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Your Right Brain and Left Brain

The words refer to the two hemispheres of the brain, which in some ways do seem to be their own independent brains. Amazing experiments involving people who have had the corpus callosum cut have taught us most of what we know about the differences between the two sides. This surgery is performed on epileptics to reduce the incidence of seizures, and it isolates most of the right hemisphere from the left hemisphere.

In a typical experiment, a divider lets the participant see two objects - say, a cup with the right eye and a lemon with the left. If asked about what they see, they will say they see a cup, and nothing more. This is because most people process both language and information from the right eye with their left brain (left hemisphere). If they write down what they see with their left hand, though, they will write "a lemon," because both the left hand and eye are controlled by the right side of the brain.

We have only one brain, and the two hemispheres work together normally. These experiments show how distinct they really are, though. With the corpus callosum cut it is as if these people really do have two brains. What differences are there then, and how can you use both sides more effectively?

Left Brain

The following is true for more than 90% of right-handed people and 70% of left-handed people. The left hemisphere:

- Processes things more sequentially.

- It is more rational, logical, analytical, and objective.

- It looks at the parts.

- It handles normal speech.

To stimulate and strengthen the thinking processes of the "left brain," it may help to talk about things as logically as you can. Picking apart an argument or something you read can exercise this part of the brain too. There is little hard evidence as to the effects of specific exercises, but obviously talking or working on your analytical skills are safe things to do, so experiment freely with these.

Right Brain

Again, the following is true for most people. The right hemisphere:

- Handles thing in more random and subjective manor.

- Is responsible for "hunches" and other intuitive processes.

- Looks more at wholes, and is best at pattern-recognition.

To exercise your "right brain," you can sing (stutterers find that they don't stutter when they sing, because it is handled differently than regular speech). Free-form poetry and studying maps may help as well. Again, these are unproven so far, but there is no danger in experimenting in these areas.

Right Brain / Left Brain Dominance

Most people seem to favor one style or another of thinking. This may be an indication of the dominance of one or the other hemisphere. It seems likely that the choice between joining the debating team or the art class in school has something to do with which side is dominant. You may have noticed that left-handed people, who presumably have a more developed right hemisphere, are more often artists.

To be more "whole brained" in your approach to things, you can start by working on your weakest areas, using some of the tips above. You can also work on bringing both sides into whatever you do. Metaphors, which are possibly a right-hemisphere process, can be used in logical or left-hemisphere debate, for example. Artistic endeavors can include more analysis. Will this balance your thinking? Time and more research will tell, but it can't hurt to more fully use your right and left brain.

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