Left-Brain Right-Brain False?


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I have to admit, I’m not particularly knowledgeable in the area of neuroscience, my experience being limited to second-hand information from my sister (who is a doctor) and from Grey’s Anatomy (the latter being the greater influence, sadly enough). So I can’t particularly put any weight behind an opinion on this, but self-proclaimed “armchair neuroscience minor” at The Refined Geek, says that the whole right-brain = logical and left-brain = creative dichotomy is, in fact, a bit of a farce,.

He says that lateralization of the brain (i.e. the dividing up of the brain into different parts for different functions) in fact shows that creative and logical functions are evident on both sides of the brain.

Wikipedia would agree (all hail Wikipedia), but having done a physics degree, I am aware that there are many things that scientists disagree on – even things that are considered “conclusive” to some are not so unequivocal to others. There’s countless incidences of things being “proven” in the history of physics, only to be debunked later when technology catches up and can measure things more precisely. I would suppose something so complex as pinpointing what part of the brain is used for a particular function might leave quite a large room for error, would it not?

But like I said, my knowledge of neuroscience is limited to pop culture, so let me throw this one out to you sexy neuro-geeks: any advocates or naysayers of the left-and-right brain differential? Care to comment?

[Via The Refined Geek | Photo Credit: TZA]







21 Responses to Left-Brain Right-Brain False?

  1. It's way too simplified to be accurate. Artistic endeavors such as playing an instrument require both analytical and creative skills. And what would a mathematician be worth without his imagination?

  2. I studied 2 years of psychology and have just completed 6 months of applied science and we are taught that it's also a discredited notion. I recall learning something about split brain patients… I studied psychology a few years ago now so I can't really remember.

  3. I read a book that says that in fact Left Brain and Right Brain is incorrect because the gene that causes Left Handedness also cause the brain to flipflop (kinda) so our brains are an almost mirror image and not all Right handed folk are Left brained infact the gene gives you a 50% chance of being left handed. Well at least this is my interptetation…lol

  4. I think there's a lot about the human brain/mind we don't know about yet. It seems like simple explanations are the ones that get overturned the quickest. One thing is fairly clear: we like finding patterns and sometimes we make up patterns where none exist. I'm sure the truth is much weirder and much more complex than just left brain/right brain.

  5. my wife, who is the brains in our relationship, says i'm never right – so i always just assumed that meant i was left.

  6. The Left-Brain/Right-Brain idea is usually used in reference to the way we focus while performing different tasks. In this sense, it's a metaphor for something that is clearly true: that we are capable of different cognitive modes. A person trying to draw a picture, for instance, while coming at it too analytically, will probably draw a bad picture and feel frustrated doing it. Left-Brain/Right-Brain works perfectly well as a metaphor or model or analogy for this.
    All the people who have trouble with this are perhaps being too Left-Brained… ; )

    • This maketh sense to me. :) I like metaphors. Metaphors are much more fun than science. ;)

  7. I've only done one year in psychology, but different identified parts of the brain do indeed seem responsible for certain processes.
    maybe a bio-psychologist could create a list of "creative" and "logical" tasks and monitor the activities of a participant's brain via PET scans?

    i'd be kinda surprised if that hasn't already been done though =/
    blah I got nothing.

  8. Regardless of where in the brain these functions take place, it seems very evident to me as an artist that the shift from left brain (analytic) to right brain (creative) must take place in order to accomplish certain problem solving and "artistic" tasks. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is an interesting book. Check it out.

  9. I'm a psychology professor — the most important thing to understand is that as long as the brain is intact and functional, it works as a system and where a specific function is localized is completely unimportant. This only becomes critical in the context of disease or damage that is localized.

    It's also important to understand that each person's brain is somewhat unique, and this applies to localization as well. For example, handedness matters — to illustrate, in right-handed people language is primarily a function of the left frontal lobe, but in left-handed people the two hemispheres tend to be more balanced. This is why in the case of something like a stroke that is focused on one side, a right-handed person is often more impaired than a lefty.

    • Awesome. Thanks so much for explaining that. I'm going to go wring my brain out and then read it again until I understand! :)

  10. I am also a psychologist (albeit a business psychologist, not a neuroscientist). There is no research that backs the claim of right vs left. This was a concept that was scooped up and embellished years ago by the media. I think the concept is more apt as a metaphor (as another commenter mentioned earlier). People inherently create schemas to understand the world-a schema being a short and quick rule of thumb or category for information. The right vs left concept allows us to create labels for ourselves and others. It’s a quick and easy reference that allows us to explain certain behaviors. Labels are not necessarily a good thing all the time, but it helps us to make sense of something is inherently convoluted.

  11. Years ago I knew this as just specialization or orientation. Right brain/left brain specialization. Example to the split brain theory: when they cut one man's corpus callosum his right hand, literally, did not know what his left hand was doing.

  12. I'd like to get some opinions on this concept, if anyone has any thoughts.
    "It is incorrect to think of time as past, present, and future. What we call the past is actually the "present of things past." In other words, we don't know the past, but rather our present day interpretation of the past; our memories. We tell ourselves a story about the past and that story then becomes the past as we remember it. The more we tell ourselves this story, the more real it becomes. The past which we create in turn becomes the template for the way we see the present and anticipate the future. We select events and interpret them in such a way as to fit into a plot, setting, and narrative we have already created. In essence, we tell ourselves a story about reality and that story becomes our reality. It is only through the act of forgetting that we have the opportunity to reset the story, change the plot, and give ourselves the chance to escape from the past we ourselves created"