From the mid-1970′s through the end of the century, corporate America sunk a bundle into Left-brain vs. Right-brain training. And, there’s still a trickle of this sort of stuff around. “Training for a Right-brain Workplace.” “Are you a left-brain or right-brain thinker?” “Conflict Resolution: Understanding Left-brained people in a Right-brained World.” “Maximize your Right-brain Potential.”
How about “Never mind!!!!” (Roseanne Rosannadanna)?
At each of two seminars (different months, different neuroscientists, three thousand miles apart) the Brain & Behavior Blogger listened to prominent brain experts take about 90 minutes each to make the same case: The historical beliefs about left-brain, right-brain differences? Technically speaking, it’s pretty much a big load of hooey.
In contrast, these experts contended, the brain is fully integrated. One side of your brain might maintain dominant control over the enactment of certain behaviors and thinking/learning processes at present. However, it’s starting to look as though there aren’t any brain functions that the currently less dominant side of your brain can’t learn to control if it has the need.
Well, wait just a minute, you say. What about all those people who have had strokes and lose – without ever regaining – control over an arm or leg? That objection is overruled based on the preponderance of evidence: It seems that the main reason for this effect is that, post-stroke, patients very often ignore the recommendations of physical therapists and start doing things with their “good” arm or leg (because it’s easier) rather than forcing the “bad” arm or leg to relearn this function or that.
Here are a couple of interesting things that the B&B Blogger has learned over the past several years that provide surprising support for an integrated brain:
You take normal human beings with roughly equal strength and conditioning in the left sides and the right sides of their bodies. Then you have half of the group intensively develop (through weight lifting and other resistance exercises) the left side of their bodies. Left side only. The other half of the participants does the opposite. Next thing you know, you’ve got a bunch of weirdoes who look like look like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger on one side and an old Pee-Wee Herman on the other. Well, yes, you would. But not to that extreme.
It’s been demonstrated that the unilateral (one side of the body only) development of muscle mass results in the other side of the body gaining about 50% as much muscle mass – without any exercise.
That’s cool! But, the Blogger likes this one even better:
It was long believed that language development and functioning was centralized in the brain; the great majority of experts taking the position that the left hemisphere was responsible for most of the “work” of language. Therefore, if that “language center” of the brain was seriously damaged, it was unlikely that those so injured would regain their linguistic abilities to any great extent.
However, recent brain-mapping studies have shown the following to be true:
a) language develops primarily in the left hemisphere for right-handers; the opposite is true for lefties;
b) as righties or lefties age, language skills become more evenly shared between the hemispheres, and (here’s the real kicker):
c) it might be the case that the language center for vowels might not be in the same hemisphere as the center for consonants.
Catch this: People with severe damage or injury to the language-functioning areas in the left hemisphere can experience “lost vowel syndrome.” That is, such people – if asked to write – “dog,” “cat, or “rib” would do so as follows:
That’s right! They know that there are letters missing and they leave spaces exactly where those letters should go – but they lack all understanding (and memory) of vowels and vowels only! Of course, this happens with most texting-addicts, no brain trauma required. At least that we know of.
Original references for any studies, books or articles cited by the Brain and Behavior Blogger can be obtained by contact with his very dear friend, Dr. Rob Snyder (firstname.lastname@example.org), an organizational psychologist with a severe neuroscience-research-reading addiction.