Whole Brain Better Than Two Halves?
Human brain is a real marvel - it is intricate, intelligent beyond imagination, and makes human beings what they are. Scientists are still light-years away from truly understanding it. Their instruments like EEG (electroencephalograph) can at best pick up some electromagnetic signals (brainwaves) resulting from the sum total actions of billions of brain cells.
Still, there are simple theories that help us understand the functioning of the brain that determines our behavior and abilities. The simplest one looks at the brain as consisting of two hemispheres that carry out different activities concerning our mental abilities. It is an interesting model that helps ordinary people gain some practical insight into the functioning of brain as a whole.
Human Brain and Its Hemispheres
The human brain is a paired organ and consists of two halves (cerebral hemispheres) that look pretty much similar but are not exactly alike. Each hemisphere has functional specializations – different functions have neural mechanisms localized primarily in one half of the brain. The two halves of the brain's cerebral cortex execute different functions. This theory was developed by Nobel Prize winners – Roger Sperry and Robert Ornstein. It helps in understanding our behavior, our personality, and our abilities to use the proper mode of thinking when performing different tasks.
The two hemispheres are joined by the corpus collosum, which is a bundle of millions of nerve fibers that transmit data from one hemisphere to the other and helps them communicate.
Left Brain Dominant Personality
- Is future oriented
- Answers everything logically
- Is always running with a list of things to do and has no time
- Has little body-awareness and ignores physical symptoms
- Is impulsive, restless, hectic, and wound upIs a quick learner
- Has a tendency towards hypochondria
- Has difficulties dealing with feelings and intuitions
- Likes order and structure
- Has a systematic problem solving approach and prefers to work with facts and figures
- Is task and result oriented
- Needs success and recognition in order to be happy
Functions of the Brain Hemispheres
We can specify the general functions of the two hemispheres for right-handed people.
The Left Hemisphere
The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body. It is primarily concerned with logic, thinking, analyzing and observing. The left brained people always make decisions based on facts and figures. They may not be the right ones if you are seeking opinion on color and choice of dress or shoes, for example.
The left hemisphere is concerned with hard facts, abstractions, details, discipline and rules, structure, categorizing, time sequences, mathematics, logic, rationality and deductive reasoning, details, definitions, planning and goals, words (written, spoken or heard), productivity and efficiency, extroversion, and physical activity.
For better or worse, our current educational system and society puts more emphasis on the left hemisphere activities in general. Marshall McLuhan once speculated, "The day when bureaucracy becomes right hemisphere will be utopia."
The Right Hemisphere
The right brain controls the left side of the body and is more commonly associated with issues dealing with emotions and feelings. You are likely to find comfort in the company of the right brain people if you are distressed.
The faculties of the right brain include intuition, feelings and sensitivity, daydreaming and visualizing, creativity (art and music), color, spatial awareness, gut feeling, first impressions, rhythm, spontaneity and impulsiveness, risk-taking, flexibility and variety, learning by experience, relationships, mysticism, play and sports, introversion, humor, and holistic way of recognizing patterns and similarities and then synthesizing them into new forms.
You may read more on comparison of the left and the right hemispheres in terms of few clearly observable behaviour traits here.
Brain Lateralization – Two Types of People
You must have noticed two kind of people: one, who are always very calculative, logical, rule-based, or simply “business-like”. Examples of this type of people include, programmers, engineers, and accountants. Two, people who are compassionate, expressive, sensitive, and artistic. You will find such people among artists, actors, musicians, and sculptors.
Watching these two types of people you wonder if their brains are “wired” differently. Actually, you may not be too far from the truth. Look at the construction of the brain – it is divided in two halves – the left and the right hemisphere. Although the two halves appear similar, they're actually not. Even the brain waves from both the halves are slightly out of sync and usually the waves from one side are stronger in amplitude than the other.
This phenomenon is called brain lateralization. In other words, the more you rely on one half of your brain, the more lateralized your brain is. Lateralization develops during the childhood, based on genetics, family environment and personal experiences.
Right Brain Dominant Personality
- Is past oriented
- Is depressive, moody, emotionally insecure, and has low self-esteem
- Is generally apprehensive expecting the worst
- Talks in feelings but mostly negative
- Often confuses feelings and ideas
- Finds fun in being creative
- Can think of many things simultaneously and start several activities at a time
- Is communicative and has good ability to express himself
- Is often spiritual and inventive
- Can inspire others and is also easily inspired by others
- Under duress loses sense of self identity and reacts with panic and helplessness
- Some right brained people are very charismatic and extroverted
- Solves problems intuitively with a sense for whole
Manifestation of Lateralization
Lateralization is often manifested in the likes and dislikes of the people. If you are a right-brain person, you may judge your co-workers who are left brained, as boring or rigid. On the other hand, if you are a left-brain person, you may view the right-brained colleagues as disorganized or unreliable. However, employers have discovered that both types can be equally effective, if left to work in their own ways.
Although by way of habit or occupation people tend to use one hemisphere more than the other (brain dominance), a normal person, however, switches from one half to another, depending on the situation and task.
If you are playing a friendly ball game, you are having fun (a right-brain activity). You will lose the fun if you get overly apprehensive of the rules and discipline (a left-brain activity). If you are writing an article and putting your thoughts in a logical manner (a left-brain activity), you may not like to be distracted by the right-brain’s fascination with creativity or emotions. Gathering facts and information to solve a problem is a left-brain activity, but brainstorming and incubation of the ideas is the task of the right-brain.
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Separation Vs Connection
You may note that the left-brain function is largely one of separation from other people. None of the accepted functions of the left-brain connects us with people – at least not through human emotions or feelings. Functioning solely from the left side keeps us isolated in terms of intimate contact with others and what they think or feel.
The right brain perspective is totally different. It processes the messages coming from the senses from a human angle – emotive and connective. It allows you to feel the presence of other humans and the surrounding and does not perceives them as abstract objects, unlike the left-brain. So, the perspective of the right hemisphere unites and integrates you with everything around you. Its lens has a wider view of the reality.
If you are dominated by your left brain hemisphere, which is largely rational and analytical, your best way of learning would be in looking at facts and details in an analytical manner and get to the big picture. The left-brain follows rules of logic and does not easily move beyond the boundaries of what is rational. Its talents are in sequencing, planning and sticking to the task in hand, and in rational analysis of facts rather than feelings and speculations.
On the other hand, if you are largely a right brained person your approach to learning would be to first get the big picture, and then fit in the details so that the whole thing makes sense to you. You would also be more open to learning through your feelings and intuitions, and not just from facts and reasoning.
Vision of Life
The right brain vision is more holistic: it looks at different bits of information and experience and tries leaping beyond the obvious to arrive at an insight into the nature of the situation. It infers messages from the body language and the feelings involved in an interaction. It also tries identifying forces working behind the scenes. Finally, the conclusions it draws are more insightful and significant.
In fact, this last aspect of the right brainers also defines their approach towards life. They know from their inner awareness that their life is part of the bigger universe and is connected to everything else. This makes them more sensitive, holistic and spiritual.
Why Use Only Half of the Brain
It should be clear why a high degree of brain lateralization is not desirable. People whose brains are highly lateralized are likely to view the world in a rather lop-sided, dysfunctional manner.
A nerdy software geek who is completely married to computer codes and microprocessors and does nothing else in the life is living only inside his left-brain. A crazy or spaced out artist or musician is a victim of over dominance of the right brain. It is like trying to run a car with tractor wheels on one-side and bicycle wheels on the other. Clearly, it is not the sane way to use the car as a car.
Ideally you need to be able to access both sides of the brain in order to tap the bigger potential of the brain. When the left (analytical) and the right (emotional) hemispheres of the brain are balanced and working harmoniously, you have optimized physical and mental health.
Whole Brain Personality
- Is balanced and pragmatic
- Does not have extreme tendencies and biases shown by the hemisphere dominant persons
- Respects emotions and knows their originIs generally aware of his feelings and thinking and knows how to sees them from a broader perspective
- Is creative and logical simultaneously
- Has strong enough self conviction and does not easily crack under stress or pressure
Need to Use the Full Brain
The current education system is designed to prepare students for jobs. Hence, they are trained to follow instructions and then perform. They are rarely taught to think on their own, because that would hamper their ability to follow instructions and do the job.
If you are also a product of the current educational system, chances are high that the left hemisphere of your brain has received much more training and exercise than the more intuitive and creative right one.
However, in today's rapidly changing world, development of only left hemisphere functioning is no longer enough. The future jobs and society will require more proportion of creative and intuitive thinking and the ability to execute. So, it is imperative to learn how to develop and integrate both sides of the brain and use it as whole.
The experience of “whole brain” functioning has been a common knowledge among those on the path of spirituality for a long time. However, they only sought to still the mind that automatically allowed creativity and intuition to surface. But today people would like to put the “whole brain” to function in their normal working lives. This requires developing and integrating the two sides of the brain.
Health of Your Brain - Use It or Lose It
Your brain is an active and thinking organ that develops and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action. Mental stimulation as well as physical exercises improves brain function and actually protects against cognitive decline.
The human brain is capable of continual adaption and can rewire itself. Even in old age, it can grow new neurons. Severe mental decline is usually caused by disease, whereas most age-related losses in memory or motor skills simply result from inactivity and a lack of mental exercise and stimulation. In other words, use it or lose it.
There are ways to strengthen functioning of your brain:
- Try doing things in unusual or non-habitual ways. For example, use the hand your normally DO NOT use, for brushing your teeth, dialing the phone, or controlling the mouse. Practice writing with left hand if you are a right hander.
- Do a variety of exercises briskly, try walking backwards and sideways, etc
- Stay stress-free. You can relax with yoga postures, meditation, Brainwave Meditation or hypnosis.
- Learn sports or musical instruments that you have never tries before.
- Do crossword puzzles, play chess or scrabble, start a new hobby, learn to speak a foreign language, and so on.
- Watch less television because "your brain goes into neutral" according to Dr Amir Soas of Case Western Reserve University Medical School.
- Play Brain Games.
For further tips, read 120 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power.
Finally, you may like to check your brain power and see where you stand in the competition. Just enter your age and take the Free Brain Power Test.
Test Your Brain Type
Find Out If You are Left-Brained or Right-Brained
You can easily find out your brain dominance by taking diagnostic tests. The Art Institute of Vancouver says:
“Being creative or artistic doesn't mean you know how to draw or play an instrument. Being creative is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world. Creative people use the RIGHT side of their brains more than the LEFT."
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