t use only one side of your brain at a time. (And yes… this goes for both men AND women…)

Whether you perform a logical or creative function, you receive input from both sides of your brain. For example, people credit the left brain with language, but the right brain helps you understand the context and tone. The left brain might be more adept at handling mathematical equations, but the right brain helps out with comparisons and rough estimates.

It should also be noted that personality traits, individual preferences, and learning styles don’t translate into the notion that you’re left-brained or right-brained either. Whether you’re working out a complicated algebraic equation or painting an abstract work of art, both sides of your brain actively participate and provide input for the results to come to fruition.

Tips for keeping your brain in tip-top shape

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, keeping your brain active via mentally challenging activities, like learning a new skill for example, may have benefits for brain health in the short and long term. They also suggest that a lack of mental stimulation may increase the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are a few tips to stimulate your brain:
• Spend some time each day reading, writing, or better yet… both!
• Never stop learning. Take a class, go to a lecture, take an online course.
• Develop a new hobby that requires you to focus, like learning a new language or a musical instrument.
• Complete challenging crossword and Sudoku puzzles.
• Play memory games, board games, card games, or trivia games.

In addition to these thinking exercises, your brain also benefits tremendously from physical exercise. Physical activity not only helps with focus and attention, but the additional oxygen and blood flow helps with memory retention and better problem solving. This is mainly due to more nutrients being transferred to the brain during physical exertion. Not to mention that a good workout also relieves stress and has a meditative effect on the whole body (especially the brain). Then there’s also the flow of the “happy hormones” called endorphins that come into the picture.

Nutrition is also extremely important to help keep both sides of your brain in tip-top shape.

Try to eat a nutrient-dense diet that includes:
• nuts
• whole grains
• fresh fruit and vegetables
• beans and legumes
• poultry
• fish

And, of course, aim for a full night’s sleep every night. Sleep is important because that is when your brain removes toxins that can build up when you’re awake, and thus help keep your memory sharp.

The bottom line
No one is truly “left-brained” or “right-brained”, but you can play to your strengths and continue broadening your mental horizons. A typical, healthy brain is capable of lifelong learning and boundless creativity, especially when it gets fuel from proper nutrition, a dose of physical exercise, a good night’s sleep, and regular mental stimulation.

Until next time, Tony Wake.

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