That Pesky Left/Right Brain “Myth”

‘Tis. ‘Tisn’t. ‘Tis. ‘Tisn’t …. One reason the left / right brain myth persists is because there is of course some truth to it. The problem is the simplistication of reality leading to the wrong myth, one that’s fairly easy to “debunk” as people often do, but one reason the left / right brain myth persists is ….

Some Common Facts …. Sure enough, calling people left-brained or right-brained is just a label for the balance between real thinking-behavioural traits – the wrong part of the myth is that it’s because we predominantly “use” that half of the brain in the label. We use pretty much all of our brain in most “left-brained” or “right-brained” tasks as any neural correlate scans will show (and do show). And of course the brain is tremendously plastic in terms of both development and repair of different physical sites for functional processing – different things can and do happen in multiple places in both halves anyway. OK so that’s debunked the myth that right and left brained people USE predominantly different halves of their brains. Job done ? Well, no.

But There’s More …. Whilst using both halves, the communication between the two halves and the sum-total of the processing that is elevated into our immediate consciousness is controlled (permissively) by the corpus-callosum – it’s practically the only structure that physically connects the otherwise entirely divided halves of our brain. We couldn’t “know” what our brain is telling us without this connection and its connection to our wider nervous and somatic systems. Whatever we think our mind is, it is surely illogical not to recognise that it must involve the integration of all our brain resources. No?

So The Reality Is … What is really being captured in the left/right brain labelling is the relative dominance of the different processing tasks and styles happening in the two halves making it into the integrated whole picture our consciousness picks up through that split-but-connected architecture. The processing happening in the two brain hemispheres provides the whole mind with different views or perspectives. In the same way that there are neural correlate scans that debunk the idea that processing itself is happening in one half more than the other, there are scans of accidental and deliberate lesions affecting the halves and the connecting structures that correlate the lost connectivity to functionality with the thinking-behaviour traits. That is NOT a myth, it’s the true part of the more generally misunderstood myth.

I’ll Need Some Evidence …. All of the above is my paraphrase of what I’ve learned mainly from Iain McGilchrist – and in fact he has a very accessible 15 minute animated lecture that says all of the above much more eloquently than I. If you care enough to argue further about it, then please do also read his deeply referenced work for all the empirical scientific support. The Master and His Emissary is the book for popular science reading, but that doesn’t mean the papers and scientific texts don’t also exist. Don’t dismiss. Do the research. Follow the references.

Let vs right-brained-ness is NOT a myth.
It’s not WHICH halves of the brain are functioning.
It’s HOW the two halves are connected in the conscious mind.

[And my brain ? You’ll find it here. And a zillion more links to the topic here.]

[Post Note : Connectivity of right-brain more dominant in autism?]

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