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Brain hemispheres: myths and realities

Brain hemispheres: myths and realities

October 4, 2022

On the subject of brain hemispheres It is common to hear some sentences like these: "If you are a person with great creativity, you use much more the right hemisphere" O well "If you are an analytical person you use more the left hemisphere"...

Brain hemispheres: how do they work?

In addition, many courses, tests, e-books and books have emerged in social networks that explain "the great differences between using one or another hemisphere of the brain", and even tips and exercises to achieve a perfect balance (sic) between both hemispheres.

However, it should be considered: Is it true that we tend to use more one hemisphere than another? Is this conception that each hemisphere plays different functions?


Pocket neurosciences: simplifying too much

It seems that it is already general knowledge for many people that the right hemisphere is linked to the process and expression of emotions , both internal and external (this hemisphere is linked to the empathy) while, on the other hand, the left hemisphere is responsible for processing language, rational logic and analytical capacity .

However, this knowledge, although for some reason it has taken root in the collective culture and everyone seems to take it for granted, is not entirely true. It is a widespread myth that has little or no relation to reality and with the available scientific data. Without going any further, the right hemisphere also performs functions associated with the processing of some aspects of language, such as intonation and intensity.


Science and research to shed some light

The data and information extracted on the subject of the functional differences of the hemispheres of the brain come from neurological studies of the early 70's made to patients who underwent a cut in the corpus callosum (the fibers that connect both hemispheres) as a shock intervention to treat epilepsy.

Some of the academics and researchers who contributed most to the study of the brain in patients without corpus callosum were psychologists Roger W. Sperry Y Michael Gazzaniga , who discovered that the two halves of the brain developed their processes independently and with differentiated dynamics.

However, we must bear in mind that in healthy people whose cerebral hemispheres are correctly connected through the corpus callosum, Perceptual and executive processes develop in the brain as a whole , so that the different brain regions and hemispheres share information through the corpus callosum. Currently, neuroscientists (neurologists, biologists and psychologists) try to understand how this complex coordination between hemispheres is carried out.


Creativity, right hemisphere. Insurance?

We must also bear in mind that the type of tasks of daily life that require "a hemisphere in particular" according to popular belief, does not fit the categorization completely left hemisphere / right hemisphere.

One of the skills with which it is easier to disprove the myth is with creativity. Although it is easier to assume that creative tasks are developed in the right hemisphere and repetitive and analytical tasks in law, the reality is that these tasks are more complex and involve the brain in a more global way than might be expected if we believe the myth. Also: "being creative" can take many forms, it's a concept too open as if to enclose it in an easily recognizable task as a process within the human brain.

In fact, there is a study that compares the brain of students "of letters" (philology, history, art) with students "of science" (engineering, physics, chemistry) ... and the results are amazing . We explain it to you here:

  • Brain differences between "letter" students and "science" students

Studies on the subject

Several investigations indicate that the right hemisphere has a greater role at times when we have a great intuition . In fact, a study published in PLOS He discovered that the activity of the right hemisphere was greater when the subjects evaluated tried to solve a task intuitively, with little time for reflection.

Another investigation revealed that a brief exposure to a clue that gave some clues to solve a puzzle was more useful for the right hemisphere than for the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere was activated more clearly, leading some of the participants to solve the task.

In any case, it must be clarified that the insight (the process of internalization or internal understanding) is only one aspect of creativity. For example, the ability to explain stories would be another creative side. Here we already find an important schism: the studies that evaluate the influence of each hemisphere in certain tasks have revealed that the left hemisphere is the biggest involved in the process of inventing stories or stories , while the right hemisphere is responsible for seeking an explanation to the story. This curious distribution of functions was called "phenomenon interpreter" by Gazzaniga.

Simple myths that set fast in the minds of people

In a general presentation about the cerebral hemispheres and their (not so) differentiated functions Gazzaniga described, in an article published in Scientific American, the left hemisphere as "inventor and interpreter" and to the right hemisphere as "truthfulness and literality". Adjectives that they contrast with the popular conception over each hemisphere.

Concluding: between simplifications, exaggerations and corners of reality

The scientific evidence does not correspond to the myth that tells us that the left hemisphere is linked to the logical processes and the right to the creative field. If this is so, Why are people and even professionals in psychology or neurosciences Do you keep repeating this mantra?

One of the possibilities to understand how a myth expands and consolidates in the collective culture is its seductive simplicity . People look for easy answers to questions that, from the outset, are pretty naive: "What kind of brain do I have?”.

With a quick search in Google or in the different social networks, a person without scientific knowledge and with this personal concern can find applications, books or workshops to "improve their weak hemisphere". When there is demand, the offer does not take long to appear, although the scientific support on which the case is based is rather debatable. As in this case, in that simplification makes this information rub falsehood.

Thus, it is complicated to fight against an erroneous belief system, since the complexity involved in the functioning of our brain can not be summarized in a brief basic outline. All in all, professionals in psychology and mental health and students in neurosciences we must be in charge of reporting rigorously and go denying these myths and simplifications .

Bibliographic references:

  • Bowden EM, Jung-Beeman M. (2003). Aha! Insight experience correlates with solution activation in the right hemisphere. Psychon Bull Rev. 2003 Sep; 10 (3): 730-7. PMID: 14620371. Available at: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14620371
  • Jung-Beeman M, Bowden EM, Haberman J, Frymiare JL, Arambel-Liu S, Greenblatt R, et al. (2004). Neural Activity When People Solve Verbal Problems with Insight. PLoS Biol 2 (4): e97. Available at: //doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0020097

The left brain vs. right brain myth - Elizabeth Waters (October 2022).


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