BrainedYour brain has two sides. And each has a distinctly different way oflooking at the world. Do you realize that in order for you to read this article,the two sides of your brain must do completely different things? The more weintegrate those two sides, the more integrated we become as people. Integrationnot only increases our ability to solve problems more creatively, but to controlphysical maladies such as epilepsy and migranes, replace certain damaged brainfunctions and even learn to “thin” into the future. Even morestartling is evidence coming to light that we have become a left-brain culture.
Your brain’s right and left side have distinctly different ways of looking atthe world. Your two hemispheres are as different from each other as, oh, MichealWilson and Shirley Maclean. The left brain controls the right side of the body(this is reversed in about half of the 15 percent of the population that isleft-handed) and, in essence, is logical analytical, judgemental and verbal. It’s interested in the bottom line, in being efficent.
The right brain controlsthe left side of the body and leans more to the creative, the intuitive. It isconcerned more with the visual and emotional side of life. Most people, if theythought about it, would identify more with their left brain. In fact, many of usthink we are our left brains.
All of that non-stop verbalization that goes on inour heads is the dominant left brain talking to itself. Our culture-particularly our school system with its emphasis on the three Rs (decidedlyleft-brain territory) – effectively represses the intuitive and artistic rightbrain. If you don’t believe it, see how far you get at the office with the rightbrain activity of daydreaming. As you read, your left-side is sensibly makingconnections and analysing the meaning of the words, the syntax and other complexrelation- ships while putting it into a “language” you can understand. Meanwhile, the right side is providing emotional and even humerous cues,decoding visual information and maintaining an integrated story structure.
Whileall of this is going on, the two sides are constantly communicating with eachother across a connecting fibre tract called the corpus callosum. There is acertain amount of overlap but essentially the two hemispheres of the brain arelike two different personalities that working alone would be somewhat lackingand overspecialized, but when functioning together bring different strengths andareas of expertise to make an integrated whole. “The primitive cave personprobably lived solely in the right brain,” says Eli Bay, president ofRelaxation Response Inc. , a Toronto organization that teaches people how torelax. “As we gained more control over our environment we became moreleft-brain oriented until it became dominant.
” To prove this, Bay suggests:”Try going to your boss and saying “I’ve got a great hunch. “Chances are your boss will say, “Fine, get me the logic to back itup. ” The most creative decision making and problem solving come about whenboth sides bring their various skills to the table: the left brain analysingissues, problems and barriers; the right brain generating fresh approaches; andthe left brain translating the into plans of action. “In a time of vastchange like the present, the intuitive side of the brain operates so fast it cansee what’s coming,” says Dr. Howard Eisenberg, a medical doctor with adegree in psychology who has studied hemispheric relationships. “The leftbrain is too slow, but the right can see around corners.
” Dr. Eisenbergthinks that the preoccupation with the plodding left brain is one reason for theanalysis paralysis he sees affecting world leaders. “Good leaders don’tlead by reading polls,” he says. “They have vision and operate to acertain extent by feel. ” There are ways of correcting out culturaloverbalance.
Playing video games, for example, automatically flips you over tothe right brain Bay says. “Any artistic endavour, like music or sculpture,will also do it. ” In her best-selling book “Drawing on the Right Sideof the Brain (J. P. Tarcher Inc.
, 1979), Dr. Betty Edwards developed a series ofexercises designed to help people tap into the right brain, to actually see orprocess visual information, differently. She cites techniques that are as old astime, and modern high-tech versions such as biofeedback. An increasing number ofmedical professionals beieve that being in touch with our brain, especially theright half, can help control medical problems. For examplem Dr. Eisenberg useswhat he calls “imaginal thinking” to control everything from migranesto asthma, to high blood pressure.
“We have found,” he says,”that by teaching someone to raise to raise their temperature – by imagingthey are sunbathing or in a warm bath – they can control their circulatorysystem and terefore the migrane. ” Knowledge of our two-sided brain began inthe mid-1800’s when French neurologist Paul Broca discovered that injuries tothe left side of the brain resulted in the loss of speech. Damage to the rightside, however did not. Doctors speculated over what this meant. Was the brainschizophrenically divided and non-communicative? In the early 1960s, Nobel Prizewinner Dr.
Roger Sperry proved that patients who had their corpus callosumsevered to try and control epileptic seizures could no longer communicatebetween their hemispheres. The struggle can be seen quite clearly in thepostoperative period whe the patient is asked to do a simple block design. Thisis a visual, spacial task that the left-hand (controlled by the right brain inmost of us) can do very well but the right hand (controlled by thelanguage-oriented left brain) does poorly. The right hand may even intervene tomix up the design.
Some people with epilepsy can control their seizures byconcentrating activity on the hemisphere that is not affected. In the case ofleft lobe epilepsy, this can be done by engaging in a right-brain activity suchas drawing. One intriguing question is why we have two hemispheres at all?”In biology you always have the same thing on one side as the other – ears,lungs, eyes, kidneys, etc. ” explains Dr.
Patricia De Feudis, director ofpsychology at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ont. “But with thebrain there is more specialization. You can have something going on one side andnot not be aware of it in the other. ” Our knowledge of the brain is generalis only beginning. We know even less about how the hemispheres operate, Gettingin touch with how the two sides work can only do us good, if just to keep usfrom walking around “half-brained”.