Your 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 twosides of your brain must do completely different things? The more weintegrate those two sides, the more integrated we become as people. Integration not only increases our ability to solve problems morecreatively, but to control physical maladies such as epilepsy and migranes,replace certain damaged brain functions and even learn to “thin” into thefuture.
Even more startling is evidence coming to light that we havebecome a left-brain culture. Your brain’s right and left side have distinctly different ways oflooking at the world. Your two hemispheres are as different from eachother as, oh, Micheal Wilson and Shirley Maclean. The left brain controlsthe right side of the body (this is reversed in about half of the 15percent of the population that is left-handed) and, in essence, is logicalanalytical, judgemental and verbal.
It’s interested in the bottom line, inbeing efficent. The right brain controls the left side of the body andleans more to the creative, the intuitive. It is concerned more with thevisual and emotional side of life. Most people, if they thought about it, would identify more withtheir left brain. In fact, many of us think we are our left brains. Allof that non-stop verbalization that goes on in our heads is the dominantleft brain talking to itself.
Our culture- particularly our school systemwith its emphasis on the three Rs (decidedly left-brain territory) -effectively represses the intuitive and artistic right brain. If you don’tbelieve it, see how far you get at the office with the right brain activityof daydreaming. As you read, your left-side is sensibly making connections andanalysing the meaning of the words, the syntax and other complex relation-ships while putting it into a “language” you can understand. Meanwhile,the right side is providing emotional and even humerous cues, decodingvisual information and maintaining an integrated story structure.
While all of this is going on, the two sides are constantlycommunicating with each other across a connecting fibre tract called thecorpus callosum. There is a certain amount of overlap but essentiallythe two hemispheres of the brain are like two different personalitiesthat working alone would be somewhat lacking and overspecialized, butwhen functioning together bring different strengths and areas of expertiseto make an integrated whole. “The primitive cave person probably lived solely in the rightbrain,” says Eli Bay, president of Relaxation Response Inc. , a Torontoorganization that teaches people how to relax.
“As we gained more controlover our environment we became more left-brain oriented until it becamedominant. ” 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 methe logic to back it up. “The most creative decision making and problem solving come aboutwhen both sides bring their various skills to the table: the left brainanalysing issues, problems and barriers; the right brain generating freshapproaches; and the left brain translating the into plans of action. “In a time of vast change like the present, the intuitive side ofthe brain operates so fast it can see what’s coming,” says Dr. HowardEisenberg, a medical doctor with a degree in psychology who has studiedhemispheric relationships.
“The left brain is too slow, but the rightcan see around corners. “Dr. Eisenberg thinks that the preoccupation with the plodding leftbrain is one reason for the analysis paralysis he sees affecting worldleaders. “Good leaders don’t lead by reading polls,” he says.
“They havevision and operate to a certain extent by feel. “There are ways of correcting out cultural overbalance. Playingvideo games, for example, automatically flips you over to the right brainBay says. “Any artistic endavour, like music or sculpture, will also doit. “In her best-selling book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain(J. P.
Tarcher Inc. , 1979), Dr. Betty Edwards developed a series of exercisesdesigned to help people tap into the right brain, to actually see or processvisual information, differently. She cites techniques that are as old astime, and modern high-tech versions such as biofeedback.
An increasing number of medical professionals beieve that being intouch with our brain, especially the right half, can help control medicalproblems. For examplem Dr. Eisenberg uses what he calls “imaginalthinking” to control everything from migranes to asthma, to high bloodpressure. “We have found,” he says, “that by teaching someone to raise toraise their temperature – by imaging they are sunbathing or in a warm bath- they can control their circulatory system and terefore the migrane. “Knowledge of our two-sided brain began in the mid-1800’s whenFrench neurologist Paul Broca discovered that injuries to the left side ofthe brain resulted in the loss of speech. Damage to the right side,however did not.
Doctors speculated over what this meant. Was the brainschizophrenically divided and non-communicative?In the early 1960s, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Roger Sperry proved thatpatients who had their corpus callosum severed to try and control epilepticseizures could no longer communicate between their hemispheres. Thestruggle can be seen quite clearly in the postoperative period whe thepatient is asked to do a simple block design. This is a visual, spacialtask that the left-hand (controlled by the right brain in most of us) cando very well but the right hand (controlled by the language-oriented leftbrain) does poorly. The right hand may even intervene to mix up thedesign.
Some people with epilepsy can control their seizures by concentratingactivity on the hemisphere that is not affected. In the case of left lobeepilepsy, this can be done by engaging in a right-brain activity such asdrawing. One intriguing question is why we have two hemispheres at all? “Inbiology 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 oneside and not not be aware of it in the other. “Our knowledge of the brain is general is only beginning. We knoweven less about how the hemispheres operate, Getting in touch with how thetwo sides work can only do us good, if just to keep us from walking around”half-brained”.