Left or Right?

If you become a regular reader of this blog you will discover that I like to draw. In the summer of 2005 I took a one week drawing class in Soho, NY, where a few million of my neurons received a wake up call.

The premise of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is that for many of us the left mode of our brains needs a rest so the right mode of our brains can strut its stuff. This theory of the brain suggests that the concrete, verbal left side (L-mode) is responsible for analytical and sequential processing of information while the abstract, spontaneous right side (R-mode) is responsible for visual and spatial processing.

Our brains are, in fact, split evenly between a left and a right side, known as the left and right hemispheres, and each side has its own areas of specialization. (Neuroscience for Kids – Hemispheres.) However, both hemispheres are involved in almost all cognitive tasks, and research shows that the brain is organized based upon the cognitive act and not necessarily the physical act. The two hemispheres are joined by the corpus callosum, a big white fiberous band of axons that goes back and forth between the hemispheres. (An Introduction to the Brain & Neurosciences for Clinicians/Educators by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Learning & the Brain Conference, Cambridge, MA, April 27, 2005.)

According to Mary Helen, the right hemisphere is coded for most movement, so you might think it has a major role to play in sign language. Well, it turns out the left hemisphere handles sign language the same way it handles spoken language because language is basically a cognitive operation. In other words, the part of the brain that handles lip and tongue movement has been co-opted to handle sign language. Thus, the cognitive act of communicating through “speaking”, and not the physical act of hand movement, determined which part of the brain was involved.

At only three pounds the brain may seem small, but there is a ton of activity going on in there, and it doesn’t stop as we get older. Our brains react to new experiences throughout our lives (Neuroscience for Kids – Brain Plasticity.) As Kathy Sierra writes on her Creating Passionate Users blog:


Experiencing and learning new things is literally exercise for the brain!

Passionate users grow more brain cells!


One thought on “Left or Right?

  1. Pingback: An Alley Oop! | Neurons Firing

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