You are currently viewing Do You Have a Two-Sided Brain?

Do You Have a Two-Sided Brain?

Your brain is an amazing communication device filled with many pathways. Why are there so many redundant pathways? Because if there is a problem with one part of your brain, information immediately reroutes down a different pathway. These multiple pathways have led to the popular myth that humans have a two-sided brain.

Left and Right Brained People?

In 1981, American neuropsychologist and Nobel laureate Roger Sperry, along with David Hunter Hubel and Torsten Nils Wiesel, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. It was for their work on split-brain research.

They found the brain halves found in humans and animals function somewhat differently. They discovered this by studying patients with epilepsy.

These patients had their hemisphere-connecting nerves severed to reduce their serious symptoms. These studies showed differences between the functioning of left and right hemisphere. The left is better at abstract and analytical thought, calculation, and linguistic ability. The right is better at comprehending spatial patterns and complex sounds like music.

Popular culture was soon writing about of left and right-brained people. They speculated that people who use the right side of their brains more were more creative, thoughtful and subjective. Left-brained people were more logical, detail-oriented and analytical.

Research and the Myth of Left and Right Brains

A two-year study led by University of Utah neuroscientists found no evidence for left and right-brained people. They did this by analyzing brain images. (PLOS One, Aug. 14).

According to lead author Jeff Anderson, MD, PhD, “Turns out, individual differences don’t favor one hemisphere or the other”.

“It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain. Language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right. But people don’t tend to have a stronger left- or right-sided brain network.”

In other words, most, if not all stereotypes associated with left or right brain functions are a lot more myth than truth.

What seems to be true is is the left-side processes “parts”, language. It does this in order or sequentially. The right-side processes “wholes” or spatial information. It does this randomly.

The truth is, unless you’ve had an operation to sperate your brain’s hemispheres, you function as a whole brain person.

What Does this Mean for Learners?

Since we learn with our whole brains, we need to stimulate both sides of the brain when providing information to learners.  A simple way to do this is to supply information for each side. Give step-by step instructions for the left-side of the brain. Provide big picture or global formats for the right-side.

By remembering we are teaching whole brains, we increase our ability to do what we love to do, reach our learners and make a difference.