Mythbuster – Are you left or right brained?

By: Akshaya, Science Expo Ontario





At some point in your life you’ve probably been told that you are either left-brained or right-brained (*cough cough* careers class). And if you have been told that you are right brained you MUST be creative. And if you were left brained you MUST be logical and analytical. Fortunately, you are not one or the other and that is a LIE!

The Science Behind it:

Neuroscientists from the University of Utah conducted a study and scanned 1,000 people’s brains aged 7-29 while they were reading or just lying still. They measured the mental processes occurring on both sides of the brain-a process called functional rationalization. After dividing the brain into 7,000 regions and heavily analyzing each region, no evidence concluded that the participants in the study had a stronger network on either side of the brain. They only found patterns as to why the brain connection might be stronger on one side; stronger connections on one side of the brain often resulted from trauma, intense stressors, and not very common factors.

Steven Novella M.D states that the fixation on individual’s classification as left brained or right brained completely ignores the brain’s anatomy and function. There is a large cable of connection (corpus collosum) between the two hemispheres of the brain and they connect to operate together as a whole. Moreover, the Wada test, where one side of the brain is put to sleep using an anesthetic that targets the blood supply of one hemisphere shows that after a hemisphere has been isolated, other functions are disrupted, proving once again that the two sides are integrated.

The myth was rooted in a discovery in the 1800’s where a person with an injury to one side of their brain suffered the loss of specific abilities. This discovery was then used by psychologists who hung on to the theory, and began classifying personality type based on sides of the brain and their specialization.

The harmless classification eventually spiraled out of control and creating a fixation in society about where individuals should fit. However, this classification proved to be preposterous as Novella states, “Labeling people as left or right brained is no better than approaching people according to their astrological sign or blood type, except that it has the patina of neuroscience that may cause some otherwise-rational people to take the idea seriously.”

So the morale of the story is, don’t close out any potential career paths! Embrace that your brain can be shaped to be both logical and creative!

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